The aerospace and defense industry produced revenues of nearly $700 billion in 2021 and shows no signs of slowing in 2022. With a renewed focus on expanding growth, developing new markets, and pioneering state-of-the-art technology, the industry will continue to rely on experienced, incisive professionals to oversee business operations and drive expansion.
Some of those professionals will emerge from MBA programs with aerospace and defense specializations. Only two institutions in the entire country currently offer an MBA focused on aerospace and defense: The University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business and The University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business. Thanks to the hybrid learning format offered by both, accomplished business practitioners in the U.S. and abroad can gather the skills needed to lead the next frontier of A&D growth without relocating or leaving their current jobs.
So, what are the qualifications for an Aerospace and Defense MBA? This article explores that question. It also discusses:
Despite international, sustained disruptions caused by COVID-19, the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is poised to continue expanding in the coming years. The field currently employs more than 4.1 million workers in the United States and relies on qualified professionals with program management experience to bring together scientists, engineers, and military brass to continue expanding and evolving.
Completing an aerospace and defense MBA program provides the training and qualifications needed to work in civilian and military roles and sets graduates up for well-paid jobs with impressive potential for growth. Students gain skills in areas of information technology, supply chain management, financial analysis, and other traditional business skills while simultaneously understanding how to use them in A&D industry settings.
Whether overseeing the financial management of a research and development team or acting as program director for companies like Lockheed Martin, professionals who complete an aerospace and defense MBA can do what they love while helping keep the world safe.
Earning a Master of Business Administration in aerospace and defense provides the qualifications and skills needed to qualify for both governmental and private sector positions. Whether you’re part of active forces or looking for a civilian role, the Department of Defense actively hires professionals with business acumen and aerospace knowledge.
Additionally, private companies such as Lockheed Martin, Garmin, Boeing, Raytheon Technology, and Collins Aerospace are increasingly looking to hire professionals who understand the intersection of business and defense.
Given the niche nature of these programs, graduates of a defense MBA program can also look forward to career mobility. Within The University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, 88.7 percent of program graduates received a promotion within two years of earning their MBA.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (
Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. ( )
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Students who enroll in a general MBA expect to gain in-depth skills through coursework, case studies, and team projects in areas of financial management, human resources, organizational behavior, project management, and marketing, among other key topics. Those who decide to pursue an aerospace and defense specialization learn about the same topics, but also apply the tenets of these business principles to real, actionable questions within the A&D industry.
At the University of Tennessee – Knoxville (UTK), learners participate in an organizational action project that allows them to work with senior leaders of an A&D company to identify areas of expansion or tackle organizational challenges. These projects generate an average of $17 million in revenue or cost reductions to project partners.
UTK’s program also emphasizes access to industry leaders at every step of the process and regularly welcomes guest speakers, alumni, government defense representatives, and other A&D professionals to share their perspectives and network with students.
Aerospace and defense MBA programs require candidates to possess some existing business experience. Recent undergraduates are unlikely to meet the requirements, although exceptions are possible.
UTK encourages applicants to speak with a recruiter to identify whether current levels of experience match with program expectations, while OU looks for candidates with at least five years of professional experience. OU’s program is considered an Executive MBA, while UTK’s offering straddles between traditional and executive program models.
Because both programs function as accelerated degrees that take just one year to complete (as compared to the standard two-year timeframe of a traditional MBA), accepted students must possess a solid foundation of business acumen and experience to keep up with the fast pace of coursework.
Recruiters prefer candidates with at least some military and/or defense industry experience. You don’t necessarily need to be in active service, a veteran, or employed by an A&D organization, but relevant experience can go a long way in improving admission chances. That said, recruiters also understand that some students may have unrelated work experience and plan to use the ADMBA to break into the aerospace and defense industry.
A&D MBA applications must include several types of documentation, including items from the student, their previous college(s), and their employer. At UTK, applicants are expected to provide the following:
Admission requirements for The University of Oklahoma are similar in nature, though OU does not currently require GMAT or GRE scores.
Applicants from outside the United States must have non-U.S. college transcripts evaluated by a NACES-accredited evaluation institution and, if from a country where English is not primarily spoken, submit satisfactory IELTS or TOEFL scores. They must also provide documentation demonstrating financial support to complete the degree.
Both of the aerospace & defense MBAs currently offered use a hybrid delivery method consisting of distance learning/online coursework and short in-person residency periods. UTK’s program includes five week-long residencies, four of which take place at the Knoxville campus. Halfway through the program, students complete an industry immersion experience near the headquarters of an A&D company.
OU’s program includes two one-week residencies at the Oklahoma City campus at the start and end of the degree. Approximately halfway through the program, students participate in a European study abroad experience providing the opportunity to learn about A&D in a global context.
If you are an experienced business professional, yes. While military experience and/or aerospace and defense industry experience may confer an advantage in the program, it is not required. Speaking with a program recruiter can help you identify whether you’re ready to enroll or need to spend more time gaining relevant experience.