Who You’ll Meet in an Aerospace & Defense MBA Program

Who You’ll Meet in an Aerospace & Defense MBA Program
ADMBA students come from diverse academic and professional backgrounds, including engineering, research and development, manufacturing, maintenance, operations, supply chain management, contracting, budgeting, marketing, business development and human resources. Image from Pixabay
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Noodle Staff September 14, 2022

You'll meet industry insiders and thought leaders among your program's faculty and guest speakers. Your fellow students will include seasoned professionals from across the industry.

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The U.S. aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is an economic and industrial powerhouse. It contributes hundreds of billions of dollars to the country’s fiscal wellbeing and employs two million professionals, constituting 1.4 percent of national employment. Defense dollars grab about half of all federal discretionary spending.

Unsurprisingly, aerospace and defense expertise is lucrative and sought-after. According to the Aerospace Industries Association, average salaries in the field are 41 percent higher than the national average. That expertise is not necessarily easy to come by, however. A&D projects are complex and intensely collaborative, requiring a specific set of high-level skills. Leading projects in aerospace and defense can involve interfacing with engineers and scientists, military personnel, operations managers, manufacturers, contract vendors, administrators and executives.

Traditional MBA programs teach foundational management concepts useful in A&D but do not offer a path to aerospace and defense expertise. You will only find that in programs tailored to the needs of A&D professionals, such as the University of Tennessee, Knoxville‘s Aerospace & Defense MBA (ADMBA) program or the University of Oklahoma‘s Executive MBA in A&D. Leaders in the aerospace industry design A&D MBA curricula around insights informed by up-to-date trends and market analysis; these programs attract high-potential aerospace and defense professionals from both government and private industry. For these reasons and more, A&D MBA programs offer unique opportunities to gain a significant advantage in a competitive field.

What makes the Aerospace & Defense MBA different?

Aerospace MBA programs are for A&D professionals who want to become leaders in their field. Students come from diverse academic and professional backgrounds that include engineering, research and development, manufacturing, maintenance, operations, supply chain management, contracting, budgeting, marketing, business development and human resources. However, all have collective decades of professional experience in aerospace and defense. Aerospace MBA candidates form valuable connections with peers from around the nation as they establish a new depth of perspective.

The University of Tennessee aerospace MBA curriculum prioritizes leadership skill-building while helping students develop new business competencies specific to A&D. Everything from readings and case studies to project work is presented through an aerospace and defense lens. Students apply course content to real-world challenges. One of the most beneficial attributes of the program, according to alumnus Stephen W. Thomas, is the Organizational Action Project (OAP). In coordination with their organization’s leadership team and Haslam faculty members, ADMBA candidates design projects to improve growth or otherwise deliver value in their workplaces.

What type of professionals pursue the ADMBA?

Aerospace and defense MBA programs attract applicants with experience in fields such as aviation management and aeronautical engineering as well as military members. ADMBA candidates work at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon Technologies, Elbit Systems of America, BAE Systems, Collins Aerospace, Delta, Garmin, Northrop Grumman, NASA, the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and more. They enroll in the aerospace MBA program to broaden their prospects, increase their earning potential, learn strategic decision-making skills and gain the credentials and connections necessary to transition into management or move into consulting careers. Some students enter the program to capitalize on significant growth in the commercial space industry.

Who you’ll meet in an Aerospace & Defense MBA program

Industry leaders

ADMBA programs frequently feature A&D titans as guest speakers who provide specific insight into how they guide their teams to develop solutions. Aerospace and defense MBA program candidates also network with leaders during immersions and field visits. It is an invaluable opportunity for students to broaden their view of the industry while networking with top A&D executives.

Seasoned professors

ADMBA faculty incluede nationally and internationally respected researchers, consultants and practitioners. Some ADMBA faculty have private industry backgrounds, such as Haslam’s Alex Miller, the William B. Stokely chair in management and director of the Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness who regularly consults with Fortune 500 firms. Faculty serve as not just lecturers but also mentors. They prepare program participants to bring creative solutions to an industry that relies on efficiency to move forward.

Professional coaches

ADMBA program candidates work with handpicked leadership development coaches who provide extensive performance assessments, identifying candidate strengths and weaknesses in stark detail. Their work is highly specialized and forms the foundation of personalized leadership development plans that help students reach their individual professional goals.

Accomplished peers

ADMBA students bring a wealth of work experience spanning companies and functional business areas. As working professionals, they understand the challenges unique to the aerospace and defense sector. Students share best practices, support each other through challenges and build valuable connections. They develop high-value relationships with peers from top organizations in aeronautics, aviation management, aerospace management and defense. For many students pursuing the A&D Master of Business Administration program, the people make the program.

How graduate school relationships enhance careers

Business school programs create networking connections professionals need to advance in their careers. ADMBA students work closely together in group exercises, perspective-sharing sessions and role-playing scenarios. In the process, they expand their understanding of the aerospace and defense industries and build relationships that endure long after graduation.

Students immerse themselves in all aspects of A&D business among peers and senior aerospace and defense leaders. They emerge versed in the latest developments and practices in their industry as well as connections to A&D insiders.

The ROI of growing your professional network in an Aerospace & Defense MBA program

Specialization is an intelligent move if your long-term career plans involve advancing in aerospace or defense. Traditional MBA programs can teach you a lot but will never teach you everything you need to know or give you the resources to excel in this complex field. In an aerospace MBA program, you build a broad and active network of aerospace and defense sector professionals with rich insights and experiences to share. You reap the benefits of connecting with peers who perform diverse professional functions and come from diverse academic and industry backgrounds.

The bottom line is many business concepts applicable in other industries do not align with the requirements of A&D, so you need more than the traditional business education. When you enroll in an aerospace and defense MBA, you can learn from peers, industry experts and A&D executives. You also signal to A&D employers your commitment to building a successful career within the industry. These factors collectively contribute to impressive student outcomes. An ADMBA connects you to a lifelong network of peers as well as a broad cross-section of industry power brokers. That’s a valuable opportunity offered only by relatively few programs.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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