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GMAT-based MBA abroad for Indian army officers

Officers who’ve served in the Indian army, navy, air force or any other related units (commando, NSG, paratroopers etc) in the armed forces face a strange and ironic situation. After serving the country for a major part of their career and discharging their duties in the toughest of environments, when they try to transition into the private sector, corporate employers from the business world aren’t exactly waiting for them with their arms outstretched.

How a GMAT-based MBA can help Indian Army officers

An MBA from a top business school can be a great way to re-train military candidates and prepare them for the difficult journey into the job market. Army officers bring with them phenomenal leadership, team-leading and managerial experiences. So the conventional CAT based MBA programs meant for freshers and students with lesser experience are out of question. But the GMAT based MBA programs are definitely worth considering.

According to a survey done by Military MBA, an education network for military officers, the number of defense professionals enrolled across all in MBA programs (full-time, part-time, ) shot up from 4.4% in 2010 to 8.1% in 2013. Greg Eisenbarth, executive director of, says that the demand for military officers armed with an MBA degree is high. At 93.5 percent, the employment rate for military MBAs is higher than other students. “They learn leadership from the ground up, at a very young and formative age,” Eisenbarth says.

But there are still several hurdles to be crossed before a corporate job with a high paying salary can become a reality. Most jobs that employers are trying to fill aren’t designed for former army and military officers. This means that army candidates are competing with (possibly more relevant qualifications and experience) civilians for the same role.

Differences between the Indian Army and corporate jobs

There are considerable differences between army life in the military (where ‘service before self’ is not just a rule, it’s a philosophy) and what one might expect in a regular white collar job in management consulting, investment banking, marketing or operations.

Army officers work are often exposed to logistical and operational challenges that are far greater in magnitude. And we aren’t just talking about war time. Even in non combative situations the kind of projects managed by military personnel can put their decision making, conflict management, leadership, risk-taking, time management skills to the ultimate test in the most intense conditions. Compared jobs in the corporate world, the stakes (and the cost and implications of failure) can be very high.

Corporate jobs bring their fair share of challenges. Decision making is still relevant, but the need to absorb larger quantum of data (across disciplines covering finance, strategy, human resources) over a wider time frame changes the dynamics.

The biggest difference between army jobs and corporate civilian life could be the overall culture. And discipline is just the tip of the iceberg. Then there’s bureaucracy, politics and a whole lot of inefficiencies in the system that need to be tackled.

MBA Admissions Challenges for military / army officers

Compared to the training received at the National Defence Academy, life in an MBA class can be very different. Apart from the regular questions that are asked in MBA essays and interviews, army candidates face the additional hurdle of trying to convince the Admissions officer that their plan to transition into a corporate post-MBA job is well thought-out and practical.

They also need to go the extra distance to prove that they have the academic and professional potential to compete and collaborate with other students who have already spent many years in traditional MBA industries before coming to the MBA class.

If their army job as a lieutenant, officer, major, colonel, combat trainer, ammunition expert, procurement manager or logistics planner has given them specialised skills (problem solving, interpersonal skills, planning, mentoring, resource management etc), how well they include that in their MBA admissions process is very important.

Equally important is the need to be able to provide a rational and convincing road-map that takes them to their post MBA goals.

The best way to start off is to get a solid GMAT score to demonstrate that your mind is capable of delivering the same impressive results in an academic setting. Here are some GMAT success stories to get you started.

MBA Crystal Ball success with Indian army applicants

We have worked with Indian army officers and got them into the top business schools in India and abroad. Our clientele has also included the occasional re-applicant who had been rejected by his dream school and then went on to get an admission offer from the same school after we helped him with some course correction.

Completing their MBA from the best MBA programs has opened up doors to exciting careers, including the jobs in the insanely competitive world of management consulting and investment banking.

So if you are a short service commission officer due for a release soon (or with any other army or military background) and are hoping to get into a top GMAT based MBA abroad (INSEAD, Kellogg, Duke, Ross etc) or in India (ISB, IIM Ahmedabad PGPX, IIM Calcutta PGPex, IIM Bangalore EPGP), drop us a note on info at mbacrystalball dot com.

It’s not going to be an easy road. But as a soldier in the Indian army, you’ve faced bigger challenges. Retain that fighting spirit and keep going.

Also read:
MBA after 40 for former Navy officer and ISB grad
MBA after 30: Am I too old for a full-time bschool degree?

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

37 thoughts on “GMAT-based MBA abroad for Indian army officers”

  1. Hey,

    Sameer that is a valid point most of our(Ex-army officers) time is spent in demilitarizing our profiles and converting it to the civy street. Of course added to the competition we also see a lot of underselling happening.

  2. Hi there,
    I am a [details edited out by moderator on request] Officer having [edit] years of technical experience in all terrains of our country. I am presently pursuing MTech from [edited] I would like to know my chances for studying in best B schools abroad/India and would also like to utilise 2013-14 in preparation for the same. A brief on me:
    [sections edited].

  3. Deepak,

    Sure, you could try applying to the top bschools. There some realy good stuff in what you’ve shared. The big questions are ‘When’ and ‘Why’.

    You are still completing your M.Tech. So jumping into another degree in quick succession may not be a good idea. Unless you have a really strong justification for why you took up a highly technical degree (MTech) when what you really aspired for was a business role.

  4. Dear Sameer,

    Thanx for a prelim scrutiny. There was an opportunity via a competitive exam to pursue an M Tech from the best institution in the country . It gives a strong foundation to think analytically and accentuate present skills set that led me to take this course. It also improves promotion prospects up the hierarchy! [sections edited out] So I do have time to make value contribution post my masters degree. Eventually, I see my self as a technical and operation head of a corporate telecom giant by my mid forties . Subsequently I might get into telecom consulting…This vision inspires me to start my preparations well in time. I am likely to be posted to places where I wont have access to quality guidance after the course. Kindly guide me accordingly and elucidate your comment “try applying to top B schools” as far as probability of getting into executive (1 year) MBA Course is concerned in top US n EUROPE Universities. Regards

  5. Deepak,

    There’s a LOT of time before you are ready to take the plunge into a full-time MBA. So don’t worry too much about specifics.

    Starting early is good. Starting too early means you’ll probably have to go through the entire prep process all over again to find out if the strategy you had in mind several years back is still relevant and effective.

    While you have access to bookstores, stock up a few good GMAT prep books and MBA books to keep yourself occupied.

  6. hi sameer

    i am having 1+3 yrs of experience as an administrative officer in defence.due to some injuries i am being relieved. now i would like to know how much chance do i stand as i have this much expeience but i had such varied training and experience in risk managing, hr , security, trainer… etc

    how do i contat you in detail? what could be my options for b schools abroad

  7. Deepanshi,

    With 4 years experience, you’d be closer to the average for most bschools. And the diverse exposure you’ve had will help too.

    For the other details, you could consider taking up the MBA MAP. Good way to build a solid foundation before you start the actual applications. Drop us a note: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

  8. Dear Sameer,

    I am an Air Defence Officer and will be completing 20 years in service soon. Am planning to quit the army and get into corporate sector . I am aiming for senior level jobs. can u please guide me wrt GMAT and other studies i might be required to undertake.



  9. Hi Sameer,

    First of all I would like to thank you to start such a nobel act. I am an Ex- Army officer with 5 years and 10 months of work ex. after that for last 3 years I am working at KPMG Pune as an Admin Manager. but some how I feel that with this pace my career will soon come to a peak and have already started feeling underutilised. I want to leave support services and want to come to profit center. kindly guide as to how to go ahead and do MBA in which field. (have taken GMAT once and got 600) I know the same are not good marks and will soon prepare again. (Finance are constraint ) . awaiting your reply.


  10. Hi , I m Class 1 / gazetted officer in govt of india , and having 2 yr work experience . now i preparing for GMAT and i interested in only aboard MBA program . so please tell our indian govt have any scheme to finance us in aboard mba . and what is list of college where i directly apply for mba as an employees of govt of india .

  11. Dear Sir,

    I am a recent graduate and have decided to join the Indian Army as a SSC officer. My long term goal is to make my career in consultancy once I leave the forces. I am familiar with GMAT and will be taking the books along with me. My question is, what kind of military experience do the Top tier B-Schools value ? For instance Service Corps, Ordinance, armoured or infantry ? But, does it really matter ?

  12. @Varun: It doesn’t matter.

    Bschools don’t have a preference for any specific military experience. The number of army applicants for MBA abroad are too less for them to start dictating terms (they don’t lay down any such prerference for other professionals either).

    It’s more about presenting what you’ve already done, in the best possible light. If you can show them what makes you employable after the MBA and integrate with the ‘mainstream’ business world, that’s even better.

  13. Hi sameer,

    I am a major in the indian army. I have already completed 5 yrs of work experience and served in both glaciated terrain as well as peace terrains. I am a technical engineer and had already acquired my B.E. degree in the field of Electronics and telecommunication from pune university prior to joining the army. I am planning to take a voluntary retirement but that can fructify only when i am 33. Presently i am 28.

    Having given you my background in brief, i just wanted to seek your advice on whether i should go for an mba in US. Would my age and previous work experience be a major hindrance in getting jobs especially after coming from the military forces.

    Your inputs on the subject would help me big time in orienting myself.
    Thanking you.

    • @Archi: MBA colleges in USA get many army / military applicants. Most of them tend to be older than the regular MBA applicants and Adcoms know why. You’d need a strong post-MBA rationale though, to convince them about your plans to pursue an MBA abroad.

  14. Dear Sameer,

    I am an officer with 20 years experience in the Armed Forces and am desirous of stepping out in the civil street after availing two years of study leave, which places a three year ban on quitting the forces once you finish our study leave period. Hence, I am looking at a five year period during which I want to specialise in two different subjects such as Supply chain management and Logistics and a related field backto back so that I can opt for a consulting career.

    I am interested in International affairs and its corresponding effects on supply chains, markets and businesses. Can you suggest a suitable Supply Chain Management Course program for me alongwith a related course which I can do from the same university which will assist my transition to a consulting career.


  15. Hi sameer,
    I’ve been following your blog and find it very informative. I’m short service commission technical officer in air force, before joining I had two years service in a automotive firm as an design engineer. I’m planning to pursue MBA after my stint here in the services.
    1) Could you suggest me good B schools in India and abroad or any specific programs that would make sense for my work experience?
    2)What good B schools in India consider GMAT scores?
    3)On leaving services after my tenure, I would be 33 years, would it be an hindrance ?
    4)could you also suggest programs that would suit individuals at this age juncture and with military experience, as good number of my ssc friends face the same dilemma of choosing course that would siut their background and lack of corporate exposure?

    • The good options in India are fairly limited. You probably already know about them – the one year MBA programs at IIM and ISB.

      For folks from military, army, navy backgrounds bschools are a little more lenient when it comes to age. Some employers are too, but most don’t have the same diversity pressures that bschools do. Instead they have bottomline (i.e. profitability) pressures. So placements after MBA can be tougher.

  16. I am a short service commission officer from Indian Army due for release next year. I have dealt with logistics operation and human resource management in my career so far. Pl suggest me as how should I plan my transition to corporate world.

    • Karthik, you haven’t mentioned if an MBA is on your to-do list. If it is, that’ll help in gaining some new skills in a short period.

      Apart from that you should try to explain how your knowledge of logistics and operations in the Army would benefit future employers.

  17. Dear Sameer,
    I am a short service commissioned officer in technical branch & due for retirement after 2 years. I possess a B.E degree in Electronics & Telecomm and a work ex of 10 years. Like all the other partcipants above, my career graph too encompass the similar fields of experiences and experties. My idea of a second career is to grow in a globally competitive environment. I think of pursuing one year MBA program from Europian / Indian premier institutes, however, finance is a major constraint. Also, there are several questions that occupy my thoughts when it comes to deciding the options for second career. i would really appreciate if you could throw some light on my queries:-
    1. The field of management most commensurate with my experience in the forces?
    2. The criteria for securing scholarships and the likelihood of getting 100% scholarships/ complete waiver of fees.
    3. Is a MBA degree from premier Indian B-schools recognised across the globe, specifically Europe?

    I have several more queries, which I shall be discussing with you through an e-mail.

  18. This site is very helpful. I know this is all about GMAT, but i wanted to ask question about GRE.
    I am in the same situation as all others. I am major in Army but serving as SSC. I have already completed 6 years of my service and am planning to apply for pre – release. I have done CS Engineering. That being the background, i am planning to take GRE and apply for MS.
    Will it be tough getting into good MS school with Army background? Also please suggest what programs and schools to aim at.

  19. Hi Sameer,
    I was an officer in Defence services for 21 years.I am 44. I want to change my career and for that i am considering an MBA from a top college.I have a Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies and am confident of getting a decent GMAT score. I was told that officers with my kind of experience can get into strategy or consulting afterwards . I am considering a one-year MBA and a post MBA job in US.What is your advice or suggestion ? Is my plan okay ? Can I make it to a top school with my profile ?Thanks

  20. HI,




  21. Hi Sameer,
    I am in the Defence, service 21 years, age 43, steady promotions till now. I’m BA and MSc in Defence and Strategic Studies, have served with UN in Africa and have touched all four corners of our Country. Due to having confidence in own academic and functional capabilities and steep hierarchical structure I am wishing to try for MBA. Please advise. Thanks.

  22. Sir
    I’m a 43 year old army officer preparing to take GMAT and looking forward to apply to U.S. universities for an mba. Reading the blog I feel it’s futile to attempt but then this is the min age I could leave and look for a second career. What would you advice?

  23. Hi Sameer,
    I am a serving Officer with the Armed Forces in my 17th year of service. I plan to quit in 20 yrs which would be in 2020. I wish to pursue a post graduate programme abroad post retirement which would enhance my employability and also aid in increasing my skill sets and prepare me for service in the civvy street. How should I go about preparing for it and what must I pursue?

  24. @NN, Ajay, Bala and others in the same boat: Don’t assume that the MBA is your only option. It’s not.

    In fact, it may be unwise for many to head back to bschool and empty your pockets at a phase in life where financial stability is as important as re-skilling.

  25. Dear Sameer,

    I am 46 yrs in logistics that involves transportation, contract conclusion and operation, petroleum products, ration supplies etc. Planning for a carrier after retirement ie in Mar 2024. Pl suggest qualifications that I should acquire and careers I should look forward to.


  26. Hi Sameer. I am an SSC officer with 3 years of exp. I was previously employed with Deloitte for a brief period of 8 months. I am planning to take up part time MBA. What are my best bets?

  27. HI Sameer,
    I am an Air Force Officer with 20 years of service. I intend to step across to civil and establish myself into Corporate Sector. Having read answer to various queries it gives me strong discouragement to pursue my dream of studying in a B School and working as a corporate. I am ready to take a risk at this stage of my life for a financially better job. I am a Post Graduate in Defence and Strategic Studies and have wide range of experience in Admin duties. Do you feel that I will be a big misfit and should definitely not go for an executive MBA?


  28. hi sameer

    I am Permanent commission offr having 10 yrs of experience in the fighting arm of defence. i would like to know how much chance do i stand as i have adequate experience in training, operations, logistics & management, instructional experience, HR and few others.

    how do i contat you in detail so as to share additional details and seek your expertise? what could be my options for b schools abroad

  29. My dear brother officers i wish to enlighten you that after serving for 20 years in military you are considered outdated for corporate world. One may end up with a job but survival skills are a different ball better srart enjoying yur whisky in open aur cinema and improve your golf handicap rather than punishing yurself by reporting to MBA equiped kids..though starting yur own venture is a good option but yu dont need an MBA for that


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