3 Tips for Marketing your University to Military Personnel

Even the title of this blog is a painful reminder of the differences between how civilians speak, and how soldiers speak.

For many reasons soldiers make terrific students.  Apart from the fact that Officers and Senior Enlisted soldiers need to obtain Advanced Degrees in order to advance in rank, they are generally disciplined, they have terrific leadership skills, they bring experience from having worked in the worlds’ largest corporation, the Department of Defense, they can help a university improve their diversity targets for minorities, and they generally can pay for the program via their GI bill or have the Department of Defense pay for their degree directly.

To be successful in promoting your Masters program or MBA program to Officers and Senior Enlisted soldiers in the United States military, here’s three tips:

1.  Be authentic in your tone when speaking to them about the advantages of your program.

2.  Reach them at the right time in their careers.

3.  Share the right message.


1.  Be authentic in your tone when speaking to them about the advantages of your program.

The information presented in your general marketing materials may not address the needs of Senior Enlisted personnel or Officers considering a masters program.   Those universities that make an effort to use genuine military vernacular will be seen by soldiers as authentic in their understanding of the military lifestyle and the challenges they will face when deciding on a program.  Here are a few examples of how to market your program to the military.  We’re a loyal group, and your willingness to understand our challenges will go a long way.

Attracting active duty soldiers: Indicate that when Active Duty personnel arrive at the university that you can help them find housing or recommend those who can that will be within the budget they will receive based on their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).  Identify and list real-estate firms that understand how to work with military and the Basic Allowance for Housing.  This is particularly important for soldiers with young families considering schools in urban areas.

Attracting Reservists: Evening and part time programs are difficult to manage for Reservists, but do-able.  Many of these soldiers will be serving in senior leadership positions in their units as First Sergeants, Company Commanders, and Battalion Commanders.  In order for the Officers to advance to senior military ranks, they are required to hold a masters degree.  If your program is flexible, you might want to showcase how students can attend the program while also fulfilling their requirement to obtain their weekend Battle Assemblies.  Reservists generally need to earn at least 48 MUTA’s/UTA’s (Multiple Unit Training Assemblies, which are points for time served) in order to fulfill their minimum commitment each year.  If your program offers any flexibility in terms of how many classes they can take each semester or the ability to take off a semester, be sure to present that.  Present an alumni profile of another Reservist who attended while serving in the Reserves.

Attracting Veterans: Indicate your universities policy with regard to the Yellow Ribbon program.  If you’re not listed on the military’s pages for participating programs, you’re missing a tremendous resource in reaching veterans.

2.  Reach them at the right time in their careers.

Active duty soldiers and Reservists have specific guidelines when they are required to attend military schooling.  In order to be promoted to the General Officer ranks, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen will need not one, but two advanced degrees; one provided by a Senior Service School, such as the Army War College, the Air War College, the Naval War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, or The National War College.  However, while these ranks require about 18-22 years of service to attain, you can begin reaching mid-level Captains (O3) and Majors (O4) or for the Naval ranks Lieutenants (O3) and Lieutenant Commanders (O4).  To reach Warrant Officers, talk to Chief Warrant Officers 2 and 3 (CW2, CW3).  Sometimes you’ll find senior enlisted soldiers who are also ready for a Masters Degree, particularly those who are becoming subject matter experts in their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), you’ll most likely find them as E7s and above.  Before that, these soldiers, particularly the Officers are still learning the Profession of Arms and have other military schooling they are required to undertake.   To reach these officers, use targeted Facebook ads promoting your program and present the ads based on their age and time in service and even groups they may like (for example, the 8,422 Facebook users who “Like” the US Army Signal Regiment on Facebook would be terrific candidates for a Tech MBA or MIS).

3.  Share the right message.

Depending on the type of MBA program or post-graduate degree you offer, you have a program that is a strong fit for a given military profile.  Here’s a small chart that might help you think about how to position your program to military personnel.


Type of program Military Profile Timing within their Careers Market Positioning and Differentiation
Top – Tier MBA Top performance in the military evaluation promotion system in the Active Component (AC). Generate awareness after they graduate from their Academy or ROTC and continue reaching them as O1 and O2s. Alumni Profiles of other General Officers who are graduates.  Yellow Ribbon program will not be important to this group since the military will pay for it fully.  Decision when and where to attend is made in conjunction with military personnel command.
Second-Tier MBA program Strong military performance reports from Active, Reservists and Veterans, widest range of ages Generate awareness to senior O3-O4s in the Reserves and Veterans Decision when and where to go to school is made completely by the soldier and he has to fit it in to their schedule.
Third-tier MBA programs and Executive MBA Programs Veterans and reservists and some Active duty Generate awareness to O3-O4s and E7s and above Flexibility in scheduling


Yellow Ribbon program

Masters in a technical field (MIS, MSE, MS) Aspiring to be a subject matter experts in a technical field Target by MOS and Functional Area Flexibility in scheduling and the Yellow Ribbon program
Online Masters programs Active Duty, Reservists, and Veterans of all ages and locations O3-O4, E7 and above Flexibility in scheduling, convenience for deployed soldiers, and Yellow Ribbon program

We hope that these short tips are informative, but they do not represent a cohesive and integrated military marketing program for Universities.  We provide traditional marketing and digital marketing strategies, tactics and campaigns for universities to successfully market their masters degree programs to those serving in the United States military.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *