The military MBA: USC's degree just for veterans

The leadership style seen in the U.S. military doesn't always translate directly into the business world, but one university is aiming to address that gap.

To help veterans leverage their armed forces credentials into a business career, USC had launched a Master of Business program specifically for veterans, which it's dubbed called the "MBV". The head of the program tells CNBC's "On the Money" that the degree will help bridge the gulf between what's acceptable in the military, and what may not carry over into the private sector.

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"The military is a very distinct professional culture, " said Lt. Col (Ret.) James Bogle, program director at the University of Southern California's (USC) Marshall School of Business.

"The way we talk to each other. The way we direct operations. There's a tremendous amount of predictability in the military that really doesn't necessarily translate into the civilian professional world. " Bogle told CNBC.

While both arenas require results and efficiency, Bogle said there are differences between leadership on the battlefield and in the boardroom.

That's where the MBV comes in. Instead of the 2-3 year commitment most MBA programs require, USC's one-year MBV program consists of two semesters, with all-day classes held every other Friday and Saturday. The cost is $49,700.

From all branches of service

Blake Pickell, USC Master of Business for Veterans graduate
Source: Blake Pickell
Blake Pickell, USC Master of Business for Veterans graduate

As of 2014, 21.2 million men and women, or about 9 percent of the civilian adult population, are veterans. While the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in April, that number was 4.7 percent overall for America's veterans.

Yet for those veterans who have served in the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, the jobless rate rose to 6.9 percent last month. That translates into more than 200,000 veterans looking for a job, and data shows that an advanced degree can boost job prospects significantly.

Bogle tells CNBC the students at USC's Master of Business for Veterans come from all branches of service. But the one thing USC requires they have in common is at least three years of leadership in the military.

Last year, 38 veterans graduated in the first year of the MBV program, while just last week, 49 students graduated from the second MBV class. According to Bogle, it would have been 50—but one student was called back to active duty in Afghanistan.

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Air Force officer Blake Pickell was among last week's MBV graduates at the university. In 2007, he Pickell graduated from the Air Force Academy, and followed that with six years as an officer in the Air Force.

Pickell told CNBC that his new degree taught him "tangible hard skills like statistics, finance and accounting" that he never learned in the military.

However, the 30-year old veteran says he's found there's a big difference between military leadership and business leadership. "The best thing about the military is you tell someone to do something and they'll do it. In the corporate world, I found, I had to go back and say, 'I asked you do it'" if it wasn't done, he said.

Pickell says his new degree has helped him learn "the whole thing is getting people to buy into things. You have to find the narrative, the soft skills of leadership."

That's a big change from the concept of battlefield leadership.

On the Money airs on CNBC Sundays at 7:30 pm, or check listings for airtimes in local markets.