What You’ll Learn in an Aerospace MBA Program (And Why)

November 22, 2022

In aerospace and defense, professionals from many disciplines must work smoothly together to meet complex objectives. Scientists, engineers, technicians, project managers, resource managers, administrators and consultants contribute to projects with budgets measured in billions of dollars. That makes effective leadership crucial in A&D in relatively stable times. Today, globalization, deregulation, digitization, increasing competition, decreasing budgets and a rapidly evolving technological landscape are causing significant disruptions in the field, intensifying the need for decisive and agile leadership.

Unfortunately, the supply of capable leaders in A&D may be dwindling. According to management and consulting firm Korn Ferry, “the industry is experiencing a perfect storm of talent challenges. It is increasingly difficult to find qualified talent given the entry of new competitors to the market due to increased demand. There is also growing concern that the talent pool is shrinking, as the industry is predominantly populated by an aging workforce approaching retirement and interest in aerospace and defense careers is declining.”

Whether you’re newer to the aerospace and defense industry or a seasoned professional looking to join the ranks of leadership, now is an opportune time to step up by enrolling in an A&D-focused program such as the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Aerospace & Defense MBA (ADMBA). Founded 18 years ago, the Haslam College of Business ADMBA program is the longest-running aerospace MBA program globally. The program offers more than the foundational business management instruction of traditional Master of Business Administration programs. The Aerospace & Defense MBA curriculum will prepare you to take clear and effective action in the sector and lead strategically in your organization.

What Is an Aerospace & Defense MBA?

Aerospace MBA programs attract aerospace and defense professionals who want to develop their business, managerial and leadership skills. Haslam’s ADMBA program teaches advanced management competencies in the context of the aerospace and defense industry so you can immediately understand the application of business principles in the field and focus on putting classroom content to work in your organization. Throughout the one-year program, you will learn alongside classmates who have significant A&D experience.

Haslam ADMBA candidates typically have 12 to 15 years of professional experience and have held multiple leadership positions in their careers. Those with less experience in A&D organizations are often poised to move forward in their organizations and may be going to business school with employer sponsorship. The ADMBA program has two tracks: one for students with more years of A&D business experience and an early career track for those with less experience in the aerospace and defense industry. The program is intentionally small—only about 35 students are admitted each year—so degree candidates in both tracks receive a high-touch, personalized education while working full-time.

What Students in Aerospace & Defense MBA Programs Study

Aerospace MBA programs synthesize advanced business management fundamentals and A&D operations. As a student in Haslam’s ADMBA program, you will be immersed in a curriculum covering accounting, business theory, operations management, staff empowerment, strategic leadership and more. The world-renowned ADMBA faculty have A&D industry experience, so trends in the field inform the aerospace and defense MBA curriculum.

UT’s Aerospace & Defense MBA features a unique blended program structure of five residence periods, regular virtual Distance Learning (DL) sessions and an Organizational Action Project (OAP). The residencies provide opportunities to meet your professors, collaborate with fellow students and bring course content to life with action-oriented assignments. The DL sessions let you continue learning between residencies. The OAP is a chance to identify issues of importance in your organization and tackle real-world challenges.

How an MBA Can Enhance Your Aerospace Career

Although aerospace industry professionals often advance based on work experience, graduate programs targeting emerging leaders in this space can teach you concepts you might not learn on the job. The aerospace field is worth hundreds of billions of dollars in the U.S., and successful management in the aviation, aeronautical, space tech and defense industries is dependent on the skills and knowledge taught in part-time and full-time MBA programs.

Haslam ADMBA candidates come from many functional areas of aerospace and defense, including engineering, research and development, manufacturing, maintenance, operations, global supply chain management, contracting, business analytics, budgeting, marketing, business development and human resources.

Pursuing an MBA in aerospace and defense is a straightforward way to learn about the latest business trends in the industry and get a complete picture of the aerospace and defense value chain, digital transformation in A&D, aviation management and more. You’ll also expand your professional networks and access to opportunities, learn new ways to deliver value for your organization and gain the credentials necessary to move into more senior-level roles.

Haslam has a record of producing and developing exceptional industry talent. Aerospace & Defense MBA graduates recognize their strengths as leaders to empower those around them and achieve specific organizational milestones—not only in aviation or the military. According to the Financial Times, “demand for MBA-related skills such as sales, networking and change management is being spurred by a proliferation of space start-ups in Silicon Valley.”

How Haslam’s Aerospace & Defense MBA Develops Critical Leadership Skills

ADMBA Students Build Upon Core Business Fundamentals

ADMBA students at Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee study core business concepts and advanced business strategies that enhance their understanding of the business side of aerospace manufacturing, sales, research and development and defense. The curriculum offers industry-driven focus areas and frequent opportunities to engage with highly successful leaders. Program candidates enjoy hearing from guest speakers often and will learn how industry titans and executives lead their teams. One of the ADMBA program’s in-person residencies even takes place near the headquarters of a major aerospace and defense organization.

ADMBA Students Apply Business Concepts to Real-World Scenarios

Through hands-on learning, aerospace and defense MBA students develop new business competencies to gain momentum in their careers more quickly. The abovementioned OAP is an example of the program’s immersive and experiential nature. Students design and complete their own projects with guidance from their organizations’ leadership teams and faculty members with expertise in A&D industry fields central to project topics. ADMBA candidates typically generate $17 million or more in revenue growth or cost reduction for their employers through their OAPs before graduation.

ADMBA Students Receive Expert Leadership Coaching

Technically minded A&D industry professionals can become transformational leaders in Haslam’s ADMBA program with the support of leadership coaches. They offer personalized support and guidance in customized assessments, 360-degree feedback, group exercises and roleplaying sessions. Students work with their coaches to identify their strengths and areas for growth while exploring leadership models in the aerospace and defense industries. This individualized approach magnifies students’ ability to improve processes, drive efficiency and think critically through strategy development and people management.

ADMBA Students Grow Their Industry Networks

Haslam Aerospace & Defense MBA program students build diverse professional networks while forming valuable connections with tomorrow’s industry leaders. These peer-to-peer relationships play an especially crucial role in leadership development throughout the ADMBA program. Students spend a year in close communication and collaboration with other aerospace and defense leaders, exchanging ideas and best practices. During the five residence periods, as well as during the program’s Distance Learning sessions, students confer with professors and collaborate with peers. Alumni of UT’s ADMBA program cite relationships with classmates as one of the most pivotal features of the program and one that endures long after it ends.

Why Haslam ADMBA Graduates Become Leaders in the Field

More than 400 Haslam Aerospace & Defense MBA graduates currently serve as leaders in the aerospace industry, including 200 senior leaders at Department of Defense depots. Close to 89 percent of Aerospace & Defense MBA alumni receive promotions within two years of graduation, which may be why it is ranked the #1 most relevant program worldwide.

Like those who completed the program before you, chances are you will thrive in the Haslam learning environment because of the breadth of aerospace and defense industry experience that your classmates will bring to the program. Program participants represent A&D industry leading organizations such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon Technologies, Elbit Systems of America, BAE Systems, Collins Aerospace, Delta, Garmin, Northrop Grumman, NASA, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force. Cohorts tend to be evenly split between students from the DoD and commercial industry.

According to Deloitte, A&D needs “leadership models that develop and advance business leaders, not only program managers. Moreover, the traditionally hierarchical culture of the A&D industry is out of step with new tools for business execution and with much of the younger workforce today.” At Haslam, you will learn to think like a business leader. Whether your background is in engineering, R&D, manufacturing, operations, supply chain management, defense or consulting, the ADMBA program can prepare you to further your career and positively impact your organization amid rapid change.

Learn more about the ADMBA admission requirements at an upcoming enrollment event or start your application today. Haslam’s aerospace and defense MBA admissions team reviews applications on a rolling basis.