Marine Corps experience shown to enhance job prospects

September 29, 2003

When their tours of active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan are over, Marines who receive an honorable discharge may be welcomed back by some employers with a higher salary for their Marine Corps experience, Penn State researchers have found.

Dr. Kevin Murphy, professor and head of the department of psychology and leader of the study, says, "About one-third of the employers included in the survey data we studied said they see a substantial economic benefit to hiring Marines and would be willing to pay between 10 percent and 50 percent more to get a person with Marine Corps experience."

Murphy, Dr. Jeanette Cleveland, professor of industrial and organizational psychology, and Dr. William T. Ross, professor of marketing, participated in the study through the Marine Corps Research University program.

The Marine Corps asked Penn State researchers to evaluate the Corps' recruiting process and offer recommendations to enhance it. As part of the project, the researchers measured both the content and the value of the Marine Corps experience from the perspective of employers as well as Marines. More than 1,900 employers and Marines participated in the surveys.

The Penn State researchers found that, when an employer understood the Marine Corps experience in terms of the core values and life skills developed by the Marine Corps, they saw a substantial economic benefit to hiring post-service Marines and were willing to offer higher salaries to get them.

On the other hand, a majority of employers did not have a clear or positive understanding of the Marine Corps experience. As a result, about two-thirds of employers surveyed said they saw no difference between hiring a civilian with comparable job experience versus a post-service Marine.

Murphy says, "The employers who favored hiring Marines understood that people who receive an honorable discharge from the Corps have adopted the core values of honor, courage and commitment. They understood that, when told to do something, post-service Marines would have the commitment and confidence to get the job done. Unfortunately, a majority of employers we surveyed did not yet understand this fact."

The Penn State researchers have recommended that the Marine Corps more clearly communicate the value and relevance of the Marine Corps experience to potential recruits and their parents and to employers. They have also recommended providing post-service Marines a better means to communicate the relevance and value of their experience to employers.

The Penn State researchers note that the Marine Corps already has the most successful recruiting program among the armed services. The Corps' decision to ask university researchers to look at its recruiting practices to make them more efficient and effective is also unique. The other services review their recruiting programs from within.

Murphy notes, "It is likely that a campaign to increase employers' understanding of the value and relevance of the Marine Corps experience would enhance Marines' post-service employment opportunities, thereby also increasing the attractiveness of recruitment."

The Corps designated Penn State its Marine Corps Research University (MCRU) in 1999 to provide research and educational services. About 50 Penn State faculty and staff members and more than 60 graduate students from five colleges and the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) participate in more than 103 MCRU projects. Ron Madrid is MCRU program manager.

Penn State

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