Veterans’ Guide to Careers After the Military

College Resources & Programs That Can Help

After transitioning out of the military, many veterans choose to start on their path to a college degree or continue the post-secondary education they began before enlisting. For some, their military skills directly lead to a degree. For others, they’ll need to decide on a new path that best matches their interests and the skills they gained while on active duty. This guide will help veterans translate their military experience to a career, find the right degree and land a civilian job.

College Resources for Veterans

There are many resources available on college campuses to help undecided students figure out a career path, many of which are specific to veterans. Students can visit veterans’ resource centers where they can network with other veterans and group counseling centers that help with finding benefits and a degree path. Many schools also offer career fairs where students can mingle with veteran-friendly employers looking to hire.

VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC)

The VSOC is a Department of Veterans Affairs program designed to help veterans (and dependents) transition to college life. Each school that is part of the VSOC program has a counselor on campus that can help with benefits counseling, including help finding and securing the right VA benefits. They also provide assistance in finding a degree that leads to a viable career in the civilian work force.

The program started as a pilot program in 2009 at the University of South Florida and has now grown to include 94 sites across the United States. The VA provides a list of schools currently in the program.

Transfer Course Equivalency Search

Although this is a program of Suny Oneonta College, it can be accessed by anyone and will give a veteran a good idea of the military training that could be credited towards a degree.

Veterans Resource Centers

Not all schools are part of the VSOC program. However, many of those that aren’t have their own Veterans Resource Centers. Their centers are staffed with a Veterans Resource Coordinator that can assist service members or veterans from all branches, including Reservists and National Guard personnel (along with their spouses and dependent children of the service-connected disabled). Once such school is the Community College of Philadelphia.

Student Veterans of America (SVA)

SVA has several programs veterans can use, including Google Resume Workshops. Veterans attend a workshop hosted by Goggle volunteers that will critique written resumes. They then get to meet hiring officials from companies and attend a panel discussion. The VMock SMART Career Platform is an online tool that evaluates a submitted resume to provide instant feedback and suggestions on how it can be made more powerful.

School spotlight

Most schools really want to help veterans. However, some go the extra mile to support students who served. Here are three such schools:


  • Normandale Community College

    Normandale Community College

    While this Minnesota school is small, they have a large veteran resource center. The staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, offer a one-stop shop where they help:

    • Smooth out the application process
    • Assist with filling out the FAFSA
    • Apply for Federal Tuition Assistance and request their military transcripts
    • Search out additional state and federal benefits applicable to the individual student
    • Advise and assist with registering for classes

    They also provide a Military-to-College Checklist with a step-by-step list of what a veteran must do when applying to the school. However, it’s general enough that any veteran can use it as a guideline for entrance to other schools.


  • Butte College

    Established in 2008, Butte College’s Veterans Resource Center was designed to better serve a growing population of students who transitioned out of the military and into college. Their center is part of a larger Office of Veterans Services and it not only offers a place for their Student Veterans Organization to meet, but also where veterans can:

    • Get financial aid and application assistance
    • Attend workshops specially designed to assist veterans
    • Have a place to study in a relaxing atmosphere
    • Network with other veterans
    • Get counseling and support as necessary

    The school also offers priority registration to veterans making it possible to get into classes that would otherwise fill up quickly.


  • University of Florida

    Called Gator Career Link, The University of Florida’s Career Resource Center is a grouping of resources like workshops and career fairs that all UF students – veterans and otherwise – can benefit from.

    • Major and Minor Fair: If not sure of a study focus, explore the degree programs offered by the school at this one-day event
    • Spring Career Showcase: A two-day event that connects students with employers looking to hire either full-time or for internships. The first day covers non-technical majors while day two covers technical ones. Also included free-of-charge are professional headshot photos that can be used by the student in job search efforts.
    • Summer Job and Internship Fair: A one-day event that also includes internships and summer jobs employers are looking to fill.
    • Careers in Education Fair: A one-day evening event where students can talk to recruiters looking to fill teaching positions at public and private schools.
    • Just in Time Virtual Career Fair: At this career event, online students can virtually meet perspective employers in their office environment.


Choosing a Degree After the Military

Figuring out and selecting a degree path after getting out of the military can be difficult. Two common questions veterans ask themselves when thinking about going to college are:

  • “Do I want to stay in the same line of work that I did in the military?” or
  • “Do I want to do something entirely different?”

In some cases, the question answers itself. For example, for those in the Combat Arms Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs), such as Infantryman, there aren’t many civilian jobs that directly apply the same skills. In most cases, they’ll have to choose another career field and transfer what credits they can.

But for others not in combat arms, they may very well want to stick with their former military professions, especially if it was something they enjoyed doing. Positions in areas like health care, computer networking and engineering transfer very well into degree plans. Plus, the student can usually receive more credits that can transfer and apply towards a degree than if he or she switched to a new field of study.

This can also save GI Bill® entitlement because the student ends up having to take fewer classes. The entitlement saved could then be used toward an advanced degree.

However, if the decision is to do something different, there are many majors to choose from. And often, using a skills translator to see what career fields match up with their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code can help them narrow down the options.

Translating military skills to civilian jobs

Below is a table of four selected jobs from each of the five military branches that compares each job to its civilian counterpart and the degree that would be required to get that job.


  • ARMY JOBS

    Infantryman 11B

    • Captures, repels and destroys enemy forces
    • Civilian Equivalent: Training and Development Managers
    • Related Degree: Human Resources

    Military Police Officer 31A

    • Leads subordinate soldiers in the protection of lives and property on military bases
    • Civilian Equivalent: First line supervisor of police and detectives
    • Related Degree: Criminal Justice or Law Enforcement

    Cyber Operations Specialist 17C

    • Targets offensive operations against enemy and hostile adversaries to protect data and computer networks
    • Civilian Equivalent: Computer Information Systems Manager
    • Related Degree: Information Systems Science

    Combat Medic 68W


  • NAVY JOBS

    Seabee Construction Worker

    • Performs various types of construction work on runways, harbors and buildings
    • Civilian Equivalent: Project Engineer
    • Related Degree: Civil Engineering

    Electronic Technician

    • Maintains, adjusts and repairs electronic equipment
    • Civilian Equivalent: Computer and Information System Managers
    • Related Degree: Computer Science or Information Management

    Surface Warfare Officer

    • Coordinates various shipboard activities
    • Civilian Equivalent: Management Analyst
    • Related Degree: Business Management w/Certified Management Consultant designation

    Logistic specialist

    • Orders, inventories, stocks and issues supplies
    • Civilian Equivalent: Logistics Manager
    • Related Degree: Supply Chain Management


  • AIR FORCE JOBS

    Health Services Manager

    • Provides administrative support to clinic, hospital and patients
    • Civilian Equivalent: Healthcare Administrator
    • Related Degree:Health Information Management or Healthcare Administration

    Cryptologic Language Analyst

    • Transcribes and translates communication transmissions
    • Civilian Equivalent: Information Security Analyst
    • Related Degree: Information Assurance

    Base Services

    • Maintains and operates hotels, restaurants and fitness centers on bases
    • Civilian Equivalent: Personal Fitness Trainer or Hotel Manager
    • Related Degree: Exercise Science, Kinesiology or Hospitality Management

    Tactical Air Control Party Specialist

    • Calls in air strikes of air-to-ground missiles and munitions
    • Civilian Equivalent: Forensic Science Technician
    • Related Degree: Forensic Science


  • MARINES JOBS

    Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Specialist

    • Employs firefighting equipment to rescue victims involved in aircraft crashes
    • Civilian Equivalent: Emergency Management Director
    • Related Degree: Emergency Management or Public Administration

    Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician

    • Locates and renders safe unexploded ordnance
    • Civilian Equivalent: Criminal Investigator
    • Related Degree: Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice

    Personnel Clerk

    • Performs personnel and administrative duties using manual and automated information systems
    • Civilian Equivalent: Office Manager
    • Related Degree: Business Administration

    Recruiter

    • Locates and processes applicants into the Marine Corp
    • Civilian Equivalent: Career Counselor
    • Related Degree: School Counseling and appropriate license or certification


  • COAST GUARD JOBS

    Aviation Maintenance Technician

    • Inspects, services, repairs and maintains all aircraft systems
    • Civilian Equivalent: Aircraft Pilot
    • Related Degree: Aviation

    Boatswain’s Mate

    • Performs deck maintenance, operates deck equipment and navigates small boats
    • Civilian Equivalent: Ship Engineer
    • Related Degree: Merchant Marine w/either Merchant Mariner Credential or Transportation Worker Identification Credential

    Marine Science Technician

    • Conducts port, harbor and marina inspections to ensure compliance with federal and other applicable regulations and laws
    • Civilian Equivalent: Environmental Engineer
    • Related Degree: Environmental Engineering Technology

    Public Affairs Specialist

    • Writes news and feature articles, shoots still and video imagery, maintains websites and increases public awareness of Coast Guard issues
    • Civilian Equivalent: Public Relations Specialist
    • Related Degree: Public Relations, Journalism or Mass Communications

  • Spotlight: Companies who hire vets

    There are over two hundred companies listed at Veteran Jobs Mission who hire veterans. However, some companies have more mature programs for veterans than others. Here are three of the leaders in the industry:


  • BAE Systems– Warrior Integration Program

    BAE is veteran-driven. Their goal for 2018 is to hire 100 veterans per month. At BAE, they pride themselves on assisting wounded warriors with transitioning into their civilian workforce. Their program provides a path to career progression and growth by providing:

    • Strategic placement within the disabled veteran’s abilities
    • A mentorship program
    • Transition assistance for the veteran and family
    • Leadership development for career growth and promotion


  • Boeing –Service to Career

    This innovative company has career fields in Business, Cybersecurity, Engineering, Information Technology and Manufacturing. They offer personal and professional networking along with translating military skills to civilian ones found inside their company to help smooth out the transition process. They also have recovery and rehabilitation programs to help veterans with post-traumatic stress, mental and physical injuries or disabilities, and a suicide prevention program.


  • Lockheed-Martin –Military Connect

    This program offers guidance on transitioning out of the military and entering or reentering the civilian workforce, plus tips on resume writing and interviewing. They also offer coaching, mentoring and advice on career direction.


My Next Move

A skills translator that allows you to search by keywords for the desired career, type of career industry or branch of service and MOS. The search results include a link to drill down further into the job, plus icons indicating the future outlook of that job, if it’s part of a green economy and if it offers an apprenticeship.

Vets.gov

The skills translator on this website allows a veteran to enter a branch of service and military occupation code, then pick a code status of active or inactive and category of officer, warrant officer or enlisted. It returns a set of skills in civilian language that can be used when writing a resume. The skills displayed can be imported directly into a Resume Builder on the website.

Brainline

This blog run by a veteran provides helpful information for veterans going to school for the first time or reentering school after suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Career One Stop

A skills translator that allows job seekers to search by MOS, military job keyword, or job and branch of service.

Job Finder

Another resource from Career One Stop. Enter a civilian job title or keyword and a desired location of employment, and get back a list of jobs matching the criteria.

Hire Veterans Job Fairs

This virtual job fair board is extensive, with hundreds of companies listed. Click on a company of interest and see what jobs they currently have open.

Recruit Military

A multi-functional job site featuring search criteria for either job seekers or employers wanting to post jobs. The site is broken down into three main areas: Job Board, Magazine and Job Fairs. Each one has an area for a job seeker and employer. For example, under Job Board, veterans can add a profile with their name and qualifications to the database. Employers can pay a fee to gain access to the database (with over a million registered veterans) and search the profiles for qualified candidates.

Job Placement Programs for Veterans

Once out of the military, through school and ready to start a career, finding a job is usually the first priority. But if they’ve been injured or are disabled, it can make the process even more frustrating and difficult. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations that stand ready to help get veterans into a job within their abilities. Here are some of the more popular job placement programs veterans are using today.


  • Helmets to Hardhats

    Helmets to Hardhats

    If looking to get into the construction industry, this job search board could be your ticket to success. Search by trade within your city or state. Or, if you know the company you would like to work for, use the Advanced Search. You can also upload your resume.


  • Troops to Teachers

    Troops to Teachers

    Part of the Proud to Serve Again project from DANTES and funded by the Department of Defense, veterans interested in teaching can get help becoming qualified for and then finding teaching jobs. Transitional assistance is available to help veterans meet the qualifications and certifications necessary to become a teacher.


  • VA Employment Services

    VA Employment Services

    A multi-faceted site, the VA not only helps veterans enhance their skills and education to make them better qualified for employment, they also help translate those skills onto a resume. Through various job seeking tools, they also help connect veterans with employers looking to hire people with those specific skills.


  • VA Careers

    VA Careers

    This branch of the Veterans Employment Service Office focuses on getting severely wounded warriors back into the workplace. Nine Regional Veterans Employment Coordinators are scattered throughout the U.S. that stand ready to help match veterans with employers that have jobs within the veteran’s abilities.


  • Veterans Careers At the VA

    Veterans Careers At the VA

    While VA Careers is more focused in finding a job matching a veteran’s abilities, this resource focuses on veterans who want to work specifically for the VA itself. They offer Transition Assistance, Education Support, Career Training and, of course the benefits of having a job with the federal government – 26 paid vacation days per year, health benefits and retirement plans.


  • Return2Work

    Return2Work

    Since 1998, this non-profit organization has provided disabled veterans with vocational rehabilitation services, counseling and employment opportunities to get back into the workforce. Their online assessment tool helps match applicants to jobs based on personality, education, experience, training and skills.


  • Warriors to Work

    Warriors to Work

    This is a veteran employment initiative from the Wounded Warrior Project to help get injured veterans back into the workplace. From counseling to career guidance to employment support, they have qualified people to help match jobs to veterans.


Tips for Landing a Civilian Job

While many skills and traits are valued in both military and civilian jobs, it can sometimes be difficult for veterans to package their experience in a way that’s accessible to civilian recruiters. But with a few tweaks, veterans can master a civilian resume and job interview.

How to write a civilian resume

For civilians, writing an effective resume can be challenging because it’s a different style of writing than most people are used to using. For veterans, however, military terminology can make it difficult to express job titles, skills and training in language a hiring manager or recruiter can understand.

Learning to translate military terms into their civilian equivalent can make it much easier to land a job. For example, if you were an Army E-6 Staff Sergeant, 11B Infantryman (which means nothing to a civilian), say that you “supervised and led a team of 9 decorated soldiers, often in high pressure demanding situations.” That makes it easier for a recruiter to understand. It also illustrates core values that are valuable in any career, such as:

  • Team leadership
  • Ability to work with minimal supervision
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work under stress and think on your feet

Below are two sample abbreviated resumes of an Army officer. Note the military jargon in the Work History and Awards sections of the first resume. The second one contains the same basic information, but it has been “civilianized” so it makes sense to a civilian hiring official reviewing the resume.

MILITARY

Jonny Doe

123 Main Street, Anytown, CA 12345

H: 123.456.7890 | C: 123.678.7560 |jonny.doe@yahoo.com

CAREER SUMMARY

Twenty-year career in Intelligence, Force Management and Personnel Deployment for the United States Army. Exceptionally strong strategic planning, analytical and organizational leadership skills.

SKILLS

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Organization
  • Planning

WORK HISTORY

United States Army

Intelligence Officer, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, GA July 2010 – Present

Responsible for the planning and operations of the military intelligence battalion consisting of 429 soldiers in 29 Military Occupation Specialties and four companies; Assisted in the management of SIGINT and HUMANT assets during all tactical operations; assisted in missions, insertions, extractions and communications for all deployed detachments. Served as the primary systems integrator for the battalion coordinating force modernization ussies and updated the battalion’s leadership on new equipment fielding and related issues.

EDUCATION | LEADERSHIP | TRAINING | JOB RELATED

BA, Social Sciences, Georgia State University

MBA, Business Management, Penn State University

MS, National Security Strategy, War College, Trenton, NJ

AWARDS

ARCOM, MSM

CIVILIAN

Jonny Doe

123 Main Street, Anytown, CA 12345

H: 123.456.7890 | C: 123.678.7560 |jonny.doe@yahoo.com

CAREER SUMMARY

Twenty-year career in Intelligence, Force Management and Personnel Deployment for the United States Army. Exceptionally strong strategic planning, analytical and organizational leadership skills.

SKILLS

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Organization
  • Planning

WORK HISTORY

United States Army

Intelligence Officer, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, GA July 2010 – Present

Responsible for the planning and operations of a division with 429 members in 29 different job categories spread over four sections within the division. Assisted in the management of information gained through electronic monitoring and interpersonal contact with the local populace. Assisted in planning and execution of projects that sent teams out and ensured their safe return, while maintaining constant contact with them via radio communications and GPS tracking. Served as the project manager for the division coordinating the procurement and issuing of upgraded equipment.

EDUCATION | LEADERSHIP | TRAINING | JOB RELATED

BA, Social Sciences, Georgia State University

MBA, Business Management, Penn State University

MS, National Security Strategy, War College, Trenton, NJ

AWARDS

Received an Army Commendation Medal for exceptional leadership during a month-long training exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA.

Awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding contribution for the planning and successful completion of the anti-terrorist training conducted over a two-week period.

Interview do’s and don’ts

Do’s

  • Dress in civilian attire appropriate for the interview. This usually means a business suit, but when in doubt, ask the company’s HR department.
  • Include military accomplishments (in civilian terms) when appropriate.
  • Perform mock interviews with a friend to focus on translating military jargon and terms into civilian language.
  • Describe how your military accomplishments relate to the job you are seeking.
  • Highlight soft skills that employers value like team leading, attention to detail, loyalty, decision-making, thinking on your feet, meeting deadlines, interpreting written documents (think Operation Orders), etc.

Don’ts

  • Wear a military uniform.
  • Use military jargon, such as acronyms, job titles and terms.
  • Answer questions with just a yes or no. Instead, expand your answer to showcase your military-learned talents and skills in that area, if possible.
  • Answer questions the interviewer cannot legally ask, such as your disability status. Instead, refocus the question. For example, if asked if you have any disabilities, answer by saying something like “If you’re asking if I can do all specific duties of the position, the answer is yes.”
  • Answer questions about your discharge status. Interviewers can’t legally ask about this.
  • Answer questions about frequency of deployment, drill time, etc., if serving in the Reserves.

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