For most veterans, separating from military service means a change in career. While a few job fields have direct civilian equivalents, in most cases the veteran will find his or her work duties will change in the civilian workforce.
This is especially true for the veteran who is pursuing higher education with a top Military Friendly® School.
Sorry folks, there is no Bachelor of Science in Infantry Studies, nor a master’s degree in Line Handling. The skills you learned in the military will always be present, but the civilian world will require an entirely new training evolution.
So how do you choose a degree after your military experience?
A good place to start is lopping off majors that you know for certain that you have no interest in. Keep an open mind in fields you may not be familiar with, but get rid of the majors that are clearly a bad fit for your interests and goals.
- Hate math? You’ll probably want to steer clear of engineering.
- Grossed out by bodily fluids? Health sciences is not for you.
- Hard-core atheist? Theology may not be your thing.
Once you’ve crossed off some definite “no” majors, consider the driving factors of your career choice. For some people, the financial security of a high-paying job is paramount. For others, it’s all about job satisfaction. Chances are, you’ll find that both will factor into your choice.
Luckily, there are a number of tools available to help you with your decision. One great resource is the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The OOH includes hard data on the long-term employment prospects of hundreds of occupations, as well as a description of the job responsibilities, pay and comparable occupations. G.I. Jobs has teamed up with great employers looking to hire veterans, and our veteran job board is a great place to find employers who love to hire veterans.
Once you’ve narrowed down the list of majors to fields you find potentially interesting, it may be wise to consider the practicality of the major. Military experience may give you a leg up in an industry related to your rate, MOS or AFSC. For example, a boatswains mate’s experience is more likely to be compatible with a degree in marine engineering than a degree in the culinary arts.
This is doubly true if your prospective school awards transfer credits for military training. Depending on the school, a significant amount of prerequisites and in-major requirements can be waived by providing a list of completed military courses, including basic training. Always make sure to work with a Military Friendly® School and request your JST/SMART transcripts!
It’s important to remember that experience does not have to be limiting. There is nothing stopping a separating artilleryman from pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, assuming he or she can re-acclimate to an occupational speech volume that does not startle the animals. Instead, experience can be an opportunity, a leg up to avoid some of the pitfalls of starting at “entry level.” Interested in jobs for veterans? Check out our job board for HOT JOBS and current openings.
Above all, stay flexible! Perhaps the field that you thought was a perfect fit turns out to be a nightmare. Perhaps you thought you hated math or English or history, but you enjoyed an elective course. If done early enough, a change of major can be done with little to no delay to graduation date. Even if a change slows down graduation by a semester, that setback is minor compared to decades in an occupation that does not suit your needs.
As a transitioning veteran, your situational awareness and flexibility will be an asset when applied to your post-military training evolution (note: your classmates will have no idea what this means). Just as in military service, planning, attention to detail, and a willingness to work hard will improve your chances to find the major and veteran career that will be the best fit for your needs.
You want to go back to school, that much you know. But there could be a lot more you don’t know about finding a college than you realize. The education content section specifically for veterans will help guide you through your school selection process, making sure you don’t miss critical deadlines or choose a school that doesn’t offer the full range of education benefits you’ve earned.