Military Skills Transition Resources for Veterans and Active Duty Service Members
Serving in the military is an honorable decision, and it gives service members not only the chance to give back to their country, but also to develop personal abilities and careers. Though service may be beneficial both for our nation and individual growth, many veterans struggle when their time in the military is over. About 44% of veterans who served after the devastating attacks on September 11, 2001 report having a difficult transition back into civilian life.
One area of particular concern for veterans is re-entering the workforce. A recent study indicates that many veterans have trouble finding work after their service, due to a variety of factors, including differences in civilian and military values, and difficulties translating military skills to civilian jobs. In fact, according to that same study, many veterans were frustrated by having their skills and experience ignored or misunderstood by employers who didn’t seem to understand the military training and service background. Despite their records, many veterans found themselves back at square one in terms of their civilian careers. Helping veterans find jobs for which they are an appropriate fit, then, is a major issue.
Whether you’re a veteran already on the hunt for a job, or an active duty service member who wants a smoother transition, there are many programs available to help you better translate your military skills to a civilian career. This guide from Rider University Online will go over some of the most useful military skills that may also apply in the business world, what educational programs are available to further develop these skills, and various organizations that can help you connect with jobs for which you’re a better fit. Transitioning into the civilian workforce can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible, especially when you have the right resources and information to support you.
Military Leadership Traits That Apply to The Business World
Although it may not always feel like it, there are many skills you’ve gained from your military experience that are applicable and useful in the civilian workforce. Throughout all of your interactions, responsibilities, and duties as a service member, you naturally develop skills that can help you find success in the business world. Once you understand what these valuable skills are and why they matter as a civilian, you’ll be better equipped to apply them in a way that’s relevant to your new position.
Adaptability & Problem-Solving
No matter what branch you are a part of, working in the military requires you to become flexible, adaptable, and able to solve problems. In the course of your service, you have to learn how to respond quickly to new situations with little to no preparation, adjust your priorities as needed, and solve unexpected problems as they arise. Essentially, you have to be ready for any situation at any time.
Many employers may find adaptability to be a highly valuable trait in their employees. Being stuck in your ways or resistant to change can indicate to employers that you aren’t open to new ideas or may panic when things don’t go according to plan. Additionally, experts believe that adaptable organizations have a competitive advantage in the fluctuating business world. This makes staffing adaptable employees with problem-solving skills a matter of the utmost importance for employers who want to set their businesses apart from their competition.
Being in the military requires you to learn how to communicate with many different types of people in a variety of circumstances and settings. People in the military come from different backgrounds, walks of life, and states, and you have to learn how to communicate effectively with every single one of them. Depending on where you were stationed and what your job was during your service, yours and others’ lives could have relied on how well you were able to communicate with your fellow service members and superior officers.
Whether or not they’ve served in the military and regardless of what field they work in, strong communication is an essential skill for all employees to have. Managers are constantly looking to improve communication to make a more effective workplace. For most positions, you have to be able to communicate any and all relevant information to your coworkers, supervisors, subordinates, clients, and customers. It isn’t just a valuable skill to bring to a civilian job; it’s a necessary one. If you’re able to communicate clearly with everyone you meet in a professional setting, you’ll be a useful asset to any organization.
As a current or former service member, you’re likely all too familiar with the importance of performing under pressure and making decisions quickly and with confidence. If you were an officer, deployed overseas, or saw combat, you understand how crucial it is to make the right choice in a given situation, while facing potentially dire consequences if you choose incorrectly.
Although the consequences of a poor decision are much less consequential in the modern business world, this skill is still relevant to virtually any civilian job. You have to be able to analyze a situation and make a well-informed decision that will provide the outcome you or your supervisor wants. Considering the various factors, adapting your decision to any changing circumstances, and thinking creatively all play an important role in making decisions, and can help set you up for success in a corporate setting.
Integrity is a vital component of military service. As a service member, you are bound to maintain and respect certain loyalties and morals. If you lie or make an immoral decision, there could be consequences — depending on the severity of your actions, you could even go to jail or receive a dishonorable discharge, putting an end to your military career. Veterans who have completed their service with an honorable discharge, however, clearly understand the significance of integrity and how to uphold the values of the organization they work for.
Integrity is an important soft skill in the business world. Employers want to hire people they can trust, and showing that you are a reliable employee can help you get a position you love at an organization you believe in. Further, integrity may serve you well in terms of advancement opportunities. Loyal employees who work hard for a company and keep its best interests at heart are much better suited to take on higher-level and leadership roles, rather than employees who are only there to pick up a paycheck.
Being able to successfully work with other people can be a matter of life or death in the military. During your service, you have to get along and work with a wide range of people from all over the United States, if not all over the world. The military itself is a sort of large-scale team that requires each of its members to work together to achieve its goals. Without teamwork, those goals are unreachable.
Though it takes on a different form in the workplace, teamwork is still important for any business’s success. Employees who are able to work well together can solve more problems, get more work done, and generate more creative solutions to difficult problems. It also builds a more collaborative and welcoming work environment where employees can turn to each other for support when they need it. Someone who drives these benefits, rather than detracting from them, is a worthwhile addition to many organizations.
Educational Grants For Veterans
Although they are important, your skills and abilities are only one part of finding a job after your military service. Education is another significant factor that civilian employers will use to find the right person for a job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects jobs that require some postsecondary education to grow by 14% by the year 2022. Further, many of the jobs that are most applicable to individuals who have served in the military will require a degree.
If you did not get a degree before or while serving in the military, you should consider pursuing one as a veteran. The associated cost may be expensive, as degrees can be costly, and many people may not even consider it as an option while working toward a career path unless it’s absolutely necessary for their goals.
However, as a current or former member of the Armed Forces, you are in a unique position to get help in pursuit of a college degree. There are a number of different resources and programs available to veterans who need financial assistance. Some of the top educational grants for veterans include:
Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an education benefit available to veterans who have served on active duty after September 10th, 2001. It offers up to 36 months of benefits, including paid college tuition, fees, housing, books and supplies, and moving costs. To qualify, you must have:
- Served at least 90 days of active duty, either all at once or with breaks in service, starting either on or after September 11, 2001;
- Received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged after any amount of service;
- Served at least 30 continuous days on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged with a service-related disability.
Certain reserve members and children of qualifying veterans may also qualify for these benefits as well.
You can use these benefits to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree, get vocational or technical training, complete a work/study program, or take online classes. The amount you qualify for depends on how long you served on active duty. If your service ended before January 1, 2013, these benefits will expire 15 years after your last separation date from active service, but if your service ended on or after January 1, 2013, these benefits never expire.
Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty, Veteran, & Selected Reserves
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) offers educational benefits in the form of monthly payments to people who have enlisted in the Armed Forces. There are two main MGIB programs: one for active duty service members and one for selected reserve members.
Active Duty Service Members & Veterans
The MGIB-AD program provides educational benefits to active duty service members and veterans who have served on active duty for at least two years. With this program, you can receive up to 36 months of payments to put towards your education. The amount you receive depends on your educational goals, the length of your service, and which eligibility category you fall into. You can join the $600 Buy-Up Program to increase the amount of funds you receive.
To be eligible for this benefit, you must have an honorable discharge, and either a high school diploma, GED, or (in some cases) 12 hours of college credits. You must also meet the requirements of one of the following categories:
- Category I:
- You first entered active duty after June 30, 1985;
- You had your military pay reduced by at least $100 per month for at least the first year;
- And you either:
- Served continuously for three years;
- Or two years, if that was what you agreed to when first enlisting;
- Or four years, if you joined the Selected Reserve within a year after leaving active duty.
- Category II:
- You first went into active duty before January 1, 1977;
- You served at least one day between October 10, 1984, and June 30, 1985, and stayed on active duty June 30, 1988, or through June 30, 1987, if you joined the Selected Reserve within a year of leaving active duty and served four years.
- Category III:
- You do not qualify for MGIB-AD benefits under Categories I or II;
- You were on active duty on September 30, 1990, and separated involuntarily after February 2, 1991, or November 30, 1993; or voluntarily separated under the Voluntary Separation Initiative or Special Separation Benefit program;
- You had your military pay reduced by $1,200 before separation.
- Category IV:
- You were on active duty on October 9, 1996, you had money remaining in a Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) account on that date, and you elected MGIB by October 9, 1997.
Typically, you have 10 years to use your MGIB-AD educational benefits, but this can vary depending on your situation.
Selected Reserve Members
The MGIB-SR program provides educational benefits for up to 36 months to eligible members of the Selected Reserve. If you are eligible, you can use these benefits to obtain a college degree, enroll in a vocational or trade program, complete an apprenticeship, or use the funds for other approved programs, examinations, and courses. Just as with the MGIB-AD program, the amount you receive depends on a variety of factors and can vary from individual to individual.
To qualify for these benefits, you must:
- Have an agreement to serve in the Selected Reserve signed after June 30, 1985;
- If you are an officer, you must have agreed to serve an additional six years, on top of your original agreement;
- Complete your initial active duty for training (IADT);
- Receive a high school diploma or equivalent document before completing IADT;
- Be in good standing while serving in your active Selected Reserve unit.
Eligibility for the MGIB-SR program usually ends on the day you leave the Selected Reserve, although there are certain exceptions.
The Department of Defense offers a Tuition Assistance (TA) program that provides financial assistance for service members who are enrolled in voluntary off-duty educational programs. This benefit is available for both in-person and online courses and degree or certificate programs, but they must be offered by a school that is recognized by the Department of Education and are signatories to the DoD Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding.
Generally, active duty service members who are eligible for the TA program can receive up to $4,500 each year. However, each branch of the service has its own specific policies for the TA program.
With the Air Force’s TA program, you can receive up to $4,500 each year for your education. You must maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 for undergraduate courses, or 3.0 for graduate courses, and you must report your grades within 90 days of the course ending, or you will have to repay your TA funds.
Under the Army’s TA program, you can receive up to $250 for each semester hour, or up to $4,500 each year. TA will cover a maximum of 130 semester hours of an undergraduate degree and a maximum of 39 hours of a master’s degree. You must request funds through GoArmyEd.com.
Army National Guard
The Army National Guard’s TA program will pay up to $250 per semester hour for up to 16 hours each fiscal year. You must check your eligibility with your state education services office, and if you are, you can then begin your application. Minimum eligibility requirements include attending a regionally or nationally accredited school and completing Initial Entry Training, a Warrant Officer Basic Course, or a Basic Officer Leadership Course.
The Coast Guard’s TA program will provide up to $2,250 each year for your education. You must apply using the Application for Coast Guard Tuition Assistance, which will be reviewed and approved by your Education Service Officer. You will have to repay your tuition to the Coast Guard if you do not earn high enough grades or maintain a 2.0 GPA.
You can receive up to $4,500 per year for your education under the Marine Corps’ TA program. You must apply for TA on a class by class basis, and if your courses have different start or finish dates, you must submit a unique application for each one. To be eligible, you must be on active duty on through the last day of the course, pass the most recent Physical Fitness Assessment, and complete the MCI Personal Financial Management Course. Your application must be approved before the first day of class in order to use these funds.
The Navy’s TA program is open to both active duty Sailors and certain members of the Naval Reserves. They will pay for up to $250 per semester hour, for up to 12 semester hours per fiscal year and a lifetime cap of 120 semester hours. To qualify, you must have a minimum of two years of service, be on active duty through the end of the course, attend an accredited institution, and receive counseling from a Navy College Education Counselor. There may be additional requirements you must meet to be eligible.
Tuition Assistance Top-Up Program
The Tuition Assistance Top-Up Program provides further financial aid to active duty service members and veterans whose tuition costs more than what the Tuition Assistance program covers. For 36 months, you can get additional tuition funding that covers the difference between the cost of your class and the amount covered by the TA program. To be eligible, you must be approved for the TA program and qualify for either MGIB-AD or Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
Jobs After The Military
After your service ends, you are free to pursue whatever type of job or career you want to. However, there are some jobs that may be better suited to your life as a veteran. Some positions will allow you to make use of your time in the Armed Forces and naturally apply some of the skills you learned. Here are six fields that you might thrive in after serving in the military:
Law enforcement can cover a wide range of jobs, including sheriffs, corrections officers, and police officers. It can also encompass more supportive roles, such as crime lab technicians or forensic specialists. For many veterans, going from the military to a position in law enforcement is a natural fit, especially if you worked in surveillance or security. You can continue to serve your community, and many of the skills — such as discipline, integrity, and teamwork — you’ve learned will translate easily and directly to this new position.
Depending on what type of law enforcement position you’re interested in, you may or may not need a college degree. For instance, the minimum education requirement in most cities to become a police officer is a high school diploma, but it may be beneficial for future career advancement or specialization opportunities to get a degree in criminal justice, police science, or political science. Other, more specialized law enforcement jobs will require a college degree, also likely in criminal justice or the most relevant field to the position.
Information technology (IT) is a huge field that covers a range of positions related to computing technology and information systems. It’s also a great industry for veterans to find work in, as not only are IT jobs currently projected to increase by 13% by 2026, and they pay extremely well. Further, many military skills are applicable in this role. The military makes frequent use of computers and communications technologies, and if you worked with them at all during your tenure, you can use those same skills — and be a part of continually evolving technologies — as a civilian.
Though your experiences working with technology in the military will be invaluable, you’ll still need a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, information science, mathematics, or a related field to find an IT job. Some companies and positions may even require or prefer a master’s degree. However, a bachelor’s degree will likely suffice, unless you’re looking at mid- or high-level jobs and more specialized IT positions.
There are virtually endless job opportunities available in the healthcare sector, especially for veterans or if you have previous experience in the medical field. Your military background will leave you well-prepared for work in healthcare, as you have already dealt with stressful, demanding, and high-stakes work environments. Additionally, if you were a military medical worker, almost all of your knowledge and skills are the same in the civilian health field as they are in the military.
You will need some kind of post-secondary education to pursue a career in healthcare. Most entry-level or even support positions require some sort of certification or time spent in college, if not a bachelor’s degree. For instance, you might already be a registered nurse, but you may have to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to find employment as a civilian nurse. In addition, you may want or need to consider an advanced degree to open up career advancement opportunities in the future, even if you have already worked in an equivalent or similar position.
Business administration is a large field that is relevant to most organizations in the private sector, from small businesses to huge corporations. The focus of business administration is to run an organization smoothly and oversee its operations, making individuals who have leadership skills a great choice for this job. This is precisely why people who were in the military can naturally step into business administration, particularly if you took on any sort of leadership or management role while you were enlisted. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a military unit or civilian business; the leadership skills needed to do so successfully remain the same.
Even if you’re a fantastic leader, you’ll still need to get a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a similar field to work as a business administrator. A degree will teach you more about overseeing a company’s finances and how to manage employees in a civilian setting, and combined with your natural ability as a leader, that will set you up for success as a business administrator. This field also has myriad opportunities for career advancement, especially if you choose to pursue a master’s in business administration or management, which can lead to higher positions and better pay.
Transportation is a rich field, with countless different career options for veterans. You could work as anything from an airline pilot to a supply chain manager. Depending on the work you did in the military, you may already be well-versed in how to perform some of these jobs, such as if you drove large military vehicles, coordinated the movement of supplies, or flew aircraft. You’ll already be familiar with the basics of the job, and just need to learn the specific policies of the organization you work for.
Depending on the transportation job you want to pursue, you may or may not need a college degree, vocational training, or other certification or licensure. You don’t need a degree to be a long-haul truck driver, for example, but to become a pilot, you’ll need to go to flight school and obtain a pilot’s license. For logistics or management positions, you’ll want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management, logistics, or a related field.
The skilled trades — such as electricians, plumbers, and construction workers — are another natural option for veterans to pursue, particularly if your work in the military required you to use your hands. There is a great demand to fill skilled trade positions, and many of these jobs pay well, even in an entry-level job. In addition, your background and skills learned in the military can directly translate to a new civilian position.
For most skilled trade jobs, you don’t need to get a college degree, but you do need to obtain some sort of professional licensure. You may enroll in a trade school, a vocational program, or an apprenticeship to learn more about the trade and get the number of hours of experience needed to get a professional license. The skilled trades also provide plenty of chances to advance your career, as you move up from an apprentice to a journeyman to a master of your trade.
Veteran Employment Programs
Even if you’ve figured out the educational requirements you need to meet (and how to finance them) to get a job in your desired field, it can still be difficult to actually find an open position that works for your needs. Fortunately, there are a number of different agencies that exist to help veterans with their job search. For additional assistance finding a job after leaving the military, consider consulting one of the following organizations for help:
Hire Heroes USA
Hire Heroes USA helps active duty service members and veterans find civilian jobs once their time in the service comes to an end. They also help companies hire and retain veteran and military employees. Their services include career coaching, resume writing, practice job interviews, and mentoring. Hire Heroes USA also provides these services to the spouses of service members and veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of career and employment resources, both for active duty service members and veterans. Some of their services include education and career counseling, military-to-civilian transition assistance, and personalized career aptitude assessments. They also provide help with job searches, both at federal agencies and in private organizations.
GI Jobs provides service members, veterans, and their spouses with career, education, and entrepreneurship resources to help make their transition into the civilian workforce as smooth as possible. In addition to helping veterans find jobs, they also partner with different colleges that are looking to attract veteran students. They also offer assistance to veterans who are looking to start their own business.
Feds Hire Vets
Feds Hire Vets is a website operated by the federal government, and its purpose is to help veterans and transitioning service members find employment with the federal government as a part of the Veterans Employment Initiative. They offer information about the federal application and employment process and work to help the spouses and family members of service members and veterans find federal employment as well.
Hire Veterans helps connect veterans with positions and organizations that are interested in hiring former service members. They partner with a range of different agencies, networks, and organizations so job-seekers have as many employment options as possible, and employers have a greater number of qualified candidates to choose from.