Although the unemployment rate for veterans has declined to just 2.1 percent, many former and soon-to-retire servicemembers often struggle with finding a career after the military. Fortunately, ex-military have plenty of resources at their disposal offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to smooth the military job transition.
In this article, we will discuss some of these programs and initiatives that transitioning veterans can use. We will also show you a step-by-step guide to plan a successful transition and the most common challenges you are likely to encounter. Finally, we include a list of the best careers after the military, including the best IT jobs for veterans.
What to Do After the Military
Because many people don’t know what to do after the military, the end of service can be a confusing time that often entails having to re-invent oneself professionally. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs has initiated and promoted a series of programs and initiatives to provide the guidance you need.
Firstly, it is important that you start planning early. Start thinking about your transition plans well before your separation or retirement date. It is also imperative that you attend Transition Assistance Programs (TAP), where you can get guidance on career planning, resume writing, interview skills, and even financial planning.
5 Steps to Plan for a Successful Military Job Transition
To ensure your transition from a military job is smooth you need to have a clear idea of what you want to do next. After setting some goals for yourself, the next step is to assess the help that is available through programs like the GI Bill and VET TEC. Finally, choose the right retraining or upskilling option and start building your resume. We go over each of these steps in more detail below.
Step 1: Assess Your Skills and Interests
Any successful military job transition starts by taking stock of one’s skills, experiences, and interests. Consider what you enjoyed doing in the military and identify transferable skills. For instance, leadership, problem-solving, and adaptability are skills highly valued in the civilian workforce that you may have developed or honed during your service.
Also, think about what you are passionate about and what industries or roles align with your interests. This self-assessment will help you identify potential jobs after the military that resonate with your unique profile.
Step 2: Set Clear Goals
Once you better understand your skills and interests, it’s time to set clear career goals. What kind of job do you want? Are there specific industries or companies you’re interested in? Define your short-term and long-term objectives.
Remember to make your goals as specific, measurable, and time-bound as possible. A great example of a long-term career goal would be obtaining an entry-level software engineering position within the next year and a half. These goals will serve as your roadmap during the transition process, guiding your decisions on education, training, and job applications.
Step 3: Use Transition Assistance Programs
Don’t navigate the military job transition alone. The military offers valuable Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) to help you make the leap. TAP workshops cover a range of topics, including resume writing, interview preparation, financial planning, and job search strategies. Make the most of these resources by attending workshops and seeking guidance from career counselors.
Step 4: Research Financial Aid and Support Programs
There are a few ways for veterans to use federal resources to fully or partially finance their education. The most notable one is the GI Bill. The GI Bill is an education and training benefit program that provides financial support to eligible veterans, offering them the opportunity to pursue higher education, technical training, and vocational programs. It covers tuition and fees, offers a housing allowance, and provides funds for books and supplies.
Veterans also have the option of applying to VET TEC or Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses. VET TEC is a program designed to equip veterans with skills in high-demand technology fields. You can use VET TEC to finance the cost of technology training programs approved by the VA. VET TEC-eligible programs tend to be short and focused on cutting-edge skills. Good examples include coding bootcamps and tech certifications.
Step 5: Reskill and Build Your Resume
Once you have thoroughly researched the different programs that you can use for guidance and financial support, it is time to choose a learning or training path. Depending on your goals and needs, you may choose to pursue a university degree or a shorter alternative like a diploma or certificate from a vocational or tech school.
As you complete your training program, you can start working on your resume. Crafting an effective civilian resume is a critical step. Convert military jargon and acronyms into language that civilian employers can understand and make sure to highlight your accomplishments, leadership roles, and relevant skills. You can find samples of well-crafted military veteran career change resumes at military.com.
Common Transition Challenges
Finding a new career after the military comes with its fair share of challenges that you will need to navigate. Below we discuss some common military job transition challenges.
Dealing With PTSD and Mental Health
Many veterans face the invisible wounds of war, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues. Seeking help and support is a sign of strength, not weakness. Veterans should reach out to VA resources, support groups, and mental health professionals to address these challenges and develop coping strategies.
Addressing Employment Gaps
Resume gaps due to military service can be a concern for veterans when entering the civilian job market. To overcome this challenge, emphasize the valuable skills and experiences gained during military service. Highlight leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and adaptability as transferable skills.
Coping With Rejection
Job searching can be a rollercoaster of emotions, often accompanied by rejection. It’s essential to stay resilient and maintain a positive mindset. Each rejection is an opportunity to learn and improve. Seek feedback when possible and keep refining your approach.
Finding Support and Counseling Resources
Veterans don’t have to navigate these challenges alone. Numerous organizations, both within and outside the VA, offer counseling, support, and mentorship programs tailored to veterans. Connecting with fellow veterans who have successfully transitioned can provide valuable insights and a sense of camaraderie.
Best Jobs for Veterans
The best careers for veterans are jobs where they can utilize the skills they have learned and honed during their service, from attention to detail to resilience and leadership. To qualify as a good job for a veteran, these careers must also come with high pay and other benefits. We show the top careers that meet these criteria below.
Top Careers After the Military
- Healthcare. Veterans are accustomed to operating within structured systems, making healthcare a natural fit due to its rigorous protocols and attention to detail. The best-paying jobs in healthcare include advanced practice registered nurse, physician assistant, and physical therapist.
- Law enforcement. Veterans often have a deep sense of duty to protect and serve, making law enforcement a natural choice for their next career. Moreover, former servicepeople tend to have discipline, attention to detail, and accountability, which are all essential attributes in law enforcement.
- Skilled trades. Veterans are trained to think critically and solve complex problems, skills that translate seamlessly into troubleshooting and finding solutions in skilled trades. Air traffic controllers, electrical engineers, and construction managers are some of the best-paid trade school jobs today.
- Fitness and personal training. Veterans often have a strong focus on physical fitness and wellness. Transitioning to a career in fitness and personal training allows them to share their passion for health while helping others achieve their fitness goals.
- Entrepreneurship. Veterans are often natural leaders who excel in decision-making and problem-solving, valuable traits for entrepreneurial success. Moreover, veterans’ experience working in diverse teams equips them with strong teamwork and collaboration skills, which come in handy when building and leading teams.
Vet to Tech: Why You Should Consider a Tech Career as a Vet
The military and the tech industry have enjoyed close ties for decades. The first notable example of this cooperation came during the Korean War, with IBM building a computer to help in the war effort.
Today, that cooperation continues, with many tech companies, including Google and Microsoft, offering apprenticeships and retraining programs targeting veterans. But this history of cooperation is just one of several reasons why an IT career makes sense as a veteran. We explore other reasons below.
Top Reasons to Join the Tech Industry as a Veteran
- Transferable skills. Military service equips veterans with valuable skills such as problem-solving, adaptability, teamwork, and discipline. These traits are highly transferable to tech roles where innovation, collaboration, and a strong work ethic are essential. Veterans can leverage their existing skillset to excel in tech careers.
- High demand for tech skills. The tech industry is known for its ever-increasing demand for skilled professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations within the current decade. Veterans can find abundant job opportunities and job security in this rapidly growing field.
- Competitive salaries. Tech jobs often come with competitive salaries and benefits. Many tech companies also offer additional perks like flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities, and stock options.
- Innovation and impact. Tech professionals have the chance to work on cutting-edge projects that drive innovation and shape the future. Whether it’s developing new software, improving cyber security measures, or creating breakthrough technologies, veterans can make a significant impact on society through tech careers.
- Diverse career paths. The tech industry offers a wide range of career paths, catering to various interests and skillsets. Veterans can choose from roles in software development, data science, project management, cyber security, IT support, and more. This diversity allows veterans to find a tech career that aligns with their passions and goals.
Top IT Jobs for Veterans
The best IT jobs for veterans are those in which veterans can utilize their problem-solving and leadership skills as well as their keen attention to detail. These jobs pay well above the national average and enjoy a positive job outlook. Based on these conditions, these are the best IT careers for veterans today.
|Tech Job||Avg. Salary||Job Outlook|
|Cyber Security Engineer||$112,000||32%|
Military to Tech: Top Training Options
There is a plethora of education and training options to transition from military to tech. The great thing is that many of the educational paths described below typically offer some sort of benefit or incentive to ex-military, such as the possibility of being funded using the GI Bill. To go from vet to tech, consider one of the following options:
- Computer science degrees. If you are passionate about computer theory as well as its practical applications, it is never too late to enroll in a computer science degree, whether that is a bachelor’s or a master’s. Several GI Bill-related programs can be used to fund this education option, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) and the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP).
- Coding bootcamps. Coding bootcamps are growing rapidly in popularity. According to Career Karma’s 2023 State of the Bootcamp Market report, the number of bootcamp graduates in the US grew by over 25 percent in 2022. The best coding bootcamps not only provide training but also assist you during the job search to maximize your chances of landing a job quickly after graduation.
- Tech apprenticeships. From Amazon to Accenture and IBM, the number of companies with apprenticeships that specifically target veterans is by no means small. These programs are the perfect launchpads to change careers from vet to tech. For example, Amazon’s Technical Apprenticeship program aims to help members of the military become cloud engineers.
- Tech internships. A tech internship is another effective way of transitioning from vet to tech. As an example, Microsoft offers internship opportunities for veterans enrolled in a university degree in a STEM field. These internships are a great way to get a job at Microsoft as they often lead to offers of full-time employment.
- Tech certifications. If you already have a background in technology, you may want to go straight for a tech certification. The great thing is that you can use both the GI Bill and VET TEC to cover the cost of the training and exam. Make sure to contact the VA or visit its website to see what certifications are covered.
Carrying Out a Successful Military Job Transition
The journey from military service to civilian career can be both challenging and rewarding. Thankfully, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a wealth of resources and programs designed to facilitate this transition, such as Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) as well as the GI Bill and VET TEC initiatives.
For veterans considering a career in the dynamic and high-demand tech industry, numerous pathways are available, from computer science degrees and coding bootcamps to tech apprenticeships and certifications. The opportunities are abundant, and with determination and the support of VA programs, veterans can successfully transition into fulfilling and well-paying IT careers, contributing their valuable skills and expertise to the civilian workforce.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Military Job Transition FAQ
The best coding bootcamps for veterans are those designed specifically for them, such as Code Platoon. You should also be looking into coding bootcamps that accept the GI Bill or VET TEC, such as Skill Distillery, Codeup, and We Can Code IT.
Programming is an excellent career choice for military veterans. The skills acquired during service, such as discipline and problem-solving, align well with coding. The tech industry offers ample opportunities, flexibility, and competitive salaries, making it a promising path for veterans seeking a fulfilling post-military career.
When crafting a military veteran career change resume, highlight transferable skills like leadership, teamwork, and adaptability. Emphasize relevant training and certifications, tailor your resume to the target industry, and showcase accomplishments that demonstrate your value to potential employers.
A great option for veterans who want to become cyber security professionals is to join a cyber security bootcamp. The best cyber security bootcamps provide high-quality training and connect graduates with potential employers in the field. Other options include pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Cyber Security or joining a cyber security apprenticeship.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.