Technology can be a great career to pursue after working in the military. Many of the skills learned in the military—persistence, problem-solving or analytical thinking, to name a few—are useful in the technology sector, where work is analytical in nature.
The US government has recognized the technology sector as an important source of employment opportunities. In 2015, President Obama launched the TechHire initiative to get 100,000 people working in technology. Obama believed tech training was creating the “workers of tomorrow,” equipping people with the technical skills needed to pursue middle-class careers.
There are hundreds of thousands of technology jobs open in the US right now, and not enough professionals to fill them. Every position that remains vacant is a missed opportunity for communities, businesses, and the country, who would all benefit from the innovation that such jobs create.
The stereotypical image of a programmer is that of a young and clever person working in Silicon Valley. However, the coding industry is far more diverse than that. There is a growing recognition of coding as a stable and lucrative middle-class job for veterans returning home or looking to pursue a new career. As a result, several training programs have been developed to support those aiming to break into a career in tech.
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Coding bootcamps are a good example. Short and intensive, bootcamps are gaining a lot of traction and preparing tens of thousands of students for a career in tech. Course Report, an industry research firm, estimates that over 23,000 people graduated from a coding bootcamp in 2019—a 49 percent increase from the year before.
As coding becomes an ever more lucrative industry, veterans are increasingly looking at the sector as a good way to adjust to civilian life. In this guide, we explore how veterans can access coding training and how to go about breaking into a career in the sector.
Why Pursue a Career in Technology?
Technology careers are increasingly seen as the future of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average software engineer—a popular career in technology—earns $105,590 per year. Employment of software engineers is expected to grow by 21 percent between 2018 and 2028. In the same period, employment of application developers will grow by 26 percent, while that of systems developers will do so by 10 percent.
There are several reasons why more and more people are choosing a career in tech. First, technology has become an important component of every major industry. The healthcare, agriculture, and insurance industries are all leveraging the power of technology to boost efficiency. As more industries embrace tech, more people are needed to keep up with technological changes and develop applications.
Second, an increasing number of products are relying on software, such as consumer electronics and appliances. This means only one thing—demand for programmers is skyrocketing.
Technology is already a popular career path for veterans, partially because coders can learn the trade relatively fast. A lawyer needs to spend years in law school to earn the degree they need to practice; a software engineer, by contrast, can get started after only a few months in a bootcamp.
While the skills needed to code are valuable and in high demand, they can be learned in a short period of time by those with a strong technical mind. In addition, the rise of non-traditional educational programs such as coding bootcamps has made it even easier for veterans to get the training they need to get their foot in the door. The small time investment involved makes the career choice particularly attractive to veterans looking to reintegrate into society as quickly as possible, particularly for those with relevant technical skills learned during their service.
Many companies, including Google, have made special provisions in their hiring practices to target veterans. These companies value the interpersonal skills most veterans develop during their service, such as a strong work ethic, the ability to work as part of a team, problem-solving, and attention to detail. Indeed, many veterans find great tech jobs after attending a bootcamp and receiving training in coding.
How Can I Acquire Coding Skills as a Veteran?
Breaking into a career in technology is easier if you have spent some time developing your skills. Fortunately, there are many ways to get the training you need, regardless of your background:
A popular way of acquiring coding skills is to attend a bootcamp. Like a military bootcamp, a coding bootcamp is a short and intensive program that aims to teach a specific set of skills. While a college computer science program may put the emphasis on the theory, bootcamps are all about teaching practical skills demanded in the labor market. As a nice bonus, many bootcamps offer comprehensive career support to students and graduates to ensure they land a good job. This support can take the form of career counseling, technical interview practice, and resume review services, among others.
Coding bootcamps are a good option for veterans due to the small time investment required. The average length of a bootcamp is only 15.1 weeks. If you are looking to start earning income shortly after returning home, a bootcamp can help you land a well-paying job fast. Bootcamps often have high job placement rates—a Course Report study shows that two-thirds of bootcamp students found a job within three months of graduating.
Bootcamps give an emphasis to programming languages and the terminology you are likely to encounter in the job as to ease the transition into full-time employment in tech. Coding bootcamps are also cheaper than many other options out there, including college. Tuition may be tens of thousands of dollars per year in a university with a strong computer science degree program; by contrast, the average cost of a coding bootcamp is $13,500. This makes it a good option for veterans who may lack savings or need their savings to transition into the workforce. These are some coding bootcamps that cater to veterans:
- Code Platoon
- Operation Code
- Vets Who Code
- Skill Distillery
- Uncommon Coders
- Claim Academy
- Divergence Academy
- Zip Code Wilmington
Of course, you can always pursue the more traditions option—a college degree. The main advantage of this path is that most computer science degrees pay off well. Employers tend to favor candidates that have earned a college degree after four years in an academic environment. College graduates can command higher salaries than those without a university diploma.
Many view a college degree as a safer path to a successful career in tech, as many executive jobs require a degree. Because of all the theoretical knowledge you will acquire, a college degree may be a good option if you are a veteran eyeing a career in technology.
You should be aware of a few key differences between bootcamps and college degrees. First, coding bootcamps are significantly cheaper than most computer science degree programs. Compare the average cost of a bootcamp—$13,500—to what a university degree could potentially cost. Earning a degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for example, costs between $60,000 and $70,000 per year, making the cost of a single semester exceed that of an entire coding bootcamp
Some community colleges offer cheaper programs, but tuition may still be as high as $20,000 per year. Veterans returning home after their service may not have the financial resources to afford earning a university degree. Consider also that it may be difficult to work full-time if you are enrolled in a university, and four years is a long time without an income.
A college degree may not be as good of an investment as a bootcamp. Most coding bootcamps are three to nine months long, whereas college programs last four years. According to Course Report, the average starting salary of a coding bootcamp graduate is $70,700. A university graduate with a computer science degree, on the other hand, can expect to make between $50,000 and $106,000. In other words, despite having made a significantly smaller time investment, bootcamp graduates can earn as much as computer science graduates.
College degrees do have some advantages over bootcamps. Whereas bootcamps focus on practical skills, in college programs the emphasis is on creating well-rounded professionals. If you are looking for a more complete academic experience, a college degree may be the better option.
But you can always teach yourself coding. Many successful developers are self-taught, having developed their skills using online courses, books, and tutorials. Veterans may find this a viable alternative to bootcamps or university, but they should consider a few things before getting started.
The first thing you should know is the learning style that suits you best. Have you tried teaching yourself a technical skill before? If so, were you able to master that skill? If you work well independently, teaching yourself may be a good option. However, if you fare better as part of a team, attending a coding bootcamp is probably better for you as you will be interacting with fellow students, mentors, and teachers.
Consider also the difficulty of creating your own curriculum. There are so many resources out there to learn to code that knowing where to start can be really hard. If you have some technical experience, navigating these resources and figuring out what’s best for you may be easier. If not, joining a bootcamp could be a better call.
Finally, keep in mind that teaching yourself means you earn no official accreditation or degree, which are useful documents when looking for jobs. Although you may have the skills the job requires, pitching yourself to employers may be difficult without the backing of an institution. In addition, coding bootcamps generally offer career support services, which makes finding a job after graduation much easier.
If you want to take advantage of both options, you can consider teaching yourself the fundamentals of programming and then enrolling in a college course or a bootcamp to refine those skills.
What Jobs in Coding Are Open to Veterans?
There are many types of jobs in the technology sector, each requiring different skills. Many of the jobs that coding bootcamp and college students pursue after graduating are similar to those offered by the military, which makes it easier for veterans to transition into a good job in tech. These positions may be a good match for those who have worked in the Army Corps of Engineers—such as technical engineers, engineering supervisors and technicians—people who have worked in the Cyber Branch of the Army or people who have taken on any operator role (satellite, radio, telecommunications, for example).
One of the first things you should do is figuring out how to tell your story. In your journey to break into a career in tech, you will have to introduce yourself to potential employers and discuss your past experience; knowing how to pitch yourself can mean the difference between success and failure. Take time to figure out your story and where you want to go from here. This will help you know what position best aligns with your unique skills and knowledge. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Where have you been? What did you accomplish in the military? What did you learn from your experience as a serviceperson?
- Where do you want to go? Why did you leave the military? Why do you want to pursue a career in technology? What interests you about technology?
Once you know a bit more about your own experience and motivation to enter the industry, you can make a more informed decision about your next move. If you decide you want to pursue a career in technology, knowing what type of role you want will make it easier to decide what program to join.
One thing to note is that, while you need to think about this before making any big career decisions, you can always change your mind down the line. You may decide to become a software engineer today and go to a bootcamp to learn about software development, but, with plenty of different roles in the sector, you can always alter your career trajectory later and switch to a different job.
Bootcamps often teach highly transferable skills used across different jobs. Once you become familiar with one programming language, learning a second is easy. The average person changes jobs about 20 times in their career, so don’t worry about sticking with a role for the rest of your life. Compared to the military, the private sector is more flexible in terms of job opportunities and career changes.
Here are a few jobs for veterans in the tech sector:
Full Stack Web Developer
A full stack web developer is responsible for building both front end—the part of a website a user sees—and back end web applications for a company. Full stack web developers are responsible for developing the various components of a website and have an understanding of front end and back end technologies. Full stack web developers need to know about the fundamentals of servers, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and how to code a webpage in HTML. According to ZipRecruiter, these developers are paid, on average, $106,800 per year.
Quality Assurance Analyst
A quality assurance (QA) analyst tests code to ensure it functions correctly and is in line with the project’s requirements. QA analysts look for problems in code, build workflows to ensure problems are caught before an application is published, and test software in multiple environments to ensure it functions properly in a variety of cases. According to ZipRecruiter, QA analyst jobs pay, on average, $73,000 per year.
Data analysts work with data generated by a program or organization. They read raw data and analyze it to generate insights that help the business make better decisions. A data analyst may analyze engagement rates on a web application to determine when users stop using a website. This information is then passed on to the development team so they can make the necessary changes. Companies of all sizes need data scientists, including organizations outside the tech sector. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a data analyst is around $66,600 per year.
Software engineers design, build, and maintain software for an organization. They generally work with a development team, writing code based on the specifications of their team and other stakeholders. Software engineers are often the most hands-on members of the team, constantly making changes to the code of an application. Their goal is to ensure these programs run smoothly, and, to this end, they create the updates the software needs. A software engineer may also work with outside clients to identify problems in an application. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a software engineer is around $98,300 per year.
Front End Web Developer
A popular position for many recent bootcamp graduates, front end web developers create the visual components of a website; those the user sees and interacts with. Front end web developers work to ensure web applications run smoothly across multiple devices. Their goal is to provide service efficiently and meet the needs of users. Based on the specifications of internal designers, front end web developers write the code needed to make a webpage. They may also work alongside back end and full stack web developers to gain a firmer understanding of the developer stack as a whole. The average salary for a front end web developer is around $79,100, according to ZipRecruiter.
You can learn more about these jobs by doing a quick Google search. Enter the position title and your military rank or service code to find out about opportunities for people with your military background. Having a LinkedIn account could help you search for jobs more efficiently, so create a profile there if you don’t already have one.
Coding Bootcamps for Veterans
Coding bootcamps are intensive, fast-paced programs in which the student learns everything they need to know to pursue a career in technology. These courses are a great option for veterans looking to break into tech but who lack the technical skills of a coder. Even if you have studied programming or computing during your service, bootcamps can help you fill in the gaps to prepare you for a career in coding as a civilian.
Most veterans possess the skills needed to complete a coding bootcamp—problem-solving abilities and some technical knowledge of computing. In addition, discipline, a strong work ethic, and willingness to work hard are also essential to complete these courses. Bootcamp students may work upwards of 40 hours a week on assignments, so discipline and willingness to work hard are important elements of success. Coders are constantly encountering problems that must be dealt with promptly and efficiently, thus strong problem-solving abilities are a must.
How Does a Bootcamp Application Process Work?
The bootcamp application process may be different to other applications you have encountered throughout your career and military service. First, you’ll need submit a written application to indicate your interest. You will then be approached for an interview, a technical challenge, or both.
If you are interviewed, the person or persons sitting across the desk will want to know about your experience and why you are interested in attending the bootcamp, among other things. The goal is to assess your technical capabilities and find out if you are a good fit for the program. To prepare for this interview, spend some time researching the specific bootcamp you are applying for and reflecting on why you want to attend it.
It never hurts to read a few entries on the bootcamp’s blog or testimonials written by former students.
During the interview, you will be given the opportunity to ask questions. These are a few of the things you may want to inquire about:
- What special services do you offer to veterans (e.g. tailored career support)?
- Are there any scholarships available to veterans?
- Do you have any experience working with and teaching former military personnel?
You may also be asked to participate in a technical challenge, a take-home assignment that should take between 30 minutes and a few hours to complete. This challenge will help the bootcamp organizers assess your technical aptitude and figure out whether you are a good fit for the program.
Post Graduation Experience
There’s no doubt that graduating from a coding bootcamp increases the likelihood of finding a great job. Most students find a relevant job within six months of graduation. Moreover, according to DevMountain, 89 percent of employers believe bootcamp graduates are just as—if not more—prepared for the workforce than holders of university degrees in computer science. Adding to this, there are many companies who favor hiring veterans due to the strong interpersonal skills developed during military service.
Graduating from a bootcamp will put you in a strong position to land your dream tech job, but there are a few more things you can do to ensure success. First, take advantage of career support services offered by your bootcamp. If you have served in the military from a young age, you may be unfamiliar with some of the steps in the hiring process used in the private sector, including things like resume reviews, technical interviews and culture fit meetings—bootcamps can help you with this once you complete the program. For example, your bootcamp may help you rework your resume so that it highlights what employers are looking for.
Moreover, many bootcamps offer networking opportunities to meet employers looking to hire. You can also expect your bootcamp to let you know about workshops that can help you prepare for the labor market and to provide technical interview practice. Attending these workshops and training will help you improve your pitch to employers.
Secondly, make sure you are targeting companies looking to hire veterans or coding bootcamp graduates. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, GoDaddy, and Cisco, to name a few, have all made strong commitments to hiring veterans. You can find several lists on the Internet of employers looking to hire veterans and bootcamp graduates. You may even find job posting specifically for veterans or job descriptions in which military experience is recommended. Conducting this research upfront maximizes your chances of finding a good job after graduation.
VET TEC Coding Training
Following the Forever GI Bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) program. This scheme aims to help veterans acquire skills in technical fields to thrive in the modern economy. To apply for the VET TEC program, veterans need only one day of unexpired GI Bill benefits. The program does not use GI Bill benefits; rather, it pays a monthly housing stipend to students in the program. Veterans who are eligible for the VET TEC program will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until funding runs out. To find out more, visit the Department of Veteran Affairs’ website.
How Can I Finance My Coding Bootcamp as a Veteran?
Bootcamps can be expensive. The average tuition fee is around $13,500. Because they are not accredited institutions, bootcamps cannot offer financial aid such as Pell Grants. This means students must use personal savings or private financing options to cover the costs.
Veterans are eligible for the GI Bill, which they can use to partially or fully finance the bootcamp. These are a few other options worth exploring:
Private lenders. Many bootcamps have entered partnerships with companies that offer loans to their students. Some of these firms are Ascent Funding, Affirm, and Climb Credit. These loans are usually short-term with interest rates between 3 and 8 percent. This option gives you access to all the money you need to finance your education on favorable terms. Accessing these loans, however, may be difficult if your credit history is not long.
Income Share Agreements (ISAs). Instead of paying for tuition upfront, ISAs allow you to postpone payment until you earn over a certain amount, typically more than $30,000 a year. Once you’ve reached that level, you “share” a percentage of your income every month. Under an ISA, your payments rise and fall according to your income. If you don’t complete the bootcamp or fail to land a job, you pay back only a small amount, or even nothing. Lambda School, for example, gives students the option to share 17 percent of their post graduation income; students start paying once they are earning over $50,000 per year.
Scholarships. Veterans have access to a wide variety of coding bootcamp scholarships based on the length and type of military service, merit, and gender. These scholarships may cover some or all of the tuition. Here are a few of these scholarships:
- The New Relic Diversity Coding Bootcamp Scholarship (Bloc.io, $500)
- Veteran Scholarship (Claim Academy, $500)
- Diversity Scholarship Fund (Code Fellows, 50-75% of tuition)
- Military Retraining Scholarship (Coding Dojo, $1000)
- Code Platoon Scholarships (up to $13,000)
- DigitalCrafts Scholarships (up to $1500)
- Scholarship for Veterans (Fullstack Academy, $1000)
Some bootcamps offer scholarships and discounts not just to veterans, but to dependents or spouses too. An example of this is Code Platoon, who offers scholarships for veterans and their spouses; and RefactorU, who offers a 20 percent discount to military personnel and veterans, and to their spouses. Also worth noting are the organizations that donate tech equipment to veterans in need, such as Tech for Troops.
Several coding bootcamps have a job guarantee—if students do not get hired within a certain amount of time, the school refunds some or all of the tuition. Some bootcamps offer a partial refund if you aren’t able to find a job; others provide a partial refund if you find a job but you earn under a certain amount. In short, make sure to research your financing options, particularly those targeting veterans. To learn more, speak to veterans who have been through a bootcamp and asked them about financing.
The GI Bill for Veterans
After World War II, a large number of soldiers who had been stationed around the world came home and returned to civilian life. With America finally beginning to prosper after more than a decade of economic depression, the government was concerned that the influx of ex-soldiers could affect economic growth.
In 1944, Congress passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly known as the GI Bill, which aimed to assist veterans returning home. The bill expanded access to low-interest mortgages, and granted stipends for veterans attending college or trade schools. From 1945 to 1956, about 50 percent of veterans who served in World War II were receiving benefits under the GI Bill. During that period, 2.2 million veterans went to college, 3.5 million went to technical or vocational schools, and millions joined the workforce. As a result, the number of Americans with a college degree more than doubled to nearly half a million by 1950.
The GI Bill can still be of great help today, especially for those looking to attend vocational training such as coding bootcamps. In this guide, we explore the history of the GI Bill, how it works, and how it can help veterans pay for a coding bootcamp.
The History of the GI Bill
In 1944, as he ran for reelection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s policy agenda included a myriad of proposals, such as an “economic bill of rights” to guarantee employment, health care, education, and housing. Roosevelt also promised returning soldiers a suite of benefits in exchange for their service during the war.
The president gave a lot of thought to how to help veterans returning home. He wanted to reduce the likelihood of an economic crisis as millions of people joined the labor market. After lengthy debates, his administration came up with the GI Bill to support veterans, which had the goal of protecting the economy while providing veterans much needed assistance.
Under the GI Bill, veterans were entitled to $500 per year to go toward tuition and a living stipend of $69 to $90 per month, depending on whether the veteran had a family to support. The bill also provided benefits for those looking to attend trade schools or vocational programs. Due to the bill, almost 49 percent of college admissions in 1947 were veterans—higher education was now accessible to the masses.
The bill provided veterans looking for work with $20 in unemployment benefits. This allowed veterans to live comfortably while transitioning into their new lives. More than eight million veterans benefited from this stipend.
The GI Bill also included a provision in which the government guaranteed loans for veterans looking to purchase a home or a business. This increased veterans’ access to credit and was a contributor to the boom in the housing market. By 1956, almost 10 million veterans had benefited from the GI Bill.
What is the Post 9/11 GI Bill?
The Post 9/11 GI Bill was a massive expansion to the original bill that opened up new opportunities for millions of veterans. The Post 9/11 GI Bill allows veterans to claim benefits for the total cost of their tuition and fees and to claim a monthly housing allowance while attending school.
To be eligible, you must have served at least 90 days of active duty service, or 30 days of continuous active duty service, since September 10, 2001, and you must have been discharged due to a service-related disability. Members of the reserve forces and the National Guard can also apply for benefits under the bill if they fall into one of these categories:
- All voluntary active duty, excluding active duty for medical care or evaluation
- Title 32 Service for recruiting, instructing, training, or organizing the National Guard
- Title 32 Service to respond to a national emergency
- Served under Title 10 active duty supporting contingency operations
Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, tuition and housing allowance payments are based on the amount of time spent in active duty. Veterans who have served at least 30 days of active duty and were discharged due to a disability automatically receive all the benefits.
For other service members, the amount you can claim varies depending on how many months you have spent in service. If you have spent 90 aggregate days in service, you can claim 40 percent of your tuition and housing stipend; if you have spent at least 36 cumulative months, you can claim the full benefit. The amount of benefits you can receive varies depending on how many months you have served after September 10, 2001.
Veterans can also apply for a monthly housing stipend based on the location of their school, and apply for an annual book stipend of up to $1,000 per year, paid at the beginning of each term.
What is the Forever GI Bill?
In 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, commonly known as the “Forever GI Bill”. This eliminated the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s requirement to use education benefits within 15 years. It also launched pilot programs for technology courses and removed the expiration date for work-study benefits, among other improvements to the original legislation.
Can the GI Bill be Used to Finance a Bootcamp?
Veterans can use their education benefits under the GI Bill toward any vocational program, including police academies, welding schools, truck driving programs, and, of course, coding bootcamps. There are many coding bootcamps that can be financed using the GI Bill.
What Coding Bootcamps Accept the GI Bill?
Dozens of coding bootcamps accept GI Bill funding from veterans interested in attending their school. Some of these bootcamps are:
- Skill Distillery
- Cincy Code IT
- We Can Code IT
- V School
- Nashville Software School
- Turing School
- Code Fellows
- PDX Code Guild
- SecureSet Academy
- Code Immersives
- Deep Dive Coding
- Tech Elevator
- Wyncode Academy
- DevPoint Labs
- Eleven Fifty Academy
- We Can Code It
- Code Platoon
- General Assembly
- The Software Guild
<h3> The Future of the GI Bill
The GI Bill resulted in great economic prosperity following World War II. It ensured that veterans could return to a stable labor market and have access to the training needed to thrive in the modern economy. The program also gave millions of people access to higher and further education, allowing them to command higher salaries and become more wealthy. Today, the GI Bill continues to have a significant impact on the economy, and the Post 9/11 and Forever reauthorization programs have opened up access to benefits for many more veterans.
A career in technology can be an excellent option for veterans. Military personnel often display many of the interpersonal skills needed to thrive in the technical environment of a development team. If you are a veteran, you have most likely developed a strong work ethic and problem-solving skills ethic during your service; both are very valued in the tech industry.
The technology sector is projected to experience enormous growth over the next few years, with many new jobs entering the market. With hundreds of thousands of veterans re-entering the workforce every year, many tech companies are looking to hire people with military experience and the interpersonal and technical skills developed during service. Keep in mind also that there are many training opportunities—such as coding bootcamps—for veterans, even if they have no technical experience.
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