In celebration and gratitude for all our women and men in uniform and those who’ve served, we’re posting this special veteran’s career advice column by Brad Miller. In the service and thinking about jumping in to the civilian world? Know a vet who could use some career advice? Please share this post as a thank you to let them know you appreciate their service. – InPower Editors
By Brad Miller, TheMilitaryGuide.org
The Military was a fantastic career opportunity for me. It was a place that taught me discipline, teamwork, and perseverance while gaining benefits for my future, both personally and professionally. However, military careers are often very short, with the average service member putting in four to eight years before re-entering civilian life. With help from the GI Bill, many men and women, myself included, head to college for further education. However, a traditional four-year degree isn’t a good fit for everyone. Veterans who choose to opt out of these education benefits may not have a clear career path forward.
It’s easy for a newly discharged veteran to feel overwhelmed by the traditional civilian jobs market, but there’s a lot to be said for military experience – with its discipline, problem-solving and specialized skill sets – as a career asset. Just before I left the military I had finally gotten very proficient at my job. So I was only 22 when I started college, but I felt so much older than my 18-year-old classmates. My life experience coupled with this age gap was certainly difficult for me at times, but this can be especially difficult for veterans who served 8 years or more. I’ve seen a lot of veterans struggle in college, with many of them dropping out and returning to the service. What a lot of these young men and women need to hear is that college isn’t the only path forward. I too was worried that I wouldn’t succeed in school, but I always knew that if I couldn’t complete my studies that I would have a lot of skills to fall back on. Here are some of those promising career options I considered that don’t require a 4-year degree.
Law Enforcement or Security
The military taught me various weapons training and detainee handling skills that could translate well to a career in law enforcement. As such, moving into a position as an officer of the law could be a natural choice for some veterans. Eligibility as a police officer varies by location but often requires completing courses at a police academy and passing a written exam. Working for a police department also carries a lot of similarities with the military as far as rank, customs, and procedures. In addition, service members are generally well-versed in first-aid principles, which makes it much easier to remain cool, calm, and collected when serving in a lifesaving role.
For those not interested in working in public service, private security can also prove to be a solid career choice. With fewer required certifications and tests, private security is often easier to break into and can come with competitive earning potential.
Personal Trainer or Fitness Instructor
Fitness is one of the most important things in the military. After I got out, I continued to make fitness a priority. I also know many fellow veterans who remain active and live healthy lifestyles. As such, physically active careers are often a natural fit, allowing veterans to stay in great shape while encouraging health and wellness on others. Many former service members find satisfaction in personal training, using the knowledge and expertise gained in the military to support the fitness goals of clients from all walks of life. Becoming a certified personal trainer can be accomplished through several routes, with credentials available from organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
For those who prefer working in a group setting, teaching exercise classes might be a better choice. Eligibility requirements as a fitness instructor are a little more varied and often depend on a particular gym or program. Some courses are facility-specific, while others, like AFAA certifications, offer a much broader accreditation that can be used in gyms across the country.
As more of our lives become dependent on the internet, the need for web security grows too. As such, cybersecurity is among the most important careers for those seeking to stay on top of technological trends. A career in cybersecurity is a great way to make a difference in the internet age. While a bachelor’s degree can help with a career path in security, it’s not essential; a certificate program can give you the credentials you need to land a great job with top companies.
Most jobs in this industry are going to be in major cities like San Francisco or Washington D.C. and they recruit people from across the country. So keep in mind that if you’re pursuing a career in this industry you will most likely have to move, but for veterans, this shouldn’t be an issue. I moved multiple times throughout my enlistment, so relocating is nothing we can’t handle.
The military provides broad exposure to many different industries that civilians never experience. For example, I’ve driven 10,000 pound vehicles, operated heavy machinery, and handled sensitive military equipment. Other service members I know worked on the flight-line with aircraft. They repaired them, flew in them, and helped them get off the ground. A civilian job as an aircraft technician can offer compelling career potential. Aircraft technicians for large companies like Delta or Southwest Airlines perform maintenance and repairs, keeping commercial planes safe for use. With training provided on the job or through an FAA technician course, it’s not too challenging to break into this field, especially for veterans with this type of experience.
Construction is among the jobs in highest demand. If you’re good at it, it can provide you with consistent work throughout the year. For former military members, this can be a compelling opportunity that requires physical labor that pays well and in some cases doesn’t require certifications. This sort of work can often be very flexible, providing benefits in exchange for quick, relatively simple manual labor. Basic construction work may not offer much upward growth unless you start your own business or move up within a large construction company. Like I mentioned earlier, many service members have extensive experience operating large vehicles and are often given heavy equipment training. This can make it easier to secure construction jobs in specialty fields that pay a lot more.
In some cases, additional certifications may be required, like qualifications to be a general contractor, but for those who want consistent physical work for good pay, there’s no shortage of jobs in the construction field.
Logistics and Operations Management
Web growth is more aggressive than ever, and that means that there’s a large need for backend professionals. Logistics, including inventory management and operational oversight, are extremely efficient in the military. Unlike other positions popular with military vets, logistics careers often require a bachelors or masters degree. However, military experience can give you a leg up here. It will certainly help you in the application process so you shouldn’t have a problem getting hired over non-experienced applicants. In some cases a two-year associates degree might be all you need to land a job, shortening the amount of time needed to train and start your career.
Finding a job after the military may seem overwhelming, but there are dozens of industries that value what you learned while serving your country. Remember that there are plenty of paths for veterans, some are going to be more suitable for you than others. With options like aircraft careers, construction and contracting, logistics and operations management, and cybersecurity, there are so many ways to put your military skills to use– whether you want to go to college or not.
For those stuck on pursuing their college studies like I was, know that it gets easier. My last semester was a breeze compared to my first one. A bachelors degree opened up a lot more job opportunities than I would have otherwise had. This is how I fell into my current position as a career counselor where I work full-time helping veterans land jobs like the ones mentioned above. I blog a lot about this and other military-related topics at my site, www.TheMilitaryGuide.org. Happy job hunting
About the author: Brad Miller is a Marine Corps veteran who served two combat deployments in Afghanistan. He comes from a military family with a long tradition of service. He and his brother created The Military Guide as a “straight shooters handbook” to provide helpful resources to service men and women at every stage of their military careers – from those first timid steps into the recruiter’s office to walking proudly off base with a DD-214 as a newly minted veteran and beyond.