Essential Veterans Career & Employment Resource Guide
Our men and women in uniform help protect us from outside aggression, but they also provide services in times of weather emergencies and even conduct purely humanitarian missions at home and abroad. Thus, when they transition from active duty to veteran status, they deserve educational and employment support as they return to civilian life. Since World War II our nation has provided occupational and other supports to servicemen and women.
If you are a veteran, or soon will be, review this veteran career resource guide so that you are aware of the many resources available to you in the civilian world. Also, if you are an employer, take a look and assess how you are helping our nation's heroes attain and maintain gainful employment.
Resources for Before and After College
Why Hire a Veteran
Veterans are a viable and often overlooked portion of the labor pool. They frequently have skills that employers don't yet realize, as well as a work ethic and discipline that their non-veteran civilian colleagues may not have. Thus, there are many reasons to hire a veteran into your next opening. Here are seven reasons to hire a veteran that will benefit you and your organization.
Veterans are a diverse group and they all have special skills that they were trained to master as part of their time in the service. Since the military represents a complex, often self-contained group of professionals, there is a veteran to cover any job you might have. They know how to repair automobiles, program computers, administrate an office environment, operate heavy equipment, and more.
Veterans are used to getting the job done no matter the time or day of the week. They are trained to be punctual and to deliver their best efforts regardless of the conditions. Further, they are less likely to complain when things aren't going exactly as planned, or desired.
If you hire a veteran who has experience as a sergeant or an officer, they are sure to have great, proven leadership abilities. They know how to effectively lead and manage a team toward a given goal. Thus, they make for great managers. Though their style might be a bit out of synch with civilian mores, they will surely adapt over time and sublimate what they learned in the service to your operations.
Ex-military workers know how to work on a team. They realize that if they don't pull their own weight that there can be serious implications for the overall project. They are also less likely to become caught up in efforts to promote their own agendas. However, they are able to provide their own unique input and expertise so that their efforts befit the wider group.
It's hard to discourage a veteran because they can keep their eyes on the big picture. If their team faces a setback, they will press on to make up for the shortfall. Such setbacks will likely cause them to redouble their efforts to ensure positive outcomes in the future.
Mindful of Protocols
If your business involves a lot of paperwork and requires that certain requests be routed through specific channels, a military veteran will find themselves right at home on your team. Since veterans are very familiar with obeying bureaucratic protocols, they may even be able to work the system with greater efficiency and create better overall outcomes.
Effective Stress Management
Soldiers are trained to perform well under duress, and this can be a great benefit to your team. If a deadline comes up suddenly, your veterans will rise to the challenge without blinking. Even if things go horribly awry, they will maintain their cool and work towards the best, most time-effective solution.
Best Career Options for Veterans
- Solar Photovoltaic Installer – Growth rate 2016-26: 105% – Work Environment: HVAC/Electrical Contractors or Self-employed
Solar installers often have to work in adverse conditions. No matter how hot or rainy, former soldiers will carry on until the job is done. Up on the roof they will utilize the strength and other physical abilities they’ve cultivated. Plus, they will understand that they need to follow all safety regulations, ensure that their coworkers are also safe, and maintain the integrity of the materials as well.
- Wind Turbine Technicians – Growth rate 2016-26: 96% – Work Environment: Electric Power Generation Plants, as Maintenance, or Self-employed
Very often, a soldier's job will include maintaining technical equipment. They are also trained to overcome any fear of heights or difficulties with adverse weather in order to see a job through to the end. Soldiers know how to work with technical equipment and will test and retest turbines until they can confirm that a new wind turbine is properly installed and is working according to specifications.
- Physician Assistant – Growth rate 2016-26: 37% - Work Environment: Physician’s Offices, Hospitals, and Outpatient Care Centers
Soldiers not only perform rugged physical tasks, but some of them are also trained to work on medical teams. They frequently have to endure rugged conditions and highly stressful working conditions in the course of their duty. When a soldier is trained to work as a physician assistant, they will know how to work on a team, follow orders, and get the job done right, every time.
- Physical Therapy Assistants – Growth rate 2016-26: 31% – Work Environment: Offices of Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapists or Hospitals
Veterans are a great fit for this occupation. They are trained to serve, after all, so will do their best to help not only their patients, but also the physical therapist they are working with. Veterans who have seen active-duty combat may have undergone physical therapy themselves and thus will have a natural empathy for patient needs.
- Software Developers – Growth rate 2016-26: 31% – Work Environment: Computer System Design Services and Software Publishers
Veterans may enter the civilian workforce with a lot of IT experience. If the military saw that they have aptitude as software developers, they would have been trained and worked very hard in this area. Given that all soldiers know how to work on teams, they will be a natural for development teams and start-ups. They will do exactly what is needed to help support their team and the overall project.
- Medical Assistants – Growth rate 2016-26: 29% – Work Environment: Offices of Physicians or Hospitals
Veterans are a great hiring choice for this occupation. They know how to perform well under pressure, and they are used to working long hours without breaks. Veterans will be a natural in civilian clinics, as military medical personnel have often worked in far more difficult situations with fewer resources at their fingertips. As natural team members, veterans will make excellent medical assistants on a clinical or administrative team.
- Information Security Analysts – Growth rate 2016-26: 28% – Work Environment: Computer System Design Services and Finance
The military has very tight restrictions concerning security clearances, as well as high standards for its cyber security personnel. Thus, if you are able to hire a veteran with a background in military-grade cyber security, you should jump at the opportunity. Not only will they be trained on cutting edge security software and ethical hacking procedures, but they will be strong team players as well as outstanding independent thinkers who can respond to breaches with calm and focus.
Top Career Options for Disabled Veterans
The life of a soldier is often fraught with the dangers of combat. Thus, they sometimes return stateside with injuries that render them incapable of completing some of the tasks a non-injured veteran can do. For instance, a disabled veteran may not be able to install solar panels or wind turbines. They may not even be able to work in many medical positions. However, this does not mean that they are incapable of making incredible contributions.
To the contrary, a soldier is likely to see an injury or disability as a minor setback on the way to achieving greatness for their team. Once they recover from the initial trauma of their injury, veterans very frequently adapt and continue their path towards great successes. Here is a brief list of occupations where we've found veterans not only surviving but thriving. After all, only their body was injured, their spirits remain unbroken.
- Management Consultant – Growth rate: 3.2% annually – Work Environment: Large Businesses and start-ups
Veterans know a lot about organizations. The military is one of the largest organizations on the planet. Thus, when a veteran receives a business administration degree, they have a unique insight on how to best manage and lead businesses. Veterans have seen how teamwork can mean the difference between success and failure, as well as how to overcome setbacks and even how to integrate diversity on the way to outstanding achievements.
- Computer Support Specialist – Growth rate 2016-2026: 11% – Work Environment: Computer Systems Design Services and Telecommunications
Some veterans have received top IT training from the military and thus make excellent recruits for your computer support team. If they have learned their trade through civilian means, you can rest assured that they know how the value of supporting a team and helping customers or fellow teammates. Further, they will be experts at following procedures with the goal of problem-solving. Disabled veterans will find this a particularly good career choice as they can often complete their tasks with minimal physical exertion.
- Medical Records Technicians – Growth rate 2016-26: 13% – Work Environment: Hospitals, offices of physicians, and administrative support services
Disabled veterans might be a natural fit for work in a medical records office. They have been trained to follow protocols and to ensure that special documents and other items are well-organized and in their proper place. Further, if they have lost the ability to perform certain physical tasks, this position can be easily adapted to suit their needs. After all, most of this work will be carried out from a computer terminal, ensuring an easy transition to work for a disabled veteran.
- Human Resource Specialist – Growth rate 2016-26: 7% – Work Environment: Employment Services and Professional, scientific, and technical services
Every large organization needs a human resources department to help administrate its healthcare benefits, hiring, recruiting, and any other issues related to personnel management. Since this work concerns issues such as team building and cohesion, veterans are especially qualified for the job. Furthermore, if a veteran is physically disabled, the job can be easily executed with minimal physical exertion required. In fact, a disabled veteran might be in a good position to help consult the team on best practices regarding ADA compliance and other sensitivity issues.
Degree Choices to Get the Career
If you're transitioning out of the military into civilian life you may want to start a new career or build on the skills and experience you cultivated while in uniform. To ensure maximum success, you will want to attain a certificate or a degree in your field. Each successive degree level will help you earn more and gain more in terms of responsibility and personal achievement.
There are many positions you can pursue with a certificate-level education. For instance, medical assistants and various sorts of medical technicians, such as imaging specialists, can find gainful employment after completing such a program. In fact, a veteran can complete a certificate in a year or less, and for a nominal cost. Costs vary, but a certificate often costs less than $5,000.
A certificate is a great option for a veteran who is re-entering the civilian workforce because they can complete the course quickly, get to work, and then make more informed decisions about their future at a later time. In fact, you might be able to attain a certificate online while still in uniform.
Veterans with an associate-level degree can often pursue many of the same careers as their peers in a certificate program, but they will have the advantage of a full degree. For instance, a two-year degree for a medical assistant will likely carry them farther, and with a higher salary, than just a certificate. There are also sustainable energy programs that can help inform one's work as a photovoltaic panel installer or a wind turbine technician. Veterans could also pursue business-related degrees such as marketing, accounting, or management.
An associate degree is a great option for veterans who have a career path in mind. This is because they can easily build on their degree and achieve a bachelor’s, which will bring higher salaries and greater responsibility.
A four-year degree is more of a commitment, but veterans are used to making big commitments for the sake of a larger goal. To enter many four-year undergraduate programs, students need strong high school grades, satisfactory SAT scores, and even a strong work background. Many colleges will be pleased to accept veterans, who can add their many experiences to the classroom.
With a bachelor’s degree, veterans can pursue higher-level jobs in human resources, IT, and software development, to name a few options. For those with a medical background, a Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration might be a great choice. There are also bachelor’s degrees in nursing and others that can prepare veterans for technician careers.
A master's degree might be the next step for an officer who is returning to civilian life with a baccalaureate degree. A master's degree can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $50,000, or even far more, depending on the school and subject. For instance, a law degree can cost more than $100,000. Nevertheless, graduate degrees are increasingly in demand and veterans will be well-served to achieve a higher level of education.
Vets who pursue MBAs with a concentration in human resources, for instance, can become highly paid human resource specialists. On the other hand, with a graduate degree in computer science, a veteran can receive top pay as a software developer or cyber security professional.
Scholarships, Financial Aid, and the GI Bill for Veterans
Scholarships for Veterans
Veterans are often considered a special group. After all, you put on a uniform and put your life on the line for everyone. Thus, there are numerous scholarships and programs available to assist in your transition back to civilian life. For instance, if you wish to teach in public schools there is the Troops to Teachers program.
The Veterans Administration also has employment resources that are designed with your needs in mind. For instance, through the VA you can participate in work-study programs. If you are going to school on the GI bill, or any one of a number of other programs, you can find a position through the VA that will help you cover bills while you work toward a degree. You must be attending school on a full-time or at least three-quarter time basis. Given the wide range of positions available, you might even gain valuable experience that will apply to your next career.Find Some Veterans Scholarships
The GI Bill
Formally known as the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the initial GI Bill to establish aid for WWII veterans. At the outset, the bill was formulated to provide assistance with both tuition and home ownership. That is, it gave veterans the ability to procure a home loan. Since then, the bill has undergone revisions and now veterans with active duty service post-9/11 enjoy expanded educational benefits. If you are a post-9/11 veteran, you can also transfer your benefits to your spouse or child. In fact,
there are five total benefits packages:
- Post 9/11 GI Bill
- Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty
- Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve
- Reserve Education Assistance Program
- Survivor's and Dependents Educational Assistance Program
To use your educational benefits, you must first find a VA-approved school. If you intend to use your GI Bill, you should make certain to find the very best school that qualifies under the program. The Veterans Administration has an online tool that will help you compare benefit packages so that you can determine which is the best for you. However, most contemporary veterans will find that the Post-9/11 GI Bill is optimal for their needs.
For the 9/11 GI Bill, you can receive benefits that help cover tuition, housing, and your books and other educational supplies. Keep in mind that you needn't rush to use your benefits. In fact, you likely have a good deal of time to make your best decision before enrolling in a program. If you were discharged prior to January 1, 2013, you have up to 15 years to exercise your benefits, so if you need time after your service to pursue other interests, you can opt to use the funds later. Veterans discharged after January 1, 2013 have no such time limitation. Keep this time allowance in mind and weigh all of your options before using your one-time benefit.
For instance, you might need time to rehabilitate from combat service or maybe you simply aren't yet sure how you wish to use your benefits. In fact, you can use your benefits for a wide range of uses. You could attend flight school, enroll in on-the-job apprentice training, or receive non-college degree training. Your benefits also include work-study programs and tutorial assistance for especially rigorous classes.
Note that once you opt to use your benefits, the post-9/11 GI Bill will cover you for 36 months, so it's advised that you create a solid plan of action before you decide to use your benefits.
Yellow Ribbon Programs
Yellow Ribbon Programs are part of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 that involves educational institutions. It acknowledges that sometimes tuition and other fees are beyond the scope of what the GI Bill affords. Thus, it allows an extension, but only at institutions that participate in the program. Participating institutions agree to pay up to 50% of any tuition expenses that exceed your benefits under the GI Bill. The Veterans Administration agrees to pick up the remainder of the tab. Thus, you can attend a college or university that may have otherwise been out of reach, or which you would have incurred debt to attend.
To qualify for benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program, veterans must also meet certain stipulations. For instance, you must have served for a minimum of 36 months on active duty or have received a Purple Heart with an honorable discharge. Note that you cannot receive coverage under the Yellow Ribbon Program if you are still on active duty.
Under the agreement, your college or university agrees to provide contributions to eligible veterans on a first-come first-served basis. There is no guarantee that you will be covered, even if your chosen school is a Yellow Ribbon participant. After all, the program is often limited to a certain number of students as set by each institution. You must also maintain satisfactory grades, conduct, and demonstrate admirable progress if you wish to continue receiving the benefit, provided that your institution remains an active participant. Thus, make sure you understand these limitations and strive to apply as soon as possible.
If you decide to transfer to a new school, make sure that they are a Yellow Ribbon institution and that you have a spot given their individual restrictions. There is no guarantee that you can receive a benefit once you leave one Yellow Ribbon school and enter another. Thus, make sure that if you transfer that you do so for very good reasons.
Additional Help for College Expenses
Gaining additional skills and a higher education at a college institution can be expensive, but for Veterans there is some additional help available. Education is important for your career in the service and out of the service, it is important for you to know what educational benefits are available to advance your career options.
In addition to the GI Bill benefits, you may also be able to find additional funding and financing through your state, federal aid, college aid, scholarships and grants. Almost every major college will have a financial aid office that can assist you in getting financial aid and may even be able to help with your VA Education Benefits. We have compiled a list of some good sources to help you with obtaining additional college expense funding.
- Federal Student Aid:
One of the largest online military and veteran membership organizations. They believe benefits should be easy to understand and in plain English.
- About GI Bill benefits:
Learn how the GI Bill works and explore your options to pay for college or additional training.
See if you're eligible for the GI Bill or other VA education benefits.
- How to apply:
Learn how to prepare and apply for the GI Bill or other VA education and training benefits.
- After you apply:
Find out when to expect a decision from the VA on your application and what to do next.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment:
See if you qualify for help exploring employment options, any training you may need, and other vocational rehab services.
- VA education benefits for dependents and survivors:
Find out if you're eligible for Veteran dependent or survivor education benefits through a GI Bill program.
Federal Student Aid – An office of the U.S. Department of Education
- Pat Tillman Foundation:
Potential scholarships for military veterans and their spouses that are dedicated to serving others in the service and out.
- Veterans of Foreign Wars:
The VFW offers a wide range of assistance programs including providing free, professional help filing or appealing a VA claim and offering scholarships for post-secondary education or providing emergency financial relief.
Career Resources for Vets
Federal and State Organizations
- Veterans Employment Center:
The Veterans Employment center has a wealth of resources to help veterans train for and attain gainful employment. They offer vocational rehabilitation, transition assistance, and more.
- Feds Hire Vets:
Once you've been honorably discharged from your active-duty post, the federal government may hire you for a civilian position. In fact, the federal government's hiring practices are weighted to prefer veterans and even their families.
- VA Employment Office:
The Veterans Administration naturally has a built-in preference for hiring veterans to their ranks. If you have a desire to work in healthcare, this is a great path. In fact, if you use your GI Bill for a healthcare related degree and still have student loans, you might seek employment with the VA and thus pay off your loans through a Federal Loan Forgiveness Plan.
- Veteran Service Organizations Employment Programs:
There are a number of organizations that provide employment assistance to veterans. Paralyzed Veterans of America, for instance, provides employment assistance, legal help, and benefits support, as well. Hire Heroes USA is another organization that helps out veterans on a pro-bono (free) basis. Hire Heroes provides job boards, help finding scholarships, and other job-seeking supports. CareerOneStop is a part of the Department of Labor that offers veterans special transition support by providing services that address the special needs of the veteran population.
Jobs Boards for Vets:
When it's time to start seeking a civilian job, there are special jobs boards for veterans. After all, veterans have special needs and it's helpful to have job boards that list jobs from employers that are explicitly interested in hiring veterans.
- My Next Move:
Mynextmove.org is one such resource that helps veterans discover new career options. They even have a handy tool that helps vets match their military skill sets with civilian careers.
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Hiring our Heroes:
This is a job posting resource that was launched in 2011 to help veterans and their spouses attain gainful employment. In fact, they seek to create a movement that provides a smooth pathway from service to the civilian workforce.
- Helmets to Hardhats:
If you desire a position in the construction and building trades, Helmets to Hardhats is an invaluable resource. With a bit of hard work and sweat equity you can complete an apprenticeship and embark on a lucrative career.
- Veteran Recruiting:
This resource specialized in matching veterans with employers nationwide. They conduct virtual job fairs, single-company job fairs, and hiring fairs that match your specific resume.
Employment Rights for Veterans
Always be sure that you know your rights in the workplace. While most are aware that disabled veterans are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), non-disabled veterans are also covered under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Under the ADA, it is illegal to discriminate against disabled workers, and employers must also provide supports so that they are both safe and able to work on an equal basis with their peers. Disabled workers must therefore be given equal consideration when it comes to hiring and promotions. They should also receive equal pay and benefits to their non-disabled co-workers.
USERRA likewise discourages discrimination and provides recourse when veterans find themselves the victim of discrimination. USERRA helps reservists return to their previous positions after having been called into active duty. That is, their positions must remain available to them upon returning home and their employer must make accommodations for injured veterans who are transitioning.
If you have been injured while on active duty, make sure you know your status. While you might feel able-bodied, you might qualify as disabled under the law. Note that the ADA has different standards than the Veterans Administration, so one may consider you as having a disability while the other does not. Though this might be a rare case, it makes it that much more important for you to know your status under the law. You might be due certain accommodations of which you were previously unaware.
Note, too, that the Veterans Preference Act bestows special employment consideration from federal agencies. Some states also participate in this program, so investigate whether or not your state will provide you this special preference in return for your military service.