Your Guide to Bridging Military Training and Experience with Civilian Careers

female military careers

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

The sheer number of different jobs and training opportunities within even a single branch of the U.S. Armed Services are staggering. Taken together, it’s nearly impossible to fully grasp the scale and diversity of jobs within the global American military complex. It is by far the most massive organization of any kind operating out of the United States, and it relies entirely on the unique capabilities of millions of individuals in thousands of different roles.

Each of those jobs is considered critical to defending our country. And that means that no expense is spared in training and educating service members in their roles. Plenty of them have public and private sector equivalents in the civilian world, so the training could have value that goes beyond your years in service.

It takes deep and varied expertise to maintain complete military dominance over air, land, sea, and space.

Military Training is Always a Steppingstone, Even if Your Post-Service Career is in a Completely Different Field

helping over obstacleEvery military occupational specialty (MOS) is on the table when you walk into the recruiter’s office. Any of them can give you training and experience you can use to build a career out in the civilian world, providing a valuable option that anybody competing in today’s job market would love to have. But it’s not your only option.

Since the largest contingent of military veterans come from training backgrounds in infantry and other combat roles that don’t have a direct analog in the civilian job market, most veterans put their military benefits to work earning degrees in entirely different fields.

There’s a good reason why so many employers in every industry prefer to hire vets – the discipline, teamwork, resilience, and integrity they bring is something you can only get from military experience. No matter what direction you go in your civilian life, you can be sure your career will benefit from the time you spent in service.

As a military veteran you have more paths available to you, more options to consider, and the support and benefits to help you achieve the goals you set for yourself. That means more freedom to do exactly what you want to do with your life.

The Help You Need to Make Informed Decisions About Your Post-Military Career 

pilot ready for takeoffSometimes, the path between a military job specialization and a high-paying civilian career is clear: you don’t need anyone to draw you a line between flying an F/A-18 and sliding behind the controls of a 777 on the New York to London run.

But the path to other careers isn’t always so clear cut. Most veterans and even current service members have a lot of questions about building a career after discharge:

Those questions, and their answers, can vary depending on where you are in the course of your service.

Maybe you just got out and are still trying to decide what you want to do in that big wide working world… Maybe you haven’t even enlisted yet, but know that service can give you all kinds of options that you’d never have in civilian life… Or maybe you’re in and dedicated to staying in, and achieving rank and specialization through a college education.

You Have the Character and the Benefits – It’s Time to Put them to Work to Get the Career You Deserve

man on walkie talkieThe support and training you receive in the military can take you a long way in a lot of directions. Like all things in life, being ready to tap into your benefits and put them to work always starts with a decision and a plan.

Our career guides can help you both decide what career field is right for you and apply your training and benefits toward a degree in that field.

Defining Your Career Options Through Your Military Service and Your Potential

Knowing what career you want involves knowing something about what that job involves. How do nurses spend their days? … What skills does a cybersecurity expert need to master? … What is the typical salary for a paralegal?

Our guides don’t just give you the skinny on how to turn your military training into a career in those fields. We dive into the specifics of each career, including information like:

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.

Military Friendly Schools Offer Degrees in Today’s Hottest Fields

You can use your military background and experience to build careers in a broad range of different fields, including plenty that are completely unrelated to any duty you ever performed during your time in the military.

No matter where you are in your service or post-military life right now, our career guides can help you plot a course by working with military friendly universities to get the degree you need for the lucrative and exciting career you deserve.

With all that laid out clearly in front of you, you’ll have no problem deciding what career field is right for you.

And on the chance you plan to build a civilian career on military experience, these guides tie it all together, showing you exactly what preparations you need to make to get a pre-service contract for the different MOS ratings that will put you on the path to that job.

Planning for Your Education at a Military Friendly College

You will face dozens of decisions through your service and afterward about what training to go after, what benefits to apply for, and how exactly to use them once they are granted.

The big pivot to cybersecurity in every single branch of the American military is the most profound battlefield shift since the invention of nuclear weapons. But unlike nukes, cybersecurity training is also hugely important in the private sector. With some of the most advanced cyber defense training in the world, a military posting in cybersecurity is the perfect preparation for a cybersecurity degree.

Napoleon’s maxim that an army marches on its belly might have been true once upon a time. Today, it’s more accurate to say an army marches on its computers. In the American military today, if computers don’t work, ships don’t sail, planes don’t fly, and artillery won’t fire. The information technology specializations are mission critical and have the kind of training to go with it. Find out here how to use extra veteran’s benefits to get degrees in these hot STEM fields.

Engineering is a profession that was built on sieges and fortifications. Even today, military engineering training is full of the kind of nuts and bolts concepts and practical challenges that make great preparation for jobs in every engineering field, from aeronautical to civil engineering. With the veteran’s educational benefits you have coming your way, you can turn that training into a stable career in any area of engineering expertise.

From Florence Nightingale to Clara Barton, the brightest lights in the history of nursing cut their teeth in the care of soldiers. You can follow the same path to prepare for a nursing career either taking advantage of special commissioning programs for nurses, or leveraging another military medical job into a nursing degree after your discharge.

The military has always driven medical technology and practice forward. Anesthesia, blood transfusion, and concepts like the Golden Hour all emerged from the battlefield. Allied health professions, the sonographers, surgical technicians, and physical therapists in today’s force, are among the first to train in new techniques. Even today, military medical research is leading to new cancer treatments, innovations in prosthetics, and new kinds of therapeutics… all valuable skills for healthcare workers entering the private sector.

The military isn’t a business, but success in business takes a lot of the skills that make the military run, too: strategic thinking, logistics, planning, organization. That makes veterans a hot commodity in executive recruiting. An MBA or other business degree can build on skills in all those areas and more, not to mention putting a stamp of approval on your resume that will make hiring committees go gaga.

FinTech is a hot new combination of the information technology and financial worlds that might not seem to have a lot of application in the military world. But military training in either finance or information technology can help set you up for a career in this red-hot field. Learning to tie all that knowledge together and apply it in banking, trade, and economics comes with a degree that your veteran’s benefits will help you earn.

Data science is making big waves in every kind of private sector industry, so it should be no surprise it is getting a lot of attention in military circles as well. Tracking enemy troop movements, developing intelligence out of mountains of signal intercepts, and even analyzing battlefield trends for weakness in American strategies are important developments in data science that every branch of the military is engaged in right now. With that training and a college degree, a career in data science is right on your doorstep.

You won’t be in the military for very long before you find out just how important rules and regulations are. And where there are rules and regulations, there are lawyers. The Judge Advocate General Corps needs lawyers who have expertise in everything from the law of armed conflict to human resources regulations. With several programs devoted to attracting the best and brightest law students to JAG service, the military can be the perfect launch pad for a civilian legal career.

Lawyers may get all the glory, but anyone who has worked in a law office knows that paralegals are where the real work of adjudication gets done. JAG units are no exception, so you can get a practical leg up on civilian paralegal certification and experience through your military service. Even better, you can use your veteran’s educational benefits to get the degree it takes to jump to the top of the paralegal profession in any area of practice.

Not only does every service have law enforcement professionals, but one, the Coast Guard, is actually a functioning civilian law enforcement agency even in peacetime. Practical skill development and on-the-job experience helps you build out your resume for jobs ranging from parole to patrol to counseling and advocacy. You may even be able to apply that experience directly to credits in a CJ degree program, and your other military educational benefits can easily get you the rest of the way there.

Almost every service member ends up instructing other service members at some point. Whether it’s something straightforward like how to tear down and clean a Ma Deuce or something complicated like watchstanding a nuclear reactor, you might find you have a knack for teaching. A surprising number of veterans go into teaching as a career—the impulse to build and educate after seeing the destruction of war is a common one. Your service can help you work toward a teaching career with not only the standard veterans’ educational benefits, but also dedicated programs like Troops to Teachers.

Soldiers, sailors, Marines… members of every service have demonstrated commitment, dedication, and pride in their country. But they all remain only human. Every branch of the service has to deal with the very human difficulties that members experience along with everyone else, from financial difficulties to divorce to problems at work. So there are many opportunities to hone your human services skills in the military, through ratings like Social Worker, Human Resources Technician, or Personnel Specialist that put you in the thick of real-world human services problem solving. Learn how the combination of experience and a degree can get you into all types of social work and human services positions.

Service is stressful. On top of the obvious strain of working in a field where the main business is destruction and your life is constantly on the line, serving in the military comes with a lot of other pressures: working in a regimented, regulated environment, being sent off at short notice, being separated from family and friends for long periods. The American military has invested heavily in training counselors to help service members through these difficulties. Put it together with your veteran’s educational benefits and you have everything you need to become a licensed counselor.

Military personnel are not immune from the same mental health issues that are prevalent in society. That means the work of military psychologists in traditional roles is much the same as it is in the civilian world. But in addition to leading one-on-one and group counseling sessions and heading up programs to mitigate the stress and pressure of service, military psychologists can be responsible for everything from conducting psychological screenings to evaluating the effectiveness of training programs. They may even fill highly specialized tactical roles in intelligence gathering and psyops.

There are many amazing careers in the trades that military service opens the door to. Everything from carpentry to electrical work to HVAC systems are staples in modern military operations; all of them are part of the big construction boom sweeping the country. Your on-the-job training on active duty can lay the groundwork for these jobs, and veterans’ benefits apply to most trade schools as well as colleges.

computer science at work

Sophisticated computer code handles everything from ballistic missile terminal guidance to military payroll programs. Coding jobs in the military are rare, but deal with some of the most sophisticated languages and processes on the planet. If you can land one of these elite positions, you’ll be set for either earning a degree on the military’s dime or getting interviews with the hottest Silicon Valley startups after your discharge.

It should come as no surprise that the American military puts a lot of time and energy into developing the best intelligence picture it can of potential adversaries. The success of every battle plan rests on the back of highly trained intelligence professionals in the ranks. With strong ties between military intelligence work and civilian agencies like the CIA and NSA, you can easily turn your intel background into a civilian gig, maybe even working with the same people on the same threats. Or jump to the corporate world with exactly the right skillset for dealing with corporate espionage and geopolitical threat assessment at the biggest companies in the world.

You probably think of the military as being pretty much the opposite of diplomatic. But in fact it is the American armed forces that serve as one of the most important bargaining chips in international relations for the country. From humanitarian missions to joint training with allied militaries, there are plenty of opportunities for American soldiers to understand foreign cultures and societies, and to hone skills in negotiation and diplomacy. An elite corps of officers in each service is dedicated to this kind of work, but with a college degree in international relations and diplomacy, you can turn your overseas experience into a long term career in government or the private sector.

Sometimes it can seem like the American military is way too safety-conscious. Reflective belts in gyms and endless safety briefings seem ridiculous… unless you are interested in a career in public safety administration. As an MP or military firefighter, you may have been heading in this direction anyway after the service. A degree in public safety administration can help any vet land supervisory jobs in emergency services, or lead into various government or corporate agencies devoted to protecting the public and managing large-scale disasters.

In the military, communications means sitting around with headphones on, messing with wiring, and managing crypto keys. But in the civilian world, communications is the art of messaging and storytelling. There’s a clear path to jobs and degrees in that world through public affairs assignments in the service. Combat reporters, camera operators, artists, and media liaisons all have the right training and experience to go on to civilian positions in journalism, publicity, or public relations work in the public or private sector.

You would never have joined the military if homeland security wasn’t on your mind. But there are far more people working in homeland security and emergency management than only those in the armed forces. These all-important jobs lay down plans to thwart terrorist attacks and rescue people from the teeth of hurricanes. A level head and training in dealing with stressful situations is always important. A degree to help you develop an academic foundation in emergency management and homeland security, in combination with your military background, will offer a clear advantage in these fields.

You’ll get your introduction to military-style fitness on your first day of basic training. But your drill instructors aren’t sadists; they are professionals who are following some of the most cutting-edge science and data on human performance and exercise. As a non-commissioned officer or fitness instructor in the military, you have the opportunity to take your training and experience in exercise, injury management, and nutrition and turn it into a popular and in-demand civilian career. All you need is a degree in human performance or exercise science on your resume, easy to achieve with veterans educational benefits.

The American military has long been one of the foremost sources of health science research in the world. From new vaccines to revolutions in trauma care, many of the more than 80,000 service members in medical fields help develop skills and knowledge that are widely used in the civilian world, too. With on-the-job training and veterans’ educational benefits, you can build your own skills toward a degree and a job in health sciences after completing your service.

Healthcare administration may be the most important role in the medical system. Pulling together every specialty and making all the logistics and economics connect, healthcare administrators helped the nation through the COVID-19 pandemic. When the chips were down and hospitals were overwhelmed, military medical administrators got the call. The training and expertise the country can count on in times of crisis can also make you a top pick as a candidate for a civilian healthcare admin role.

Human resources—the troops—are the real secret weapon in the U.S. military. Developing a modern, high-tech, highly-trained, all-volunteer force is a feat that could only be accomplished by some of the best human resources management specialists in the world. Taking a role in military HR or personnel management offers specialized training and volumes of experience that you can easily turn into a civilian human resources career. And with military educational benefits fueling a degree program after the service, you’ll be well-prepared for HR positions in any industry.

People who enter the ministry and those who enter the military are a breed apart in modern society. But by leveraging military educational benefits and on the job experience, you can be part of the even smaller number who do both. Becoming a military chaplain through special commissioning programs or serving as a chaplain’s assistant and using your GI Bill® benefits to pursue a degree in divinity is a path you must be called to. But if you are set on that difficult road, the military will support you all the way.

Project management is how organizations large and small, public and private, get things done in today’s business environment. Professionals who plan, guide, and backstop projects in everything from software to engineering are a hot commodity. And with the intensive focus that the American military puts into planning and execution, you will find plenty of transferable skills from your service background. A degree in project management helps put a ribbon on that real-world experience and can lead to jobs in almost any industry.

Public administrators are the unsung heroes of the republic. The military has gone on post-Vietnam to receive the praise and accolades that it deserves for protecting the country. But many public servants in all levels of government labor on in thankless roles that accomplish more every day than every branch of the military when it comes to practical policies and services to make Americans’ lives better. You can use your own military training and the same patriotic spirit that led you there to continue on to accomplish even more in the field of public administration.

National security is the basic reason that the military even exists. Whether it was on your mind when you joined up or whether you found you had a knack for strategic thinking along the way, national security degrees are a natural fit for many officers and senior non-commissioned officers. In fact, programs designed to teach high-level strategic thinking, risk assessment, and planning are some of the most common degrees awarded by military colleges. Whether you get that degree in the service or afterward, national security studies can further your military career or help you start a new one in the public or private sector.

Supply chain problems come in right at the top of the list of the things that keep military brass up at night. That makes logistics support a key area of emphasis for every service branch. Many military occupational specialties are devoted to supply, transportation, and inventory, which means there are a lot of excellent opportunities to get military training leading to expertise in supply chain management. With education benefits that let you top that experience off with a degree in the field, you’ll be well-prepared for a logistics career in the civilian world.

With all your options open, you’ll have no trouble finding a great career path to follow in one of these fields. And with our guides, you’ll be able to figure out exactly how to make the most of your benefits and training opportunities to sail into the job of your dreams.

Ready to start looking at military friendly schools offering the degree you you need for the career you deserve? Take a look at our top selections of the most military supportive colleges by region:

The Most Military Supportive Colleges in the Northeast 

Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin

The Most Military Supportive Colleges in the Southeast

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia

The Most Military Supportive Colleges in the Central U.S.

Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming

The Most Military Supportive Colleges in the Pacific Region 

Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington