Career Planning Advice for Military Members: Part I

No matter where you are in your career, you should periodically consider career planning as you move through life’s journey. Long-term career consideration should play a part in most major life-changing decisions, such as job changes, education and training commitments, and financial choices.

The military launches career training

Military members often take their first career step right out of high school or college. While a military career may launch an individual’s career path, it may not be a life-long career choice. For the Guard or Reserves, a military career presents an additional commitment that provides financial and education help as you pursue a civilian career.

When you join up, the military sees to it that you get training for your specific job; this is some of the best training in the world and it is free. Get all the training you can. Over the years, how well you maneuver through education, training and other skills-building opportunities in the military will greatly determine your success as you transition into civilian life.

Start early. Keep steady. Don’t stop.

Here is my general rule for servicemembers: start early, keep a steady pace with appropriate breaks, and never stop these training efforts. Time spent in the military can help your career advancement while you’re in the service as well as during the after-military transition. You need to make sure you take advantage of all the opportunities available.

Military training + degree = easier transition to civilian life

Much of your military education and training can be turned into college transfer credit that will shorten the time required to get a college degree. So when is the appropriate time to begin thinking about college? Now! (Remember the rule: start early.)

The sooner you begin to think about who you are, what you want to be, and how an advanced education might help you get there, the more prepared you’ll be for college and a career. Plus, if you aren’t in a military job that you enjoy, taking college courses, training or certification programs in an area of interest can help you change your career path either while you’re in the military or after you get out.

At first, don’t focus on what degree program to choose. Focus instead on what you like to do – what feels fun and fulfilling? – and see what career paths explore those avenues. Many education offices have interest inventory tests or computer applications that can help you identify careers that match your talents and interests.

Think about your heroes and people whose work you like. Find out how they got where they are. Finally, contact anyone and everyone with your questions. Don’t be shy!

How to choose a college or university

  • Does it have the type of program(s) to meet your goals?
  • Does it provide the available and consistent student support you will need?
  • Can the school accommodate your need for flexibility due to your military lifestyle?
  • Does it meet your learning style – online versus classroom setting?
  • What are the school’s transfer credit policies?
  • Is the school properly accredited?
  • Will possible future employers’ requirements be met by what you learn?
  • Is the tuition within your financial means?

You may want to consider a military friendly-school. These schools cater to military students, accept Tuition Assistance and offer other military benefits. For instance, American Sentinel University offers a no-cost book scholarship to active-duty servicemembers and spouses, discounted tuition, and three important levels of support – the professor, an academic advisor, and a military advisor.

Education as career insurance

Think about the return on your investment when you think about going to college, as if it were “career insurance.” An advanced degree will help you pave your career path of choice and increase not only your advancement, but your quality of life.

Does education really matter? These U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics graphs can help you decide.

What questions do you have about starting your college degree program or military education benefits? Please post your questions to or call toll free 1-800-470-3743.

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