Thoughts of returning to family, friends, and the less restrictive nature of civilian life may seem idyllic when you are nearing the end of your military service, eager to get back home. However, that adjustment can be surprisingly difficult, particularly for those who served in combat roles. If you have a family to support, the pressures of that transition can add to feelings of stress and self-doubt. Many expenses paid for in the military, like housing, will now fall on your and your partner’s shoulders.
Going to college — either to start, finish, or get an advanced degree — can be one way to expand your options. It also provides a time of self-exploration to pursue the degree most suited to you — perhaps expanding on the project management skills you developed in the military or taking an entirely different track. A college degree can open doors, and the more doors available to you, the more confident you’ll be about your next civilian chapter. WeHireHeroes.com helps you dive deeper.
Contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veteran Benefits Administration, for the run-down on tuition assistance programs for veterans. If you have been eyeing a specific college or the choices where you currently live are limited, you’ll want to closely examine the qualifications and considerations of each benefit program and what they will cover — for example, relocation assistance or whether there’s a tuition cap. You may not be limited to VA assistance programs; you may also be eligible for scholarships or other federal student aid. There are advisory programs that can help you sift through all of the information to help ensure you get the maximum benefits to meet your costs.
Assistance doesn’t only come in financial form, however. Career counselors at your university of choice can help you match your strengths with a degree program and possible careers. Still, it’s important to remain flexible. You may get through a few classes and find yourself distracted by another possibility that interests you more — that’s perfectly okay! According to the U.S. Department of Education, about a third of students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs change majors. It’s also not unheard of for students to change their majors more than once. It’s okay to be flexible about what you want to do with your career.
You should also take advantage of mental health counseling services. Trying to fit in with other students and campus life can seem strange and superficial. Recognize that you may be coming into this environment with some discomfort attached, based on your military experiences. Rather than let it weigh you down, get help in removing it.
Think about your military experience and whether that’s something you’d like to transfer into a long-term, civilian career. If you were a medic, a healthcare career in nursing, physical therapy, or even a doctor might be appealing. Teaching and technology degrees are also popular with military veterans.
Some veterans completed their bachelor’s prior to or during their military service. In that case, consider the benefits of an advanced degree. If you are already putting your bachelor’s degree to work for you with a full- or part-time job, an online master’s degree provides the flexibility to continue working while continuing your studies. For example, getting an online master’s degree in Information Technology can open doors to IT management.
Other possibilities include cybersecurity and data analytics. If your interest is in health, that online master’s degree can lead you into Healthcare Management. You can also put your troop leader skills to good use with a master’s in Management and Leadership. Don’t forget to look for professional groups that can help you network and add professional credentials to your degree and your experience.
With each mission, you planned for success. This civilian mission is no different. Gather the tools you need to overcome challenges and find the keys to unlock doors. Welcome home, and thank you.
Would you like to read more helpful information or learn about our job platform? Visit wehireheroes.com today!
By Ed Carter, ablefutures.org