September 12, 2018  |  Purdue Global  |  Updated November 16, 2022

You’ve served our country honorably, and now your active service is coming to a close. This major life change can be an exciting time, but can also be stressful. The best way to shake off any anxiety is to create a plan to transition successfully into a civilian career.

Fortunately, many of the incredible skills you learned during your service are highly sought after by civilian employers. Qualities like leadership, discipline, and the ability to handle stress are needed in a variety of professions.

This guide provides tips, support resources, and career information for veterans looking to start a career in the civilian workforce.

Choose a Career Path That Aligns with Your Military Service

Transitioning from military service to civilian life is made easier when you choose a career path that makes use of skills you already have. Chances are, many of the skills you gained during your time in the military are applicable to a variety of civilian careers.

Several tools and websites can help you discover career paths that align with your military experience:

  • Purdue Global Military Transfer Credit Estimator: Purdue Global’s tool helps incoming military students determine which degree programs are a good fit for them. After inputting your military branch, skill level, and occupation code, the tool provides you with a personalized degree path, with an estimated number of courses needed to complete the degree, based on your military training.
  • Military Skills Translator: This tool provides you with a list of relevant job openings based on your military branch and title. You can further refine the search results by filtering for specific keywords or locations.
  • CareerOneStop Veterans Job Matcher: CareerOneStop’s job match tool for veterans can help you find job openings that align with your military experience. It provides information on education requirements, wages, career outlook, and more.
  • MOC to Civilian Occupations Translator: This tool shows you which job titles most closely align with the role you performed in the military. From there, you can select which job titles you are interested in and search for open positions near you.

In addition to using the tools above, you should consider what you did and didn’t enjoy about your time in the service. While there are many benefits of choosing a career path that directly relates back to your military service, it’s also important to make sure you have a genuine interest in the career you’re pursuing. 

>> Read: 5 Tips for Transitioning From Military Service to the Civilian Workforce

5 Growing Industries for Veterans

Unsure where you’d like to take your career after leaving the service? The industries below feature some of the best jobs for military veterans entering the workforce.

1. Health Sciences

Jobs in the health sciences are expected to grow 13% from 2021 to 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is much faster than the average for all occupations.

These occupations serve patients in clinics, hospitals, community centers, and doctors’ offices. If you had a medical role while in the military, a career in health sciences could be a great fit. No matter what title you held, a variety of skills learned in the military can be useful in a health care career. These include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Flexibility
  • Integrity
  • Problem-solving
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure

Let’s examine three high-growth health sciences professions and the additional skills and education you’ll need to qualify:

Registered Nurse (RN)

What they do: Nurses assess patients’ conditions, coordinate their care, provide health care education, and offer emotional support.

Job growth: The BLS predicts RN jobs to increase 6% from 2021 to 2031.

To become an RN: You must earn at least an associate’s degree in nursing and pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN®). It’s also common today for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing as part of their journey to becoming an RN.

Community Health Worker (CHW)

What they do: These frontline positions provide outreach for health organizations, serving as liaisons between the organization and community. Duties include improving access to health care resources and implementing educational and health programs in the community. Community health workers may also provide blood pressure monitoring and other health services.

Job growth: The BLS doesn’t project job growth for community health workers; however the projections for the industry at large suggest there could be growth.

To become a community health worker: Most CHWs have some postsecondary education, but the requirements differ by employer. An associate’s degree in health science or a bachelor’s degree in health science can help you get started in this field.

If you had a medical occupation while in the service, your prior military training can transfer to college credit for a Purdue Global associate’s degree in health science, saving you time to earn your degree. Contact us today to learn more.

Medical Assistant

What they do: Medical assistants are essential to hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other health care organizations. They perform administrative tasks and some clinical duties, including recording test results and assisting with minor surgical procedures.

Job growth: The BLS projects these jobs to grow by 16% between 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than average.

To become a medical assistant: Most employers prefer you hold a Medical Assistant Certificate to gain the relevant skills. These certificate programs can take less than 18 months of full-time study to complete.

2. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity experts help protect an organization’s data—such as personally identifiable information, financial records, and sensitive proprietary information—from online attacks.

Military skills that employers value in this position include:

  • Planning and organization
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability
  • Decision-making
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure

The BLS projects that employment of information security analysts will grow 35% between 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than average for all occupations. This rapid growth makes cybersecurity positions one of the top jobs for military veterans.

To be competitive in this growing field, information security analysts usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming, or a related field, according to the BLS. A Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity can help you get started in this in-demand field.

3. Business

Numerous business occupations fit well with a military skillset. Skills used in this field include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Perseverance
  • Leadership
  • Flexibility
  • Integrity
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability
  • Decision-making
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure

Employment of business and financial occupations is projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031, according to BLS data. Some business occupations that may make for good careers for veterans include cost estimator, market research analyst, logistician, loan officer, and personal financial advisor.

According to the BLS, the positions mentioned above and most other business positions require a bachelor’s degree. A Bachelor of Science in Business Administration provides a well-rounded education in the fundamentals of business.

Other veterans choose to apply the skills they learned in the military toward starting their own business. For more information on how to get started as a veteran entrepreneur, read our resource guide for veteran entrepreneurs.

4. Criminal Justice

A career in law enforcement or corrections is a natural fit for many veterans, particularly if you served in the military police. Skills that transition well to a civilian criminal justice career include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Integrity
  • Problem-solving
  • Discipline
  • Decision-making
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure

Below is a closer look at two jobs for veterans within the criminal justice field‡:

Police Officer

  • Employment of police officers is expected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
  • Police officers must have a high school diploma, but some federal agencies and state and local police departments also require a bachelor’s degree.
  • You’ll need to pass special field and physical tests in addition to successfully completing a police academy.

Detective or Criminal Investigator

  • Employment of private detectives and investigators is expected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as average for all occupations.
  • A high school diploma is typically the minimum education required to become a private detective or investigator, though some jobs may require an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

If you served as a military police officer (31B, Skill Level 30+), you may be able to earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Purdue Global in as little as 5 courses. You might also choose to go a step further with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, giving you the opportunity to learn about issues and theories related to law, criminal behavior, and the justice system. Contact us today to learn more.

5. Firefighting

Providing emergency services is a respected profession. The military skills that can be used as a firefighter include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Discipline
  • Tenacity
  • Adaptability
  • Decision-making
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure

The BLS projects firefighting jobs will grow 4% from 2021 to 2031, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Firefighters need to have a high school diploma. To be considered for positions at the assistant chief, deputy chief, and chief levels, many fire departments require applicants to have a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. In addition, prospective firefighters are required to train at a fire academy and pass written and physical tests.

Purdue Global offers a Bachelor of Science in Fire and Emergency Management, which can help you gain a competitive edge in this profession.

Career Support Resources for Veterans

A variety of organizations provide career support specifically tailored to veterans. As you pursue education and transition into a new role, consider taking advantage of the following veteran career support resources:

  • American Freedom Foundation (AFF): This organization honors, serves, and supports veterans, military service members, and their families by creating awareness and building support of their service, sacrifice, and needs through partnerships with military focused organizations. AFF has helped many veterans and their families deal with issues they face in transitioning from military to civilian life.
  • Transition Assistance Program (TAP): TAP is a program run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that helps veterans transition to civilian life. The goal of TAP is to help veterans navigate the assistance programs available to them, including education benefits such as the GI Bill®. TAP also provides a course for transitioning service members that covers topics such as career readiness.
  • Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS): VETS is an agency within the U.S. Department of Labor that helps veterans reach their full career potential. VETS provides one-on-one career assistance, virtual and in-person workshops, transition training, and more.
  • Feds Hire Vets: The federal government is dedicated to recruiting veterans. The Feds Hire Vets website provides information on the process of getting hired by a federal agency and highlights open government roles that may be a good fit for veterans.
  • Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Employment Resources: DAV connects veterans with employers who are committed to hiring veteran candidates. The organization also sponsors job fairs and hosts virtual career events.
  • Hire Heroes USA: Hire Heroes USA provides personalized career support to transitioning military service members. Some of the organization’s career services include resume assistance, career coaching, job sourcing, and mock interviews. 

>> Read: Education Resources for Military Students

Learn More About Receiving College Credit for Your Military Service and Prior Learning

When you enroll in a degree program at Purdue Global, we will evaluate your military transcripts to see if you qualify to receive college credits toward your degree. On average, military graduates have been awarded 54% of the credit needed to earn an associate’s degree and 45% needed for a bachelor's degree.

In addition to earning college credit for military experience, Purdue Global offers a range of other military benefits, including reduced tuition and a military leave of absence policy.

Reach out today for more information on Purdue Global and our military-friendly online degree programs.

About the Author

Purdue Global

Purdue Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 175 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.

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Average Military College Credit Award: Source: Purdue Global Office of Reporting and Analysis, September 2021. 2020–2021 academic year. Includes all types of prior learning (military and other articulations, transfer credit from prior institutions) as well as experiential portfolio credit. Credit earned in an associate’s degree program through Purdue Global applied earlier as part of a pool of prior degree credit is not included in this calculation. The actual percentage may be slightly higher for students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs. Individual experiences will vary. Purdue Global does not guarantee transferability of credit from any of these sources. See University Catalog for Prior Learning policy. Speak to an Admissions Advisor to find out how many credits may be eligible to transfer.

Employment and Career Advancement: Purdue Global cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. Additional training or certification may be required. Certain health care positions may require further certification and/or licensing by individual states.

Criminal Justice Employment and Career Advancement: Local, state, and federal correctional/probation officer jobs and law enforcement positions may require additional training or education including additional state-approved higher education beyond the Purdue Global degree. This program was not designed to meet any specific state’s requirements, and Purdue Global makes no representations or warranties as to whether the degree or any individual courses meet such requirements. Refer to the University Catalog for additional information. Graduates of Purdue Global criminal justice programs are not eligible to attend police academies in Minnesota.

Fire Science Employment and Career Advancement: Additional academy training and education may be required for firefighting or emergency management jobs.

Graduate in 5 Courses: The 5-course determination is based on a member of the military who transfers in the maximum amount of credit toward the stated degree. The total credits awarded is based on an educational mapping of the standard courses required for rank advancement as well as credit for occupation training. Credit totals have service-level requirements. Exact transfer amount may vary depending on completed military courses and occupations as listed on your official Joint Services Transcript(s). Applicable state-specific program requirements, as listed in the University Catalog, may reduce the available transfer credits. All credits must be validated on official transcript(s) to be eligible for transfer.

Job Growth Projections: National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual growth.