Tips for Military to Civilian Career Transition

Beth Dumbauld

Military EducationThe transition from a military to civilian career path doesn’t have to be impossible. There are numerous resources available that help you take that next step in your professional career. Consider, for example, that educational institutions may offer academic credit for your military experience to accelerate your bachelor's degree completion and help prepare you for career opportunities.

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When embarking on a military career transition, it is important to remember that you have a great deal of professional experience and although your world has likely consisted of military employees, a minimal percentage of the nation’s population has served in the military. That is why it is essential to have your past experience assessed for academic credit and to learn how to best explain your skills and qualifications to a potential employer.

Getting Credit Where Credit is Due

Many colleges and universities recognize that throughout your military career, you likely completed dozens of hours in courses and spent numerous days doing valuable training. Depending on your military experience and education, you may be eligible to receive academic credits that can be put toward the completion of your bachelor’s degree online.

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To further help make your educational goals possible, many of the top military-friendly colleges and universities, including Norwich University, have also partnered with StraighterLine. Through their partnership, students have access to StraighterLine’s general education courses that can help students meet a school’s general education requirements to qualify for admission into a school’s online bachelor’s degree completion programs.

Why Education Matters

For Norwich University Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis alumnus, Christopher Wrubel, the real-world applicability of the online bachelor’s program helped him immediately at his job. “I was able to use lessons learned from my strategic communications course immediately,” he said. “In the business world, strategic communication skills are just as valuable as they were in the military.”

As a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, Ryan Nichols, a Norwich 2014 alumnus, found Norwich’s online programs to be the best fit to augment and formalize the experience and education he has received thus far in his career as a service member. “The Norwich program, which I took concurrently with my ongoing military career, really functioned as both a personal and professional development program that will help me as a current officer and after I retire as well,” Nichols said.

Educational advancement can also help open doors to future career opportunities. “My hiring board at the Pentagon cited my Norwich degree as an important factor in setting me apart from other qualified candidates for my position as an intelligence officer for the Army G-2,” said Kevin Gould, a 2014 Norwich master’s alumnus. “I look forward to a long encore career serving the nation and applying the training in argumentation that Norwich’s program in military history gave me.”

Building Your Resume

In addition to pursuing higher education, another key component to your transition is to update your resume. Often times, this is the first opportunity to present yourself to an employer. Use these tips to help you build your best possible resume:

- Use the military crosswalk search tool to determine what language to use when describing your military experience, education and training.

- Avoid using acronyms. Although your military counterparts would likely understand what you’re referring to, these acronyms are often not common-knowledge to other employers.

- Highlight all of your training and education.

- Resource someone who is in a similar position to the one you are seeking. Get their advice on how to best present yourself professionally through your resume.

- Attend job and education fairs hosted at your military installation or in your community.

Preparing for Your Military Career Transition

Whether you see yourself entering the civilian workforce or not, it is important to keep your resume up-to-date and consider what other types of careers you might be interested in. Although the military offers a certain level of job security, there are always factors outside of your control that could dictate your career path to take an unexpected turn.

In order to set yourself up for success after the military, start preparing for your transition in advance. As you progress through your military career, update your resume as you go, so that you don’t forget to include all of your education, training, and skills you have gained over the years. You want to be able to showcase your entire career to your future employer.

When considering your desired career path, you may find that there are specific qualifications you must meet to hold the position. If your job in the military is not meeting those requirements, research how you can further develop yourself professionally to prepare for the future transition. If your desired job requires a certain level of education, plan ahead so you can meet those qualifications as soon as possible.  No matter what your personal and professional goals are, there are ample resources available to help you succeed!

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This post was adapted from an earlier version that originally appeared in The Norwich Online Criminal Justice Review – a blog on criminal justice education and other online higher education resources for working adults in the military and civilian sectors.

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has proudly educated and developed leaders in our nation’s military and private sector for nearly 200 years. Norwich University strives to help you challenge yourself professionally and realize your next goal, while making your military experience count. Learn more about how many credits you can transfer into one of Norwich’s online programs today. 

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