Picking the Right Degree Matters to Servicemembers

Chemistry teacher in a classroom.

It doesn't matter what degree I get. I just want to go into something where employers are hiring and pays well, it doesn't matter what I do. Or does it? It sounds practical and down to earth. When you leave the military you want to be able to match or raise your standard of living and many are not looking to add their names to the long list of Americans who are either under- or unemployed. However, it does matter what education path you choose.

Pull any research study and you will see that those who choose career paths that are aligned with their interests, skills, and personality have higher rates of job satisfaction and lower rates of employee turnover (leaving their job).  The education path you choose may potentially impact your future career success and how satisfied you will be in your civilian career. So rather than choosing an education path based on, what others are doing or what pays the most, it would be wise to take time to figure out what will suit you the best.

It is important to consider what occupations will have available jobs when you leave the military, however, realize that although based on research, many career field projections are just projections. We live in a time of exponential technology growth were many of the high need jobs that are needed today, didn't exist 10 to 20 years ago. While labor market information is important to consider before choosing an education and career path, the first place to start is with you.

What is your personality? What are you best at or gifted to do? What working conditions do you prefer? Do you enjoy rapidly changing job tasks or are you more comfortable with doing the same tasks every day? Is it fun to work with customers directly and accomplishing tasks in teams or would you rather work on your own to solve problems and complete complex tasks? Are you strong in math and science or do you prefer creative pursuits in the arts? These are just some of the questions that you need to be able to answer about yourself in order to begin the process of choosing an education and career path that will fit you.

This may seem like a difficult process, but technology and the right resources can help you with answering many of those questions in less than an hour. The following resources are available for military members and veterans to help find education paths and career fields that may be a good fit:

  1. Kuder Journey (for current Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve). This no cost, online assessment is available to help military members determine how their skills, abilities, and work values match particular degree paths and occupations. For more information see our page discussing the Kuder Journey system,
  2. Wounded Warriors. If you are interested in or are participating in the Wounded Warriors program, your transition counselor can refer you to the local education and career counseling services that offer vocational testing to match your skills, abilities, and personality with a career path that will support your successful transition. Click on our Wounded Warrior page for details about service specific programs.
  3. VA Education Benefits. The VA offers eligible veterans the CareerScope program.  This interest and aptitude assessment tool is provided at no costs to veterans participating in one of the VA's education benefit programs. To get more information on the Education and Career Counseling Services provided by the VA, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/careerscope.asp.

Taheesha Quarells is the Education Project Manager at DANTES. With over 10 years of experience, she is dedicated to expanding academic and career development opportunities for military members, veterans, and their family members.

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