Upon leaving the military, most veterans consider furthering their education with a college degree. Education is a wise choice if you want to build skills to compete for the best jobs and salaries, but it can be overwhelming to sift through the options of which degree to earn and what career path to take.
As you plan your career path, you’ve probably already read quite a few articles on the best college degrees for transitioning veterans. However, amid the vast sea of options available, there may be a few degrees you haven’t considered. These lesser-known degrees can lead to careers that dovetail well with military experience.
As a veteran, you know that the military instills valuable qualities in those who serve. Before we delve into specific career paths, it’s worthwhile to note some of these traits. According to research, veterans are likely to exhibit:
- A strong work ethic and self-discipline
- The ability to confront complex and difficult challenges
- Project management experience
- A history of selfless service
- A global perspective, including an understanding of global conflict and issues around the world, and perspectives on, and experiences with, diverse cultures
- Motivation to learn and put education into practice
- Leadership skills
- Depth of character, honor and integrity
Someone with these characteristics is likely to be an asset to any organization. As you explore your education and career options, see how many of these characteristics relate to you, and how those fit into what you decide to study and the career you pursue.
With that in mind, here are four college degrees for lesser-known career fields that are well-suited for the assets and skills that veterans possess.
Adult Education and Training
If you have ever trained someone else during your military service, you already have a taste of what it’s like to teach adults. Mature populations learn differently than children. A degree in adult education and training can give you the qualifications to teach adults using methods that best suit and serve them.
Career options in this field are wide open. You can apply your expertise to any job that involves teaching and training adults. Some typical jobs in this area include adult basic education professionals, corporate/workplace training specialists, English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors, health educators, and outdoor education specialists. This field is also well-suited to military settings if you decide you would prefer to continue to work with the military population.
Interested in improving health care technology and fighting disease? Biomedical engineering is a field ripe with opportunity. Innovations in biomaterials, pharmaceuticals, tissue engineering, prosthetics and more are happening every year and, with that, more careers in this fascinating field are becoming available.
A college degree in biomedical engineering can lead you to several different careers, including jobs in pharmaceutical preparation; biological product manufacturing; surgical instrument manufacturing; medical, dental and hospital equipment merchant wholesaling; and much more.
Edwin Vasquez, a Gulf War veteran and graduate of Colorado State University's online Biomedical Engineering Master’s program, was able to turn his passion for serving others into a career as a biomedical engineer at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Orlando. You can read his story here.
As technology becomes increasingly more complex and interconnected, the need for systems engineers is growing. Systems engineers are focused on how complex projects are designed and managed over the entire life cycle of the project. They coordinate logistics, create protocols, direct teams, and assume control over complex technological assets. This field is well-suited for those who are highly technical and good with “big picture” strategic thinking. Careers in systems engineering span many sectors, including aeronautics and aerospace, government and military, health care, manufacturing, and power and energy. If this type of opportunity interests you, consider a degree in systems engineering.
For those who are interested in promoting the well-being of communities and at-risk populations, including that of other veterans, a degree in social work may provide a rewarding field to pursue. Social work encompasses many different areas of specialization, and social work professionals can work with children, in medical settings, and in mental health and substance abuse therapy.
The Veterans Health Administration within the VA is one of the largest employers of masters-level social workers. The VA needs social workers who understand the unique needs of veterans and their families.
Ready to find out more?
Check out the career paths and college degree options available online from Colorado State University.