Why an Apprenticeship Might Be the Best Post-Military Career Reboot

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(U.S. Navy/Joseph P. Cirone)

When we think of an apprenticeship, most of us likely think of the NBC television show or some kind of archaic medieval career that doesn’t exist anymore. Falconry isn’t a viable career option anymore, but many career fields offer apprenticeships to those willing to do the work.

It may come as a surprise, but not everyone in the military wants to continue their military specialty as a career when they separate. Some service members, like infantry and other combat arms specialties, don't have a direct civilian career path.

For many military members, a traditional two- or four-year degree isn’t a viable path forward, either. Luckily, there is an option for those separating veterans who want to pursue a different career without going to school for years on end: apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are an industry-driven way for companies to train their future employees while providing individuals with valuable experience and a paycheck while they complete on-the-job and classroom training. There’s no guesswork or theory involved. Apprentices work on real-world company projects while learning the skills and tools of the trade and avoiding student debt.

In careers that require special certifications, they are earned and awarded to the apprentice as he or she completes the training requirements. For those interested in pursuing a degree in their field in the future, many apprenticeship programs offer college credit for the instruction.

Most importantly for today’s civilian workforce, it allows apprentices to train under and work alongside experienced professionals in their field and to know them as colleagues and friends while building a professional civilian network.

Read: How to Build a Professional Network for Your Civilian Career

According to the Department of Labor, 94% of apprentices who finish their training program get hired, and the average annual salary of an apprentice is $70,000 per year, not bad considering the U.S. government’s estimate of the median annual family income for 2020 is $79,000.

The length of any given apprenticeship can vary due to different factors. American companies offer apprenticeships in fields often associated with them, such as engineering, construction, energy and transportation. But apprenticeships are also available in hospitality, manufacturing, information technology, cybersecurity, health care and financial services.

Anyone interested in finding an apprenticeship as a post-military career can start with the Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Finder, research and contact a company or a career field of interest to them, or visit a local American Job Center to see the offerings in their area that might not be listed on the website.

Falconry, thatchery and cooperage are apprentice-driven jobs that have been lost to technology, but the latest and most in-demand jobs can still be had through a hands-on apprenticeship.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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