How to Transition into Post-Military Employment

Chelsy Meyer  | 

Not everyone who joins the military decides to stay in active duty for 20 years or more and retire as a career service member. For many that serve, the military is only one occupation within a diverse employment history. Joining the military can be a way to gain marketable skills, or to pay for the education needed for the next career opportunity that comes along. For those that are going from a military career into a civilian career, there may be a period of transition that can be difficult. There may also be a learning curve when figuring out how to maneuver from the linear career track of military employment into the world of civilian employment. For these reasons, there are resources to help service members transition into post-military employment.

Transitioning Into Civilian Life

The transition into civilian life can be incredibly difficult for many service members. There are many factors that go into that transition including any mental health struggles or disabilities as a result of service. Other issues tend to be going from a very organized and strict atmosphere into one that is more lax. Civilian life and its intersection with employment can be difficult for some veterans in terms of its vastness. Civilian jobs involve a job search, learning about different types of benefit options, knowing your skills, and finding something that is the right fit.

Financially, going from military employment to civilian employment can be a strain. The military offers many perks that include competitive wages, cheaper mortgages, the means to save money, retirement options, and health insurance, among others. Many of those financial perks will remain, though not always in the same way. Veterans are still given resources to help in many of these areas, but the transition can be difficult. The time between having a military career and finding civilian employment is a time for transition emotionally and financially. This is why planning ahead, seeking out the proper resources, and doing your research are all vital when transitioning from the military life to civilian life.

Popular Career Choices for Veterans

There are many jobs available for veterans depending on each person’s background and interests. Transitioning into post-military employment involves understanding how your military duties can transition into the civilian workforce.

  • Technology: Jobs in technology can include jobs in IT, computer science, or working as a computer software engineer, among the slew of available tech jobs out there. Those that worked in electronics, general technical, or skilled technical jobs in the military could easily transition that skillset into the civilian workforce, though more education may be necessary.
  • Law Enforcement: A job in law enforcement is a great transition from the military world. Those that excelled in combat may find this field exactly what they are looking for once they become civilians. The benefits and pay systems are linear, just like the military, and many service members feel comfortable in the strict and physical atmosphere that law enforcement provides.
  • Mechanics: Those that work in general maintenance or mechanical maintenance might transition well into a job in mechanics. Diesel mechanics, service technicians, or maintenance technicians are all positions that may transition well from a mechanical duty in the military to a civilian job.
  • Small Business: Small business careers are built for nearly everyone. They can morph into any skill you have, and those with strong ASVAB scores in math or jobs that are clerical may find that owning their own business is perfect for them. Not only that, but there are many loans out there for veteran business owners.
  • State/Government: Those that worked a clerical or communications job in the military might find a job at the state or government level to be one that makes their post-military employment transition easier. With skills in military operations from a clerical standpoint, it can be easier for you than most to work within this field.

Though these are suggestions, there are an infinite number of jobs available to veterans that can coincide with their military duties or not.

Employment Resources for Veterans

For veterans that are looking for post-military employment but are having troubles, the VA has many resources intended to help veterans with all kinds of financial help, including vocational rehabilitation and employment. These resources help place vets in VA jobs, help with employment preferences, and offer job search tools that make them more desirable candidates to employers during their post-military employment job search.

  • VA for Vets: This is a program that works on hiring veterans into positions with the VA. Many veterans already know so much about the inner workings of the VA system, so they are a great resource for the VA when they need employees.
  • Veterans Preference for Federal Hiring: It’s helpful for many vets to know there is a law giving veterans who are disabled or who served during a certain time period preference in hiring for federal positions.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: VR&E is an amazing resource for many veterans struggling with the transition between military work and civilian employment. It offers a Transition Assistance Program, resources to help newly disabled veterans find suitable careers for their needs, job placement assistance, self-employment resources, assistance with work study or apprenticeships, and resume help, among so many other resources that are designed to help veterans with this difficult transition.

Military Educational Opportunities

A major opportunity in post-military employment is the availability of education for military veterans. If you’d like to further your education after your military service in order to broaden your career horizons, there are educational opportunities available. Tuition Assistance is a benefit that pays a portion of the cost of tuition and is available to any eligible service member. The GI Bill is the centerpiece of education benefits and is the umbrella over several GI Bill programs designed to help veterans with the cost of education. With the outstanding cost of secondary education, the educational benefits available to veterans are extremely helpful and are a major aspect in recruiting practices. With the availability of affordable education, service members can really dive into whatever post-military employment opportunities they are passionate about.

Transferring benefits

Many benefits available to service members are reserved for active duty participants, but there are benefits that remain once you’ve become a veteran. You may not retain TRICARE benefits, but you will retain VA healthcare options. If you wish, you can pair your VA healthcare with another insurance option through your new employer. Veterans Group Life Insurance is available for most veterans and is less expensive than many civilian life insurance options. Though retirement options are only available for those that stay in the military for 20 years or more, there are a few options to save and plan for retirement as a veteran. Veteran’s Pension is for veterans over 65, disabled, and served active duty during a certain time frame.

If you have a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which every service member will have if they join in 2018 as an aspect of the new Blended Retirement System, you can keep your savings plan. In fact, it’s best to keep it there until you’re eligible for that money so as to not suffer the tax penalties for removing it. You may not be eligible for the military’s retirement options unless you serve for 20 years or more, but you’ll be able to take your TSP savings and the portion that the military matches during your time of service. It’s helpful to know you have a few benefits that transfer from active duty to veteran status during the transition periods.

The transition from military service member to civilian is not an easy transition for many. Financially, the transition can cause some stress on top of the emotional stresses that come with military separation. Civilian life is just one aspect of the change, another aspect is finding the post-military career that makes the most sense. Thankfully there are many employment resources and educational opportunities that are there to help the transition become one that makes each veteran feel fulfilled in their next employment journey. Not only that, but there are still benefits available for veterans that make the transition easier including VA healthcare, life insurance, and some retirement options. In the search for post-military employment, there are resources to help make the transition easier.


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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5

This post was updated January 10, 2018. It was originally published December 15, 2017.