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Phoenix Forward

5 careers for military veterans

From the battlefield to the boardroom

“The only constant in a military career is that someday it will end,” says Garland Williams, PhD, associate regional vice president of the University of Phoenix Military Division. Williams himself spent more than 28 years as a U.S. Army officer before retiring and joining the private sector.

“Military personnel need to start planning for their civilian careers from their first day of military service,” he explains. Here are five industries that appreciate the skills and experience military personnel offer:

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Business

Why it’s a fit: The civilian sector has many of the same careers, requiring the same kind of discipline, as the military. Because of that, Williams says, the same leadership skills that soldiers cultivate on the battlefield are assets to private companies. “The key is how you translate your military experience to the civilian world,” he explains. “The traditions of the military — such as saluting superiors, issuing and taking orders, and standing at attention — are considered awkward in corporate life. But, with the right coaching, that kind of discipline is a huge asset to business.”

How to prepare: Williams recommends that active-duty military take advantage of the Defense Department’s Transition Assistance Program. Taking introductory business courses is also an excellent idea, he notes. University of Phoenix is developing a Military Career Portal, which will train military students and connect them with Fortune 500 companies that are hiring. “We want to help the former successful team leader in Iraq become a successful team leader at Home Depot,” Williams says.

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Criminal justice


Why it’s a fit: Careers in criminal justice, including police, private security, and corrections work, are a natural fit for ex-military. “The required tactical skills and highly structured criminal-justice environment are very similar to the military environment,” Williams says. “This is an area where you see a high percentage of former military.”

How to prepare: A criminal justice degree can prepare candidates for both public and private-sector careers.

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Information technology


Why it’s a fit: Today’s high-tech military trains tomorrow’s high-tech IT workers. “The level of technical expertise required by today’s military personnel is extraordinary,” Williams says. “Many of the advances in information technology we all take for granted originated with the military, and our soldiers can apply those skills in the private sector.”

How to prepare: Soldiers should highlight their military-technology skills, Williams says, and also consider obtaining standard software certificates or a degree in information technology.

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Nursing


Why it’s a fit: Soldiers who worked as field medics or had other military first aid training should consider a nursing career, Williams suggests.

How to prepare: “We see a lot of military students pursuing nursing degrees,” he says.

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Entrepreneurship


Why it’s a fit: “After spending years taking orders from their superiors, a lot of former military want to work for themselves for a change,” Williams says, mentioning fast food franchises, independent insurance agencies and consulting businesses as good examples. “Military self-discipline lends itself well to running your own business.”

How to prepare: A business degree is instrumental, according to Williams. "The skills of how to budget effectively, how to properly execute a payroll, how to determine returns on investment and how to comply with statutes on employee relations are all vital to ensure the ‘veteran’ entrepreneur will fully succeed."

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