New Survey Suggests Veterans' Valuable Skill Sets are Not Being Maximized in Transitions to Civilian Jobs

PHOENIX, Dec. 11, 2013—Military members leaving the service may end up underutilizing their skills when transitioning to civilian careers, according to a new national survey from University of Phoenix. A large majority (90 percent) of current active-duty service members anticipate that they will use skills they learned in the service in a civilian job after their separation from the military. Yet less than one-third of past service members say they used a great deal or a lot of their military skills in their first civilian jobs, with nearly two-in-five (38 percent) reporting that they used none of the skills.

"Service members acquire skills during their military careers that bring value and diverse experience to the workplace," said University of Phoenix Associate Regional Vice President and U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Garland Williams. "But some men and women leaving the service may not know how to market their skills as they transition to civilian jobs, and may therefore take jobs that do not leverage their unique experience."

The survey reveals a high percentage (eight-in-ten) of active-duty service members face substantial challenges in looking for jobs and managing their careers. Survey participants specifically report needing help with interviewing (43 percent), networking with other professionals (38 percent), career planning (36 percent), finding available positions (34 percent), connecting with employers (33 percent) and developing resumes and/or cover letters (30 percent). Moreover, the survey suggests military members may not be prepared to face these challenges – only one-third (33 percent) report having made a transition plan for returning to civilian life after separation from the military.

The online survey of more than 1,000 adults who are serving or have served in a branch of the U.S. military was conducted on behalf of University of Phoenix by Harris Interactive in September and October, 2013.

Active-duty and former military members appropriately identify marketable skills that could help them in civilian careers, given the adequate transition support and placement. Survey participants identified responsibility (79 percent), teamwork (75 percent), the ability to work under pressure (72 percent), accountability (69 percent), leadership (68 percent), problem solving (68 percent), communication (58 percent) and critical thinking (54 percent) as the skills they gained in the military that are most beneficial to employers.

"As thousands of men and women return from Iraq and Afghanistan to a highly competitive job market, it is vital that we help them translate their skills into fulfilling and enriching jobs," said Williams. "University of Phoenix is committed to helping service members understand how education aligns with their career goals and helping them translate skills acquired through military experience into viable credits that can be applied to their degrees."

Tips for Military Career Transitioning

According to Williams, who transitioned from the military to a civilian career four years ago, many things can be done to help service members and veterans channel skills developed during their military tenure into productive careers that are aligned with these skills. He offers the following tips:

  • Tip #1: Start early. Begin the transition process from military to civilian life as early as two years before being discharged. Planning and preparation are crucial when it comes to job search. Service members should start talking to their military peers who recently made transitions to garner additional best practices, and to network to learn about open jobs with hiring employers.
  • Tip #2: Research your options. Utilize online tools to investigate degree programs and possible career paths. The University of Phoenix Military Skills Translator Tool takes a service member's military occupational specialty code and provides a list of civilian occupations that correlate to the job skill sets the service member gained while in the military. Each military occupation is linked directly to labor market data to give service members and veterans detailed information for each occupation that may apply to their skill sets. The University also offers military students and alumni access to additional resources including a resume builder, career coaching and links to current and recent job opportunities from employers specifically interested in hiring military veterans.
  • Tip #3: Brush up on your career-search skills. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor's Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) at TAP provides soon-to-be discharged or retired service members helpful information and workshops on job searching, resume and cover letter writing, interviewing techniques and career decision-making.
  • Tip #4: Speak the language. Communicate military experience and training with words, not acronyms, which may not translate on a resume. Service members should promote universal skills such as leadership, management, cooperation, teamwork and strategic thinking. Mention these attributes in the cover letter and resume alongside all technical skills. Once in the interview, be prepared for a dynamic and potentially more informal conversation than what you experienced in the service. Military personnel tend to be very direct and straightforward, but the civilian business world is open to more casual and conversational interactions.
  • Tip #5: Don't be afraid to take credit. As every proud service member knows, there is a "we" vs. "me" mentality in the military—a focus on the team and what it collectively accomplishes. The ability to work in a team is important to communicate, but you also have to be willing to brag about yourself in a job interview. This may be difficult for someone unaccustomed to self-promotion. Be prepared to discuss your own contributions and results. When you discuss your experience, mix in the appropriate "I" along with the "we."�
  • Tip #6: Consider flexible education programs. Education can help you address knowledge gaps and better understand and prepare for future careers. According to the survey, more than three quarters (76 percent) of active duty service members are currently pursuing additional education or plan to after their service. The majority (77 percent) say they are at least somewhat likely to pursue online education and cite the following benefits to doing so: the ability to go to school while on active duty or in a civilian job (58 percent), the ability to learn from anywhere in the world (54 percent), flexible daily/weekly study schedules (53 percent), a wide range of degree programs (37 percent), being in class with students with diverse experiences (27 percent) and access to more diverse faculty members (26 percent).

To learn more about University of Phoenix® degree programs and career resources, visit

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of University of Phoenix between Sept. 24 and Oct. 2, 2013, among 1,010 U.S. adults age 18 or older who are serving or have served in any branch of the U.S. military. One hundred and five respondents are currently on active duty. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Jennifer Tomasovic at


University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit

Media Contact

Jennifer Tomasovic
University of Phoenix

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