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Military members and veterans identify optimism and concerns about post-service career

By Sharla Hooper

University of Phoenix commissioned study by The Harris Poll finds current service member optimism tempered by post-service experience

University of Phoenix is releasing the findings of a study designed to gain a better understanding of active and non-active military members’ career outlook and experience. University of Phoenix commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct an online survey in October 2021 of 758 U.S. active and non-active military members to better understand their expectations, aspirations and experience in transitioning from the military to civilian careers.

Veterans and non-active military members face significant cultural changes when returning to civilian life and workplaces. The survey offers insights about veterans’ career outlook and experience at a time when military members, transitioning out of service and already cautious about their reception by potential employers, are encountering a rapidly evolving civilian workplace.

The survey found that nearly half of active military say they feel hopeful when they think about transitioning from military to civilian life, while only 38% of non-active military, who already made that transition, felt the same. While most (83%) say the military has provided them with all of the skills that they need to be successful in the workplace, a similar proportion (87%) feel making a successful transition from the military means learning a new set of skills to adapt to civilian workforce culture.

Less than a third of military (29%) believe their military experience will have a significant positive impact on getting the job they want. Instead, the majority believe that employers pay less attention to job applications submitted by U.S. veterans (59%) and would rather hire a civilian than someone with military experience (64%).

“The findings of the survey really resonated with my own experience 17 years ago, and what I hear even now from fellow service members,” shares Eric Ryan, senior director of Military Operations at University of Phoenix and a Marine Corps veteran. “I had a great deal of optimism while serving; we worked so hard, and had so much responsibility while in the Corps. When I transitioned to civilian life, I found that I needed help to translate that experience into the civilian workplace.”

Active and non-active members both have concerns that employers may hold misconceptions that could be held against them as employees. The survey asked about what misconceptions military members believe employers might have about them: both active and non-active respondents identified the top two as mental health aspects (Military veterans suffer from long-term effects of being in combat and other high-stress situations, 42%) and skills (Employers don’t think military veterans have skills that are relevant to a corporate environment, 41%). 

“This survey highlights a critical need to bridge the gap between transitioning servicemembers who believe their scars may be seen as a liability and potential employers who might not fully realize the value of the whole of a veteran’s experience,” states Ryan. “Servicemembers are concerned that because of a possible hidden mental health wound they may carry after their service, they may be viewed as a liability rather than an asset to a potential employer. We are all the sum of our own life experiences. As a veteran, I may very well cope with PTSD or any number of other challenges, but I’m also very skilled at leading people, working on a team, solving complex problems, and meeting deadlines. Understanding how to allow the mental space for the transition to civilian life and work, as well as how to leverage their military experience, is critical to finding that new mission.”

Survey respondents had a strong interest in finding a veteran-friendly employer. When evaluating a potential employer after being active duty, respondents identified the most important characteristics as: good health insurance or retirement benefits (58%), advancement opportunities (44%), and veteran-friendly (41%). Additionally, 88% of non-active members desire more education.

University of Phoenix is focused on career preparedness and innovative technology for its adult learners, of which military-affiliated students currently number over 26,800. The University’s Career Services for Life® commitment means that every degree is backed by a full suite of career services, at no added cost, for life. This includes 24/7 access to the PhoenixLinkTM career portal for resume support, career tools, and career relevant information, and one-on-one career coaching.

For a more detailed overview of survey findings, please contact

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between October 14 and November 1, 2021 among 758 military respondents, 376 active military, and 382 non-active military. 

Figures were weighted where necessary by age, sex, race/ethnicity, region, income, education, household size, and marital status to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit