Make Wise Education and Career Decisions

April 30, 2012 | Terry Howell

This series of blog entries addresses three BIG issues veterans should be aware of before they start college. 

  1. Military Friendly is not what it is chalked up to be.
  2. Most veterans need some remedial training to prepare academically for college rigor.
  3. Vets need to have a career plan and goals before jumping in to college.

The point of addressing these issues is to equip college bound vets and provide resources and opportunities to help ensure they get the most from their GI Bill and tuition assistance benefits.

Today I will address the need to set goals and choose your education and career path wisely.

Career Path and Degree Selection

Remember your education benefits are designed to help you transition into a new civilian career. In today’s job market the type of degree you earn can make all the difference, especially if you are hoping to land one of the current “Hot Jobs.”

Decisions – Choose a New Career Path or Stay on Current Path?

You have two main career choices: you can stick with a civilian version of your military career field or venture out on a new career path. If you elect the former, you may need help translating your military occupation into a civilian job. Military.com’s online skills translator matches civilian jobs to your military occupation and training.

Choosing a new career path isn’t a bad option, in fact, your military training and experience may qualify you for a wide range of civilian careers you haven’t considered. Many military specialties give servicemembers experience in human resource management, office administration, mechanical and facility maintenance, data entry, and computer software engineering. This means that you might be able to pick and choose the civilian career field that best suits you and your goals.

Career counselors and education service officers using a career assessment tool can help you find the career that matches your skills and interests, which will help make your search more effective. Active duty and Reserve servicemembers can contact their local education service office or career counselor for details. In addition, veterans can get this counseling and employment assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Read more about degree selection.

Setting Goals Planning for Success:

Goal setting is simple. In fact, personal goal setting is no different than mission or objective planning in the military. All you need is a set of clear objectives that are well defined, measurable, realistic and time driven.

You can use a simple process for writing down your goals that will assure they are clearly communicated, well defined, measurable, realistic and time driven. The process for this is called “SMART” goal setting:

  • SPECIFIC
  • MEASUREABLE
  • ACTION ORIENTED
  • REALISTIC
  • TIME-DRIVEN/TIMELY

Read more about goal setting.

Develop a personal action plan:

Step One: Contact your local Education Services, Navy College Office, or VA counselor to make an appointment to discuss the following topics:

  • Tuition Assistance, Top-up and GI Bill eligibility.
  • The process for scheduling taking CLEP Exams. (Active Duty and Reserve)
  • Getting a copy of your Military Training and Education Transcripts. You may also learn how to get college credit for military service online.
  • Command Voluntary Education requirements. (Active Duty and Reserve Only)

Tip: You should request a copy of your military transcript as soon as possible, this will help your education counselor and college admissions office determine your exact education needs.

But remember to confer with an ESO or VA Counselor before making the final decision.

Step Two: Find a school that offers the degree that fits stated goals. Schools offer a wide range of “Majors” or areas of concentration, finding a school that offers the degree you want in addition to accepting CLEP and Military Experience credits is very important.

Be sure you fully understand accreditation and graduation requirements before you enroll.

Step Three: Get organized – Making a commitment to getting a degree will require time management. Schedule your time carefully. This will take effort and tenacity. But remember: your goal is worth it.

Step Four: Start taking the classes needed to fulfill the requirements for the degree.

Tip: Be sure to apply for the GI Bill or TA before you take any classes – The GI Bill can take weeks to process and TA will not cover classes without a prior approval.

Step Five: Schedule CLEP exam dates. Schedule your 5 CLEP exams often enough to keep you on track for your goal, but spaced far enough apart to give you ample study time. One to two month intervals may work best to keep you on target.

Be sure to read more about the importance of accreditation.

About Terry Howell

Before becoming the Managing Editor for Military.com, Terry served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate and aircrewman. In his final role in the Coast Guard, Terry served as a Career Development Advisor, where he provided career, finance, education, and benefits counseling to servicemembers and their families. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, Terry has authored the book, The Military Advantage, managed the content for TurboTap, the DoD's online transition program and VAforVets, the VA's transition assistance website. Terry earned both his Bachelor's and MBA at Corban University using Military Tuition Assistance and his GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost.

Comments

  1. KPSmith says:

    Excellent article, and I would also suggest that any veteran student have their plan in place before they speak to a college recruiter. I would also suggest the veteran have a list of specific questions written down before they speak to the college representative and not accept any double-talk. You have one shot to get this right.

  2. John Michael Calitri says:

    Faith, Hope, Charity(LOVE)
    Dream, Plan, Execute ( Just Do It )
    KEEP IT SIMPLE – BETTER PRODUCT,
    BETTER SERVICE, LESS COST,
    I call it : PRIVATE ENTERPRISE
    OR CAPITALISM. JMC