This guide will cover how military veterans can prepare for, find, and be successful in private sector technology jobs.
We use technology to connect with family and friends, stay up to date on what’s happening, or just pass the time. With our smartphones, tablets, computers, and other high-tech devices we use continually, we need the skills of technology professionals more than ever.
After years of serving their country, deciding to leave active duty military service can be difficult. The challenges in exchanging a military career for a civilian one can be overwhelming for all military members.
There are so many questions that it’s hard to know where to begin. This guide is designed to provide valuable suggestions for anyone transitioning to civilian life, especially those interested in a career in technology.
Fortunately for veterans separating from active duty today, the training and experience provided by a modern fighting force are highly digital and technologically advanced. There is a need for workers with these skills in the civilian workforce.
Many enlisted personnel and NCOs came to the military with little post-secondary school or formal training. Even commissioned officers often start their service with few skills that are transferable to civilian life. In making this life-changing decision, a good place to begin is to consider your options for additional education.
With record-high post-pandemic unemployment across the country, veterans must compete with other skilled workers for good positions at private companies. Luckily, many employers value the discipline and organizational skills taught in the military and favor veterans.
What are Tech Jobs?
A tech company can be defined as any business that creates and is part of an ecosystem built to deliver technology solutions. Tech workers are narrowly defined as anyone that works for a tech company. But the technology field is vast and includes much more than those that work for tech companies. Nearly all companies today rely on technology and need workers with the skills and experience to keep that technology working.
Tech jobs can be anything from corporate IT help desk support to application development to data center and infrastructure design. The digitization of business and the rapid move to the cloud have created tech jobs within every company.
The HackerNoon website posed the question, what is a tech company? Then offered an answer using the examples of Uber, Netflix, and Airbnb.
Is Uber a tech company or a taxi company?
Is Netflix a tech company or a movie company?
Is Airbnb a tech company or a hospitality company?
HackerNoon concludes that these are tech companies since their services primarily depend on tech to function.
These questions are even more critical for veterans looking for tech jobs. They serve to illustrate that all kinds of businesses need tech workers; taxi companies, movie companies, and hospitality companies all depend on tech-skills workers. If you look at a modern agriculture company or sit in a new high-end tractor, you’ll realize that what used to be the most manual and non-tech industries are now highly dependent on technology.
US News and World Report offer their Best Technology Jobs of 2022. Each of these 11 technology jobs is high-paying and boast low unemployment rates.
- Information Security Analyst
- Software Developer
- Data Scientist
- IT Manager
- Computer Systems Analyst
- Web Developer
- Database Administrator
- Computer Network Architect
- Computer Systems Administrator
- Computer Support Specialist
- Computer Programmer
Explore additional tech-related careers, including educational opportunities and potential future earnings with these complete career guides. Tech bootcamps and tech certifications are also great career transition helpers.
Veterans and Technology Roles in the Private Sector
Today’s military forces develop and deploy some of the most technologically advanced digital systems in the world. Many military positions require a deep working knowledge of computers, digital information networks, communications systems, cryptography, and information security.
The top tech jobs in the US Army for enlisted and reserve personnel train soldiers to work with advanced networks and high-tech equipment. Some of these roles include:
- Network Switching Systems Operator-Maintainer
- Nodal Network Systems Operator-Maintainer
- Signals Collection Analyst
- Computer/Detection Systems Repairer
- Geospatial Intelligence Imagery Analyst
Each branch of the military could boast a similar list of high-tech jobs.
The Army’s website, GoArmy.com, lists job titles and an overview of current positions available within the Army. Those that are in the information technology field can be viewed here. Specific jobs that are directly suited to technology fields and would thus provide an excellent springboard for a veteran’s private sector career include:
- Information Technology Specialist
- Electronic Warfare Specialist
- Signals Intelligence Analysts
- Public Affairs Mass Communications Specialist
- Microwave Systems Operator
Veterans that have military experience in these and many other jobs are well suited and highly sought after as candidates in the private sector.
Working in Government Agency Jobs as a Private Citizen
Private sector jobs are usually more lucrative than working for defense-related government organizations. Even so, there are benefits to moving from active duty to a public sector agency, and tech-savvy veterans should not overlook these opportunities.
Many rewarding career possibilities provide veterans the option of continuing to help defend their country against external threats. Vets with a security clearance are especially attractive to agency hiring managers. Nearly all US government three-letter agencies have critical needs for technology personnel with high-security clearances.
Technology personnel with experience in, or a desire to learn about, cybersecurity, have even more opportunities for private sector and defense agency jobs.
Making the Transition from Boots to Books
The transition from military service to civilian life presents many challenges for veterans trying to fit in. For those choosing to further their education, there are the additional stresses of the unique atmosphere and demands of higher education. It’s easy to see how veterans could feel overwhelmed and unprepared to jump from the regimens of military life directly to college.
Most enlisted personnel joined the armed forces with a high school diploma, so college is an entirely foreign experience when they leave. However, there are resources available to help vets prepare and make the most out of their opportunity to go to college.
There is help for veterans making the transition from military service to college. Nonprofit organizations such as Boots to Books help veterans find the best education and employment options available. For vets with a service-connected disability, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers career and education guidance services.
Working to improve study skills for any veteran heading to college is an excellent idea. Nearly every college or university offers a study skills course for beginning students. These classes are invaluable for transitioning veterans. The Student’s Guide to Improving Study Skills, provided by the Community for Accredited Online Schools, offers a primer for all students, not just veterans.
Campus Support for Veterans
All sorts of organizations have adopted the term “military-friendly” to declare the preferential treatment they offer veterans. While not every car dealership that claims to provide a discount for vets really does so, the phenomenon of giving deferential treatment has nevertheless greatly enhanced the opportunities of today’s service and prior-service members.
Many institutions go to great lengths to help veterans become well-adjusted, successful members of society after their military tours. Many universities have developed programs to help veterans acclimate to their new life. Many of these programs offer financial assistance, and most make various services available to help veterans adjust to campus life.
It would be good for veterans to learn what non-financial assistance is available when shopping for colleges. Examples include:
- Course credits for select military training or occupations.
- Free textbooks and supplies.
- Veteran-specific point of contact or advisors – counselors dedicated to assisting veterans with difficulties adapting to college life.
- Non-dormitory living accommodations, sometimes specifically for military veterans.
- Veteran support groups.
- Community support groups.
Financial Assistance for Career Training and Education
Finances are typically a significant obstacle for veterans to overcome to start a new life and career in the private sector. The military isn’t known for its generous wages, making it difficult to amass a nest egg while serving one’s country. Fortunately, there are multiple sources of funding to aid veterans seeking training and education to start a new career.
The most important source of financial help may be Veterans Administration (VA) funding via the GI Bill. GI Bill benefits will depend mainly on time in service and how much of that time came after 9-11. It also depends upon whether your chosen educational institution is on the approved list of schools.
To help navigate these different options, the VA provides an online tool called the GI Bill Comparison Tool. This tool is designed to determine a veteran’s eligibility for benefits based on several data points. The VA also provides a PDF guide that details how veterans should proceed with choosing the best school for their situation.
The schools approved by the VA determine the percentage of a veteran’s tuition and housing they will waive. It can be up to 50 percent, and the VA matches that amount. Ideally, the combination of the two will cover all college tuition and housing needs.
Some schools, however, waive less than half, leaving veterans to pay for the remainder with scholarships, other financial aid, or from their savings.
There are many financial aid programs dedicated to military personnel and veterans. When the GI Bill fails to provide adequate financial assistance, there are many other potential sources of aid before student loans become necessary.
The CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) offers a guide to help students navigate all of the possible financial assistance sources, including student loans and comparing financial aid offers. Several high-tech companies, including Cisco, Raytheon, Google, and Microsoft, provide students with scholarship funds.
Several websites are dedicated to helping students search for available scholarships that may apply to their needs. These sites include:
Training and Educational Opportunities Available to Veterans
Once you have decided to leave the military, you must determine which civilian job best suits your skills, experience, and personality. Military.com provides an online tool to help transitioning veterans determine how their specific military experience translates into civilian employment opportunities.
Jobs that veterans, who have separated from the military after serving in high-tech roles, should consider include the following:
- Data processing
- Network Support
- Computer programming
- Medical Research
- Commercial Airlines
- Satellite Communications
After choosing a career, it’s time to decide what additional training and education you will need before beginning your job search. The veteran training and education resources are extensive and often free or deeply discounted.
Remote learning and online schools can be a good choice for military personnel and veterans. They offer the flexibility to work around demanding lives that can otherwise make it difficult to attend traditional colleges.
This is especially true for “asynchronous” classes. Synchronous courses occur at a predetermined time, meaning the student must adhere to the schedule the same way a student attending an actual campus does.
Asynchronous classes could be the ideal solution for working adults to further their education. They allow students to log in and complete classes and coursework on their schedules. This delivery method provides 24/7 access to discussion boards, emails, multimedia presentations, and podcasts.
Military Times magazine compiles a list of Best for Vets Colleges for advanced schooling. When filtering by four-year colleges that provide career and technical education, the top results are:
- ECPI University
- Fayetteville State University
- Goodwin University
- SUNY Canton
- Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology
From the Military to Technology
While the transition from military life to a civilian career can be challenging, the good news is that there are many opportunities geared explicitly towards veterans interested in technology fields. The education, skills, and experience acquired while serving in today’s high-tech military are highly demanded.
Additional education may be necessary to bring your military experience more in line with civilian business needs.
From scholarships to mentoring and program placement to career recruiting, yesterday’s soldiers will find a world of opportunities to build today’s digital infrastructure and help businesses of every kind along their digital transformation journey.