4 Smart Degrees Veterans Should Consider

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About 200,000 service members transition to civilian life each year, and many service members are choosing to use their Post 9/11 GI Bill to enter college and pursue higher education. The Post 9/11 GI bill includes payment of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, and a stipend for textbooks and supplies for up to 36 months, depending on your level of eligibility. Propelled by this incredible benefit, 773,000 veterans and their family members enter college or trade school each year.

A college degree is a smart choice for veterans because it furthers opportunities in the workplace and increases earning potential. A recent study by Smart Asset using the Bureau of Labors Statistics (BLS) data shows that workers who hold a bachelor's degree make, on average, $24,000 more than their counterparts with a high school diploma. Over the course of a career, this gap only widens. After a forty-year span, workers with degrees generally earn 66% more than those who don't.

Of course, the area you choose to study has a significant impact on your potential earnings as well. If you're one of the two million veterans eligible for free college education, choosing your major is an important decision. Fortunately, many universities have staff dedicated to making the process of going back to school as painless as possible.

These experts, often veterans themselves, can help you think about your strengths and interests, as well as which degree program can help you accomplish your life and career goals. In a perfect world, your path of study will meet all these criteria. There are, however, some careers that may be a natural fit for veterans given their training and experience.

Here are four degrees to consider.

1. Computer Science/Information Technology

In recent years, the military has become more technically advanced with many service members working in fields of computer networking, cybersecurity, and web development. Add that to the increased demand for IT professionals, and you may conclude a degree in computer science or information technology is the right choice for you.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for software developers will grow by 17% by 2024. Currently, there's a shortage of qualified IT professionals, which helps keep salaries and company perks competitive. Because technology permeates all aspects of life, you can choose to work for a company in an industry you are passionate about.

If you enjoy varied opportunities for learning, working with new tools, and developing innovative solutions for better business and the future, consider a tech career. Some schools like Western Governors University offer IT degrees that include certification prep and exams in the coursework, saving you money and time.

2. Business

Why are veterans so well-suited for careers in business? The answer, simply put, is military culture. Every veteran has received leadership training, and most have had these skills tested. All have learned how to work under leadership, both good and bad. The leadership qualities taught and esteemed in the military (clear communication, goal development, plan execution, evaluation of successes and losses) are the same as those exemplified in influential business leaders.

Perhaps the one thing veterans miss the most in the civilian world is the teamwork taught in the military. In the Army, soldiers are trained to serve and protect, working toward a common goal regardless of background or role. They know that every member of the team is essential and crucial to the success of the group. These teambuilding skills translate very well into business careers.

Marines are taught to "adapt and overcome," recognizing that in battle, one must be able to improvise to overcome obstacles to succeed. They call it "the fighting spirit" that drives them to accept nothing less than victory. Such tenacity is well-suited for the business world, as business leaders must be prepared to tackle challenges and make tough decisions to ensure success.

Persevering in the face of adversity, veterans understand the importance of teamwork, adaptability, and tenacity to succeed. If combining your military skills with some course work in finance, marketing, and business principles sounds interesting to you, consider a business degree.

3. Nursing

Those who have served their country often have a desire to pursue a civilian career that is meaningful and contributes to the greater good. With the nursing shortage expected to reach over 260,000 by 2025, those who have a background in the military's medical corps may well discover that pursuing a career in nursing is a wise decision.

A nursing career can offer the potential for career growth. By expanding your education and pursuing an advanced degree, nurses can become educators, managers, and practitioners, leading to more lucrative salaries. Speaking of money, Nurses get paid well, with LPNs averaging about $45,000 and registered nurses earning a median pay of $70,000.

Few jobs have the flexibility that nursing offers. Because nurses are essential, you can pretty much work when you want and where you want. Do you want to work full time or part-time? Do you want to take a year off and return to work? With a career in nursing, all these options are possible.

Career satisfaction is high too. About 83% of nurses feel satisfied with their choice of nursing as a career, according to AMN Healthcare. Additionally, two-thirds of those surveyed said they would encourage others to pursue a career in nursing. For those who like variety, nursing offers the opportunity to choose a specialty such as pediatrics, geriatrics, labor and delivery, and end-of-life care.

Nursing degrees can vary from two-year to four-year programs, but most lead to state boards and certifications as a registered nurse. Those who have a bachelor's degree have many additional opportunities in case management, hospice, and infection prevention.

4. Teaching

Leadership, integrity, and commitment. Recognize a theme here? America's best teachers and American veterans have these character qualities in common. For those who want to serve their country again in a second career, the classroom may offer a rewarding experience.

By becoming a teacher, you can make a difference in the lives of those you teach. Most of us can recall a teacher who left an indelible impression on our minds by showing us they truly cared about us and had a genuine love for their subject. They inspired us to learn, to try harder, to go further.

Some veterans crave a challenge, and a career teaching young people will certainly provide it. When you work with young people, no two days are alike. "After 15 years of teaching, I have experienced everything-elation, frustration, fury, terror, amusement, astonishment-but never boredom. The job is never the same from day to day, from hour to hour," says Dr. David Nurenberg, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Associate Professor, Middle School and High School Programs.

There will always be a demand for teachers. While some careers have been replaced by technology, instructors will still be necessary. By pursuing a degree in education and distinguishing yourself as an exemplary teacher, you can secure yourself a lifetime of employment. Interested in an upward career trajectory? Additional coursework can lead you to become an administrator, counselor, or county supervisor.

Teaching is a highly transferable skill. With the proper certification, you can work almost anywhere in the world. If you're looking for an adventure and an opportunity to change the future, consider a career in education.

A Final Thought

Whatever major you choose, your military service has equipped you with discipline, organizational skills, management ability, and attentiveness to detail. These abilities will serve you well and give you an edge as you face the social and academic challenges of college life.

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