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Determine Your Career Path and Education Goals

career & educational goals military

How to Determine Your Career Path and Education Goals

It isn’t enough to just want to go to school; the time money and effort required demands that you make some hard choices upfront. Unlike a teenager whose parents are footing the bill, you can’t afford to make your education decisions on the fly.

Decision Point #1: Want Do I Want to be When You Grow Up?

This may seem like an odd question for an adult to ask, but it is the question nearly all service members of all paygrades and all ages ask themselves as they prepare for their reintegration into the civilian workforce.

You may not know exactly what job you want to do, but you need to at least settle on a career field before you commit a degree program or school. Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself:

Do I Like The Job I’m Doing Now?

Let me clarify, are you happy with your military occupation? If so, there are ways to tie your current MOS/Rating/AFSC. Most military specialties can be tied to a civilian career field, using an online Military Skills Translator can help you identify civilian careers that require the some or all of your military skills and experiences.

Do I Have A Dream Job In Mind?

As a GI Bill eligible service member or veteran, you have the unique opportunity to hit reset. This gives you the chance to restart and focus on that dream job you always wanted.

What Do I Most Like To Do?

Some of the best advice you ever get is to follow your passion. If have a hobby or activity that makes you happy, you should explore career options that give you a chance to get paid for doing what you enjoy most.

If you can’t clearly answer these questions, all is not lost, your base Education Services Office or local Department of Veterans Affairs representative can provide counseling and assessments to help you determine the career path that best suits you. In addition, you have access to several online resources to help you make sound career and education decisions, here are the four we recommend:

  • DANTES Career Assessment Tools – The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Services (DANTES) offer an online resource to help you plan for the future. Learn about your interests, skills and work values and use those results to build a personal career plan, explore occupational information and plan for your future success.
  • Career Scope – This Department of Veterans Affairs career resource helps veterans determine the best career path for their transition to civilian life.
  • Military Skills Translator – The Military.com skills translator will show you a list of current job openings based on your military occupation. This list often produces career suggestions you may not have ever considered before.
  • How to Decide About School – Making the decision to go to school isn’t always easy and there are some things you do have to think about before you decide what to do.

Decision Point #2: Do I Need A Degree, Certification, or Licensure?

Depending on the answers to the previous questions, you may find that pursuing a degree right now may not be right for you. However, you will find that although a degree isn’t needed to get started on your civilian career, a degree will improve your employment opportunities, your entry level, and increase your annual salary. In some cases you will find that you need a combination of a college degree, certification, and licensure to get the best opportunities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is the government’s premier source of career guidance featuring hundreds of occupations. This tool can help you learn more about a given career choice including salary, education requirements, and job descriptions. It can also help you determine which degree’s best align with your career goals.

Decision Point #3: What Is My Education Goal?

Like the first decision point, you will need to set your career and education goals and develop an action plan. Setting your goals before moving on to the next item on you checklist will ensure you don’t wander off course. Once you have decided on you career path, it will be important to set SMART goals and develop your personal action plan. Learn more about smart goals and action planning.

Here are some additional resources to help you set your career on the right path:

Once you have determined your career path and education goals; you will need to complete the next checklist item and learn more about your benefits. Becoming an expert on your own education benefits before you choose a school will ensure you avoid delays, out-of-pocket expenses.




Civilian Jobs After the Military For:



About the author

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Terry Howell is a retired Coast Guard veteran, where he served for 20 years.

He is currently the Executive Director for Veterans' Legacies, a non-profit that works to preserve veterans personal stories to help educate our youth.

Terry is also the author of The Military Advantage, an annually updated guide to military and veteran benefits.