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Hands-On Job Experience For Student Veterans

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6 Ways for Veterans to Get Hands-on Job Experience While Still in School

You’ve got lots of book learning, right? You’ve had plenty of lectures, theories, papers and more. But what about hands-on learning, the kind that proves to potential employers that you’re more than just book-smart.

Here are 6 hands-on ways to develop knowledge, skills and experience in your academic field or career interest area.

  • Co-Op
  • Fellowship
  • Internship
  • Job Shadow
  • Volunteer
  • Work-Study

If you are using veteran education benefits, you may be able to receive funding for housing, tuition and books with some of them.


Co-Op is short for Cooperative Education. They are set up between a schools and businesses. Co-Ops allow students to attend school and get paid to work at a company, non-profit or government agency on a long term basis. Most Co-Op programs are between 3 and 12 months long. They can be part or full-time paid jobs.

Some Co-Op programs alternate work periods with your school terms.  Others allow you to study part-time and work part-time. Depending on the program, it is possible to also receive academic credit for the Co-Op experience. Contact your academic advisor or program coordinator for more information on Co-Op programs.

According to the VA, you may be able to get money for housing, tuition and books during a Co-Op. Your benefits advisor will be able to tell you if a program is eligible.


Fellowships have unique characteristics. According to the website, ProFellow, they usually target graduate and post-graduate students. They are designed for professional development or have a focus on academic research. They are tied to special projects or research topics of interest to the organization offering them. The pay structure of most fellowships is stipend based, not an hourly wage.

There are many fellowships especially for veterans. Fellowships are available in fields such as medicine, security and communications.  They are offered by service support organizations like the  VFW, non-profits, corporations and even the federal government.

You can find fellowships with an internet search and talking to your academic advisor.

RELATED: New Virtual Paid Fellowship


An internship is a paid or unpaid short term, temporary position with a business or organization that gives experience in a career field or job. Every industry has internship options. There are internships with corporations, non-profits, all levels of government, and businesses of all sizes.

You may be able to receive VA education benefits for housing, tuition and books during an internship. It will depend on if you are attending an accredited school, already using VA education benefits and whether the internship is required by your educational program.

Contact your academic advisor or training program coordinator and your VA benefits office for more information.


Job Shadow

A job shadow is spending a day or two with someone actually doing the job you are interested in.

Doing a few job shadows may be the most important thing you can do before committing to a school or training program. The discoveries you make can save you time and money.  They can also open the door to internship and employment opportunities later.

You can set up job shadows by asking folks in your network or contacting veteran friendly companies you are interested in.


Volunteering doesn’t just give you hands-on learning in a field you are interested in.

You may not be actively job hunting yet, but if you are…a study from the Corporation for National and Community Service found that people who volunteer are 27% more likely to get a job.

It turns out, volunteers “demonstrate higher levels of capacity, potentially making the volunteer more attractive to and productive for employers.”

You can find volunteer opportunities with an internet search, by asking folks in your network and contacting veteran friendly companies and non-profits.


A work-study program gives students a part-time job to help pay for school or training expenses. Jobs are available in many career areas. In addition to the financial need based federal work-study program, the VA has a work-study program. There are 4 requirements. You must be:

  • Enrolled at least three-quarter time in a college degree, vocational, or professional program
  • Have found an open job either at a nearby VA facility or in a VA-related role at your school
  • Able to finish the work-study contract while you still qualify for education benefits
  • Using an approved VA education benefits program to pay for your education or training

You can do any of these 6 hands-on programs while enrolled in a school or training program. Check with your academic advisor or training program coordinator to see what options you have. Don’t miss a great opportunity to get industry specific, hands-on experience that sets you up for career success.