It's an unfortunate misconception that many of the young men and women who join the U.S. Army or another branch of the armed forces do so because they have no other opportunities. Many believe the Army is the option people take when their career path hits a dead-end, or there's no money for college. But have you ever considered that joining the Army might actually open doors and help improve someone's career?
Similarly, if you've already made up your mind to join the Army, have you asked yourself what you'll do when you are discharged? Will you re-enlist or use your experience to get a job in the civilian world? As you think about your possible job opportunities and how they will compare to your military salary and benefits, you need to also consider how your Army experience will impact your career when you leave.
The Army accepts men and women between the ages of 17 and 35 for a variety of jobs [source: GoArmy.com]. If you're in good health and physical condition, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, and have no plans to go to college, the Army is an excellent option for you. However, if you've just graduated college or completed your masters degree or higher, the Army might be just what you're looking for, as well.
Joining the Army will provide valuable experience and training unavailable to many in the civilian workforce -- and the training is free. This kind of invaluable education could make you more desirable to civilian employers once you're discharged. We'll explore the benefits of Army experience further on the next page.
Benefits of Army Training and Experience
Once you've enlisted and chosen a career path (or, as often is the case, had a career path chosen for you), the Army will send you to Basic Combat Training. While this specific training may not be relevant to your civilian career (unless you decide to become a personal trainer), you'll have the opportunity to learn important people skills that build character. Discipline, time management, teamwork, perseverance and leadership -- these are all valuable skills that are taught during basic training. And a successful Army career could be looked at by a potential employer as proof that you're adept in all of these areas.
After basic training, you will be provided with Advanced Individual Training specific to your job that includes hands-on education and field instruction [source: GoArmy.com]. Any training that is specific to your Army job can be beneficial to your future career, especially since it occurs in such a team-oriented environment.
Throughout your Army career, you'll likely be offered additional opportunities for training and education relevant to your specific job, which could include anything from seminars on leadership to college courses at an accredited university. These are all valuable additions to a civilian resume.
Beyond training and education, the experiences you'll gain from being in the Army are important to any job. Teamwork and management skills are an integral part of the cohort dynamic in the Army. Even if you're not given the opportunity to lead your fellow soldiers, you will gain important knowledge about becoming a leader as you are lead by powerful, educated officers.
The Army understands that not everyone wants to be a career soldier. That's why it lists related civilian jobs alongside every Army job posting. It recognizes there are valuable skills taught in every Army position that will be relevant to many other civilian opportunities. The Army wants interested recruits to know how the skills they will learn will transfer over into civilian jobs once their commitments are up. We'll discuss what civilian careers are easy transitions from the Army next.
Career Paths in Civilian World
An obvious transition from any military career is to a job within the government. Just as there are multiple branches of the military, there are many branches of the government, so you can find the one that fits best with your talents and interests. Something that makes ex-military particularly appealing to government employers is the possibility that you've already been granted a security clearance, as it's mandatory for many government positions. If you've already gone through the process and been cleared, you're more appealing than someone without top secret clearance applying for the same position, because the government won't have to spend the time and money to clear you.
Another logical fit is a career with the police, fire rescue or other security force. Positions like these will make use of your basic combat training received through the Army. Your experience performing as a cohort, reporting to a higher ranking officer and performing under extremely pressure-filled situations will make you a shoo-in for any of these public service positions.
Government and public service jobs aside, you'd probably be surprised to learn the vast variety of jobs the Army offers. Common positions are in medicine, mechanical and electrical engineering, communications and surveillance, and aviation and transportation. But did you know you could join the Army as a photographer? Or receive Army training for graphic design? You can also gain specialized knowledge in information technology or even construction [source: GoArmy.com]. Of course, being assigned to a specialized field like one of these is not a guarantee. Speak with your recruiter about your interest and demonstrated skills or potential in the field of study to fully understand how likely you are to be placed in one of these types of jobs.
Finally, regardless of your specific training, the Army teaches you valuable people and project management skills that can make you successful in any civilian position. You just have to know how to work your resume to show them off. Remember that someone who has never served in the military will not understand what Basic Combat Training is. Explain on your resume, and further in person, what you learned through your Basic Combat Training and how it is specifically relevant to the position you're applying for.
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- "Compensation." GoArmy.com. (April 7, 2011)http://www.goarmy.com/benefits/total-compensation.html
- Dillon, C. Hall. "Military Training for Civilian Careers." Bureau of Labor Statistics. (April 17, 2011)http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2007/spring/art02.pdf
- Dyer, Phil. "Military vs. Civilian Pay." MilSPOUSE.com. 2009. (April 2011)http://www.milspouse.com/military-vs-civilian-pay.aspx
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