Running Head: CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR MILITARY VETERANS
Career Development for Military Veterans
Career Development in HRD
Shirley Maria Marin
Texas A&M University
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Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce can be challenging for veterans.
Many of them struggle to adapt to their new lifestyle, while simultaneously searching for a
civilian career that adequately meets their needs and interests. Most veterans also require
considerable assistance in composing resumes, refreshing their interviewing skills, and learning
how to job-search using modern tools and techniques. Thus, this research aims to uncover career
counseling programs and services that are currently available to today’s separating military. The
findings of this research indicate that there are a number of resources available to aid veterans in
their career development. These programs are grounded on credible career counseling theories
and have proven to be effective in helping veterans advance in their non-military careers. The
programs, services, and resources discussed in this study are useful to helping military veterans
assimilate into the civilian workforce.
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Purpose of the Research
The purpose of this research is to examine existing career development programs and
career counseling services for military veterans. In addition to exploring available resources, this
study aims to uncover the effects of prior military service on veterans seeking employment
outside of the military. Finally, this research study will expand on the advantages and
disadvantages associated with dual career opportunities. These research questions will be
answered as they pertain to the following three types of veterans:
1. Retired Veterans
2. Medically Discharged Veterans
3. Non-Career Veterans
The findings of this study will benefit soldiers who are preparing to separate from the military, as
well veterans who have already separated and are struggling to transition between the military
and civilian workforce.
According to Sergeant Andrew Haagan, a military recruiter for high school students in
the St. Louis Area, 70 percent of military recruits enlist right out of high school (CHS Globe,
2010). The current state of our economy is only further increasing this percentage because
students are desperately searching for job security. The military offers the job security and
benefits that these students yearn. Thus, upon graduation many of them join the military and
remain members of the Armed Forces for a minimum of eight years under military contract
(Military Advantage, 2012). As a result, when these soldiers are ready to separate from the
military, they often encounter difficulties transitioning between the two life styles; particularly,
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in the area of career development. Having been service members for so long, they tend to lack
educational experience, as well as résumé -building, job searching, and interviewing skills.
"Switching from a military to a civilian career is a big step and it can be extremely difficult"
(Regis University, 2012); thus most veterans require professional assistance to complete the
Another group of veterans that often requires professional help separating from the
military are retired veterans. While service contracts are eight years minimal, some soldiers find
it worthwhile to make a career out of the military by completing 20 years in their branch of
service. Unlike soldiers who choose to leave the service after their contracts expire, soldiers who
make a career out of the military have increased opportunities to pursue higher education while
in the service. Programs like the Armed Forces Tuition Assistance Program offer up to $4,500 a
year for tuition and fees, and some branches offer full ride scholarships in return for contract
extensions (Military Advantage, 2012).
In addition, many of these soldiers retire very young, some even as early as 38 years old.
Nonetheless, while these soldiers have the advantage of retiring at an early age, many of them
have to continue working after their military retirement in order to meet their financial needs.
Therefore, much like soldiers who separate from the military without retiring, they too need
professional assistance in entering and succeeding in the civilian workforce. Another issue that
retired veterans face is lack of work experience in their field of study. While the military
facilitates the opportunity to obtain higher education, rarely does a soldier's degree have
considerable relevance to their actual job in the military (Military Advantage, 2012). Therefore,
when they separate from the military, even though they have a degree, they lack practice or
experience in the field.
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Lastly, some soldiers are forced to separate from the military due to medical discharges.
Wounded war veterans face difficulty in their career development after separating from the
Armed Forces, but often require a different degree of professional assistance than other veterans.
While career counseling is an integral part of the assimilation process (NCDA, 2007), disabled
veterans often struggle with more than just adapting to a different career path. They
simultaneously struggle to recover from physical injuries, anxiety disorders, depression, post
traumatic stress disorder, and other disabling conditions. Because career counselors play a
significant role in the rehabilitation of disabled veterans, the National Career Development
Association (NCDA) encourages career counselors to remain mindful of and incorporate
interventions that address the barriers to employment this population faces.
While the transition between the military to the civilian sector can vary depending on the
individual case of veterans, regardless of their reason for separating from the military they all
share the common need to obtain professional assistance and guidance in career development.
Whether they need help in pursing higher education, finding opportunities for field practice, or
coping with disabilities while also trying to enter the civilian workforce, all veterans require the
help of career counselors to obtain the "proper tools ... to ensure their ability to independently
reach their career and employment goals" (NCDA, 2007).
Research shows that there are countless of career development programs and career
counseling services offered to military veterans. Some are sponsored by the Armed Forces,
others by the Directorate of Veteran Affairs, and some are offered by non-military organizations
that have a genuine interest in helping former service members integrate into the civilian
workforce. In addition to programs, veterans are also offered resources that afford them the
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opportunity further their education. By obtaining a degree or brushing up on former skills and
knowledge, veterans are better able to progress in their careers after separating from the military.
Americans take pride in serving their country and find a sense of honor in their military
service. Spencer (2011) reinforces this notion stating, "The soldiers in our military are proud of
this nation, its principles, and most of all its unwavering commitment to freedom" (p.2). It is
important for these service men and women to continue to find self-worth in their careers even
after separating form the military. Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2009) address the link between
work and worth in their textbook Career Development in the 21st Century. They argue that a
person's career shapes their outlook on life and greatly influences the way they perceive
themselves. For many individuals work is a reflection of who they are and what they stand for,
thus people's self esteem can quickly unravel if their work situations go awry (Herr, Cramer, &
Niles, 2004). Furthermore, Feller and Whichard (2005) postulate that people live and work in
search for significance. That is, people often find purpose and motivation in their careers.
Because there is such a strong correlation between a person's career and self-worth, career
development programs and services have been established to help America's heroes continue to
feel like their contributions to society remain meaningful and appreciated.
Existing Programs and Services
Some of the most prominent career development programs available to military veterans
include, but are