Extended Transition: 5 Career Change Options
Whether you’re transitioning from military to civilian life or have decided to change career fields, your main goal is to find a stable, good-paying job as quickly as you can. A strategic way to do that is to choose a job in one of the nation’s fastest-growing career fields.
Positions in quickly growing sectors are tough for employers to fill quickly enough to meet demand — which means employee salaries can be quite competitive. In addition, “jobs in some of these fields may draw on skills you gained in the military or a previous career, and that’s helpful if you need to find a new position quickly,” says David Renza, assistant director of military admissions at Post University in Waterbury, Conn., and co-author of “Military Education Benefits for College.”
If you’re not sure about the work you want to do long term, jobs in high-demand fields can also provide great “between careers” work.
“Even if this interim job isn’t perfect, it should help keep the lights on and pay the bills, and be a step toward something better in the future,” says Ward Carroll, editor of Military.com, a news, career, and benefits-oriented website for its military and veteran members. If you’re leaving the service and flexible about where you live, you might even consider relocating to an area with a high percentage of military-friendly employers, Carroll suggests.
“Once you’re working and earning a salary, you can think further about what you’d like to do long term, and possibly afford additional career training,” Renza adds.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (which also provided the salary data), the following five fields are expected to add more jobs through 2020 than most sectors of the economy:
Computer Systems Design and Related Services
Why consider it: Information technology is one of the hottest fields for ex-military folks and career-switchers alike. No matter what their industry, all companies today rely on having up-to-date computer systems.
According to a survey by Harris Interactive and the technology-job networking site Sologig.com (a CareerBuilder company), the IT sector was one of the top hiring sectors in 2011 and 2012. A bonus for ex-military: Your security clearance can be a plus when applying for IT jobs with government subcontractors, since they won’t need to pay for your background checks (which are usually good for five years). Previous experience with network security also can make you highly employable, Carroll says.
- Computer support specialist: Helps IT and other employees troubleshoot computer software and equipment.
Median annual salary: $46,260
- Network and computer system administrator: Manages companies’ overall, day-to-day computer operations.
Median annual salary: $69,160
Education/training required: The level of college education required for support specialist jobs differs by company, but at least some college coursework is generally helpful. You can also easily learn HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language, the basic building block of websites) through books or classes. Network/system administrators usually must have bachelor’s degrees and some related technology experience.
Home Health Care Services
Why consider it: As the U.S. population ages, health care-related jobs will continue to be in the highest demand of all fields through 2020, according to the BLS. Health care delivered to patients at home, rather than in a hospital setting, is particularly needed. “Jobs in this sector are good matches for transitioning workers who have already worked in supporting health-care roles — as medics or corpsmen, for instance,” says Laurence Shatkin, senior product developer for JIST, a career information publisher, and author of “150 Best Jobs for the Military-to-Civilian Transition.”
- Physical or occupational therapist assistant: Works with patients who are injured or recovering from surgery, to improve movement-related and everyday-living skills.
Median annual salary: $49,690 for PT assistants; $51,010 for OT assistants
- Registered nurse: Provides patient care and administers medication; home-care nurses often work with home-health and hospice organizations.
Median annual salary: $64,690
Education/training required: PT and OT assistants require an associate’s degree from an accredited PT or OT assistant program, plus a high school diploma or equivalent. State licensing also may be required. RNs require at least an associate’s degree and must pass a national licensing exam.
Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
Why consider it: The third-fastest-growing career sector (4.7% expected growth from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS) is a broad field, covering everything from legal services to engineering. Many of these careers required advanced degrees. However, if you have certain specialized skills (financial, logistics, project management), Renza says you may find good opportunities in this sector.
- Tax preparer: Assembles tax returns for small businesses or individuals; can be a seasonal or side job along with full-time employment.
Median annual salary: $39,410
- Meeting, convention and event planner: Coordinates all aspects of special events for corporations and nonprofit organizations. Anyone with experience in logistics or planning would be an ideal candidate for this type of position.
Median annual salary: $45,260
Education/training required: Tax preparers take community college classes to prepare for the required Internal Revenue Service competency exam; a high school diploma or GED is preferred. Meeting planners usually require a bachelor’s degree; hospitality or business emphasis preferred.
Veneer, Plywood and Engineered Wood Product Manufacturing
Why consider it: The United States’ vast forest resources are helping to keep the manufacturing of wood-related products in this country rather than overseas, Shatkin says. Most production jobs don’t require lengthy training or education, so they may be good easy-entry positions rather than long-term career choices.
- Woodworking machine setter, operator or tender: Run drill presses, lathes, routers, etc.
Median annual salary: $28,160
- Team assembler: Assemble products in manufacturing plants.
Median annual salary: $28,360
Education/training required: High school diploma or equivalent; on-the-job training often offered.
Individual and Family Services
Why consider it: This field, though it’s fast-growing, may be a tough fit for many former military folks who aren’t accustomed to working in personal-helping jobs, Carroll says. However, a position in these fields can be a stopgap if you need an easy-entry job that doesn’t require a college degree — and if you have strong people skills. These jobs are in high demand throughout the country, though they don’t pay particularly well.
- Social/human services assistant: Helps clients find community benefits or support during tough times. Good match for ex-military folks who worked as benefits counselors.
Median annual salary: $28,200
- Personal care aide: Helps clients in private, group or long-term care homes with grooming, dressing and light housekeeping.
Median annual salary: $20,170
Education/training required: Some employers accept workers with only a high school diploma, but an associate’s degree is an advantage. Personal care aides may go through a few weeks of training and must pass a standardized test.