It's no secret that veterans have a hard time finding work after stepping out of the military world and into a civilian environment.
Arguably, one of the best routes veterans can go in their careers, is into the healthcare field. Vets have all the necessary skills for hospital jobs, and, if they use their time wisely while enlisted and get the proper credentials, they could land a great healthcare job after entering back into the civilian world.
In 2013 the White House Joining Forces initiative was established to help recruit and hire veterans, with the proper Advanced Medical Occupation credentials, into healthcare jobs. The government and hospitals realized that enlisted men and women had all the necessary training and ethos to be great healthcare professionals in the civilian world. They realized that their strategic problem solving skills and ability to work under extreme pressure was perfect for hospital jobs and began to cut a path for smooth entry into healthcare jobs and advanced positions for the ones that had prior experience and training.
Schooling is an important aspect of landing these Advanced Medical Occupation jobs, so, if you are still enlisted or are recently out of the military, you should consider targeting your schooling towards the best healthcare jobs for vets.
LPNs must complete an accredited Licensed Practical or Vocational Nursing Program and pass the NCLEX-PN to obtain their State License and start working in the field. A great thing about earning this credential while enlisted, is the hands-on-training and exposure to challenging environments and tasks that will get you well prepared for civilian working conditions.
While enlisted you can take your military training and apply it to your duties in the medical environment to complete your mission and save lives. Also, the program only takes about 18 months, which isn't much time compared to your military commitment. And when you get the credential, you can start making more money, even while in the military.
The team-working and leadership skills the military teaches is super beneficial as you work as part of a medical team and are usually under the supervision of a Registered Nurse, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, or a Physician. You will be an integral part of the environment and use your skills of adaptability, problem solving, and stress management to overcome obstacles and ensure proper treatment for patients.
Also, LPNs are in high demand (~800,000 jobs) and have one of the best job-growth outlooks for the future (around 25% over the next 10 years), which positions you in a highly secure job if you obtain this credential. They start out making about $42k a year, which isn't bad for only having to go to school for 18 months.
RNs are in super high demand and have one of the best job growth-outlooks in the field (19%). A RN position is perfect for military men and women because of the leadership abilities it affords and the potential to travel. Travel Nursing is one of the best medical jobs and starts out at $75,000 a year. If you didn't get enough travel during your stint in the military, you can go from town-to-town helping people with a RN degree.
Another reason becoming a RN is a great option, is because you become an expert in emergency service delivery in under-resourced environments-- if you get your experience in the military-- which can be translated super well in the civilian world, as you can go to disaster and crisis areas and make a huge impact.
If you are done traveling and want to settle down, you can become a more permanent fixture in your local hospital where you can make $65,000+ a year. Your military training in leadership and strategy can help you move to the top of the ranks in the field and hold more leadership roles.
Becoming an RN takes more time than becoming a LPN, and usually requires a Bachelor's for better advancement and career opportunities. But you can receive your Associate Degree and jump into the field in more entry-level jobs--although your experience in the military can give you more skills that lead to more advancement opportunities. You must pass the NCLEX-RN and be licensed by state to be considered for RN roles.
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner is a more complex path and takes more schooling, but the job really pays off. Not only do Nurse Practitioner's make great money (~$97,000/yr), they also have a great projected job-growth of 31%. To be an NP, you must first get your Bachelor's in Nursing and become an RN. If you become a RN with a Bachelor's Degree, you can transition to a NP position a little easier with a BSN-to-MSN (Master's of Science in Nursing) program, where you will specialize in certain areas of your choosing. You could then go on to get your Ph.D., but it's unnecessary unless you plan on going into research, policy making, or teaching.
Being a Nurse Practitioner allows you to prescribe medications and hold leadership positions. If you obtain this credential while in the military it could put you in a great place to land advanced jobs and be towards the top almost immediately when stepping into the civilian world.
The leadership skills the military teaches, along with strategic planning, problem solving, the ability to work under extreme pressures and react in terrible conditions and in crisis situations,will make you extremely valuable in hospital roles and can even land you jobs abroad and in other areas like crisis zones and disaster areas. Becoming a Nurse Practitioner will make you a highly sought after candidate and you would have no troubles finding a job after your military career is over.
If you really want to give back to the men and women that served beside you, becoming a Physical Therapist is a great option. You can help enable wounded warriors to gain independence they might have lost on the battle field, or help others recover from physical injury.
Being a PT allows you to affect many people's lives that have gone through a great tragedy and give a gift that not a lot of people can give-- independence and mobility. You could work with the Wounded Warrior Project to give back to your brothers and sisters that need an extra push to get up and back at making the world a better place.
Becoming a PT is highly competitive, and your military training will give you the upper hand-- from day 1 you've competed in a high-intensity atmosphere with hundreds of other candidates. The hands-on-experience you can get from being in the military will also make you a strong candidate for the school and put you ahead of most others competing.
Most people receive a Bachelor's Degree before applying for PT graduate school, and they major in a pre-medical field or another science-rich major. You must earn your Doctorate of Physical Therapy which take about 3 years on top of your Undergraduate degree (you can usually jump into the doctoral program without a Master's) and become licensed and certified, along with a residency.
The path isn't easy, and it's not short, but you have the skills instilled in you from your military training to accomplish anything-- if you want it bad enough.
If you're not done helping people and improving in the world after you get out of the military, consider choosing a healthcare job where you can impact communities and save lives once more. The skills and ethos instilled by the military, makes you a great candidate to work in the ever-challenging field of medicine. With the right credentials and experience, you should have no problem transitioning into the civilian world with all the ability you need to rise to the top and make a huge impact in the world around you.