Service Members: Choose a Career That's Right for You

Few decisions in life are more defining than the career path you choose to follow. What you decide to do for a profession can have far reaching consequences for you and loved ones. Fortunately, your military experience can set you up well for a wide range of very appealing careers. Here are questions to consider as you weigh your options.

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By Douglas Fehlen

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1. Do you want to stay in the military? Before you make any decisions about a civilian career path, it's important to be 100% sure that you want to leave the military. That action comes with some consequences that you want to be sure you're ready for. Also consider timing. For instance, you may decide to separate only after you've completed an education program or your spouse has been able to secure a job.

2. Can you leverage your military experience? No doubt your time in the military has endowed you with some excellent skills that will translate well into the world of work. Not sure how your military experience might translate into civilian careers? Check out the Military.com skills translator. Don't neglect to account for intangibles such as leadership experience that may not necessarily be quantifiable in a skill translator.

3. What else are you good at? While you've had the opportunity to build a wide variety of skills in the military, you likely have other aptitudes that were underused in the armed forces. Give careful consideration of these areas of talent or expertise as you consider careers. Think back to school and other times from your past that others commented on extraordinary abilities you showed.

4. What do you care about? Having a job is about much more than just collecting a paycheck, though that's obviously important. If you're going to be doing something at least 40 hours a week, it's definitely a plus to be interested in it. Perhaps you want to work with computers, serve the social good or achieve some other objective with your work. Pick a career that allows you to reach such goals.

5. Do you have a family? At a time when virtually all companies, nonprofits and government agencies are understaffed and running lean, the entire workforce seems to be putting in extra hours to complete what needs to be done. In some industries, though, it's especially difficult to strike a work-family balance. You might want to weigh potential career fields while keeping family responsibilities in mind.

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6. Where do you want to live? Many jobs are typically found in either urban or rural areas with little opportunity for crossover. This is something to consider as you weigh career choices. Additionally, some industries thrive in particular regions and are absent from others. Depending upon how important living in a particular place to you is, you might want took closely at this issue.

7. How much do you need to make? This is always an important question of course, regardless of family circumstances and the region you're working in. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary.com are good places to get preliminary information on expected pay within professions. Note that take-home pay in the private sector can vary from military percentages. Check out the G.I. Jobs military to civilian pay calculator for a comparison.

8. What kind of lifestyle do you want? The answer to this question will affect the pay considerations mentioned above, but it should also inform the kind of work you prepare to do. For instance, if you want the 9 to 5 lifestyle with a house in the suburbs, you might consider a wide variety of office jobs. If you're up for a little more adventure and seeing the world, a job in the travel industry or foreign service could be good.

9. What education are you willing to commit to? Obviously, most careers require that you complete special schooling in order to be an attractive candidate for upper-level positions. It's important to be aware of higher ed requirements before choosing a certain career. This questions is also important to weigh as you consider applying any G.I. Benefits you might be eligible for.

10. Where are the jobs? Last, but clearly not least, having a good understanding of the job market is a crucial aspect of choosing a profession. Some areas that are experiencing growth include environmental management, computer networking/engineering, healthcare, human resources and education. Also consider some industries in which your military experience might potentially put you ahead of the other candidates. Some popular industries for military veterans include law enforcement, government, aerospace and security.

Learn about G.I. Jobs' Top 100 Military Friendly Schools, a guide to the postsecondary institutions that are best at meeting the needs of veteran students.

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