Whether you are still serving and wearing the uniform of our nation or you are about to make the transition from military service to college, there are several things you should consider when you are looking to start your college career. In this four-part series, we will examine 10 things you should consider before you enroll into a particular college or university. Here are first three steps you should take.
Step 1: Ask yourself, “What do I want to do when I leave the service?”
Now, this might sound like a silly question, however, in my experience, it is one very few service members have considered until it is too late. Taking a chapter from author Stephen Covey and his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I advise service members to “begin with the end in mind.” Essentially, this means to think long term and determine what you want to do for a job or career when you leave the service. Many of us did not really have a say in what we were going to do in the military. Our jobs were based on our ASVAB results and line scores. Also, our recruiters and MEPs guidance counselors or classifiers also had great influence on our jobs in the military. When you leave the service, you now have the opportunity to do what you want to do. So what are you passionate about? Do you want to start a business? Do you want to help others? Do you want to be a teacher or professor? Perhaps there was something you truly enjoyed doing when you were in high school but had to stop due to your military obligation. Regardless of what it is, give it some serious thought. When you have determined what you want to do when you leave the service, you can now focus on creating a pathway to get there, which will lead you to the second step.
Step 2: Determine if you need to boost your credentials or further your education.
OK, so you have figured out what you want to do when you leave the service, great! Now, you need to determine the steps needed to achieve your goal. Here are some questions that may help guide you:
- Will you need a college degree or industry-recognized certifications? If you post-military job or career is in the field of information technology or computer information systems, what certifications are required? For example, do you need to be A+, Security+, and/or Network+ certified? What level of experience do you need? How can you get the experience you need?
- If you need a degree, what type of degree will you ultimately need? If you want to become a teacher in a public school system, you may be able to get by with a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential. Some schools may require you to have a master’s degree. What subject do you want to teach?
- Do you want to go into business for yourself? If this is your path, then you may want to pursue a business degree or a degree in entrepreneurship.
These are just a few questions you should take into consideration at this step in the process. Why? It is a matter of resources. Do you need to use all of your GI Bill Benefits to achieve your goal? How can you leverage your military tuition assistance benefits to maximize your GI Bill benefits? In this step in the process, again, take your time and do your research. There are two useful search tools that will help help you at this point. The first is the College Board’s Big Future tool. Click here to take you to the tool. Big Future’s tool helps you research various careers to recommend college degree levels. The second is sponsored by the U.S Department of Labor, called careeronestop. This useful tool allows you to explore careers and see what credentials or degrees will prepare you for a particular job or career. When you are ready, take the next step.
Step 3: Research schools that offer the education and credentials you need.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2013 there were more than 7,000 post-secondary educational institutions recognized by the Department of Education. Of these, there were 4,599 degree granting (two- or four-year) institutions (NCES, 2015). In this series we will spend some time discussing this step, as it is an important one. For now, knowing the answer to Step 2 will help you narrow your research in this step, so don’t jump the gun. Take your time and do the research.
There is a lot to consider in Step 3, so we will be devoting an entire blog post to this important step. Look for “Career Bootcamp, Part II” next week, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn for the latest Career Catalyst updates.