Educational Background Check
Article Sponsored by: American Military University
Should I supplement my existing education before I separate from the service? That question arises frequently in our military careers. It seems to be of special interest during times of transition. We know that enhancing one’s education, professional or technical training can often increase the odds of a successful career within the military, but can it also improve the odds of a successful military-to-civilian transition? Will it have an impact on a civilian career? Before attempting to answer those questions, let’s do a background check which addresses two issues: your current inventory and your motivation.
• It can improve your prospects of promotion during your military career.
Review the list. Which ones apply to you? Which ones are actually relevant to enhancing your professional or career development? Maybe there are additional ones to consider.
For example, let’s say you want to be an architect. Do you have at least a bachelor’s degree in architecture? If you have the requisite academic qualifications in place, you are all set. If you do not, and if you are focused on and passionate about that field, you really have no choice – go back to school and get those credentials. The same can be said for other specific positions, such as network engineer, emergency medical technician, corporate financial analyst, etc. However, what about a more general classification, such as personnel manager? Does your existing academic profile and professional experience give you access to that field or do you need additional academic credentials to be competitive?
There are additional factors. The cost of that academic “time out” in your career, both direct (tuition, books, lab fees, living expenses, benefits) and indirect (lost income) has to be considered. Are you making selfish decisions or are there dependents to consider? In some cases this will be like starting over – are you willing and/or able to do that at this point in your life?
Some people offset the cost factor by utilizing programs that are sponsored by the military, the federal government, or the private sector. Although tuition assistance and military-funded programs are available, the payback requirements have to be considered. The GI Bill and similar college funds can help. Many private organizations will pay for college courses or technical training and there may or may not be payback requirements.
Although it is impossible to provide a simple answer to the opening question, conventional wisdom does offer this basic rule of thumb. If your current academic inventory and professional experience gives you access to something you want to do, put off any additional academic endeavors for now and go do it. Reevaluate your professional direction after a couple of years and if necessary, make a course adjustment through modification of your academic profile.
On the other hand, if you are highly focused on a specialty for which you are not currently qualified or competitive and you have the financial resources and support systems in place to support you, go back to school and fix the problem.
Caution – Many people spend a lot of time and money to supplement their education and training only to find themselves in jobs for which they were already qualified. Do your homework before you go to class. Identify your goals and motivations. Conduct your academic inventory. Compare the two and see if supplemental education or training is necessary at this point in your professional life.
Tom Wolfe, Career Coach, is a nationally recognized expert in military career transition and a Contributing Editor at Civilian Job News. He served as a surface warfare officer in the Navy and has provided career guidance to military personnel since 1978. Contact him via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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