Starting Your Career

4 Reasons To Think About A Skilled Trade After Military Service

Richard Stockton
Sr. Writer

Posted 10/15/2019

If you've just wrapped up a term in the military, or even if you're just starting out but thinking about what comes after, it's easy to get nervous about your employment prospects in the civilian market. Veterans transitioning home from service, especially an active duty deployment overseas, can actually lose sleep over their fears about finding a job. This is even harder to cope with if you're responsible for a family, as the sure-thing military paycheck gives way to an uncertain future.

If this is close to what you're going through, you might want to consider a career in the skilled trades. The civilian economy is increasingly dependent on skilled trade workers, and as a recent vet, you can hardly find a more inviting pool to swim in. Civilian employers are looking for people like you, who have proved you can be trusted with difficult and demanding jobs. The same family you're worried about providing, for now, is also a plus for working in the trades since they can be a daily reminder of why you're building your skills and preparing for a rewarding lifetime career. Here are four great reasons for you to think about learning a trade after getting your DD-214.

1. You've Already Got Skills

Along with "See the world!", "Learn useful skills!" was one of the things your recruiter said to get you to sign the enlistment contract. Maybe you didn't see much of the world, but unless your MOS involved terminating with extreme prejudice, you probably did pick up a few skills in the service that translate to civilian life. If you were a mechanic, logistics worker or heavy vehicle operator, you're already experienced in half the things you have to know to make it in the trades when you get out. Getting some polish at trade school or through an apprenticeship is just icing after that and can set you up to earn a solid wage for the rest of your career.

2. The GI Bill Goes WAY Further on Trade School

The Montgomery GI Bill pays up to $72,000 for veterans to go to school, but it's not picky about where you spend it. While many universities consider that much money a nice start, you can easily burn through the whole grant and still not be finished with a degree program. Trade schools, on the other hand, usually cost a lot less than the government will pay, and so you're likely to wrap up a two-year program with money to spare on some microwave cookery classes or something.

3. You're a Shoo-In for Paid Apprenticeships

Paid apprenticeships are a quick way into many fields, including manufacturing and the building trades. These gigs pay a salary plus maybe benefits and take a learn-while-you-do approach that works well for many veterans. All that most journeyman or master masons, machinists or carpenters ask is that you show up on time and work hard. If your drill instructor didn't kill you in basic, you've definitely got both those requirements nailed.

4. We Lied. You Actually Don't Have Skills . . . Officially

Remember a minute ago, when we were talking about all the great skills you learned in the service? Well . . . not really. That is, you know what you're doing as a former corpsman, firefighter, electrician's mate and so on, but the certificates you earned in the military probably don't translate directly into civilian employment. Not a lot of call for Hawk missile battery technicians in the private sector, after all. The good news is that you can fix this with a short stint in trade school or an apprenticeship if you need the paper for certification or accreditation. If you've already been working in something like your chosen field, the learning/certification process is really just a formality for you.

Almost every veteran goes through a slow decompression phase after getting home. As you adjust to the new pace of life, it will gradually become necessary to find some productive work to do. Generation T helps vets make the transition into rewarding careers in the trades. Browse our current opportunities to find a school or program you're interested in.