Military medics are some of the most adept, level-headed healthcare workers out there. Whether they’ve treated their fellow members of the armed forces during active combat or other high-stakes situations, they have experience delivering quality medical care under pressure. Many people can’t imagine leaving this important, rewarding work behind once they leave active service. Fortunately, their skills transfer well to the civilian healthcare industry.
Veterans’ skills and adaptability have not gone unnoticed among those in the civilian healthcare sector. As the demand for skilled workers increases, healthcare employers are turning more and more to retired military personnel to fill these gaps.
If you are beginning your transition from military to civilian life and want to continue your work in the medical field, consider pursuing a career in healthcare. Making this switch can sometimes be difficult, however, so you need to know how to navigate the process. Here are a few tips to help you embark on your career in the civilian healthcare field:
1. Determine which career path is right for you.
Depending on your previous experience and personal interests, there are many healthcare jobs that can suit your needs. Many veterans obtain employment as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), a dynamic, hands-on role that will allow you to administer life-saving care to patients while en route to hospitals or medical centers. This is one of the easier career transitions to make, since you’ll only need to complete training programs or obtain certification.
Taking a job as a medical assistant will also enable you to work directly with patients. In this position, you will work underneath a physician, assisting him or her in treating patients and with administrative tasks. However, you’ll need to obtain a master’s degree and a state license before seeking employment in this field.
With other degrees, you could pursue careers in phlebotomy, physical therapy, nursing, or chiropractic care. You could even continue your career by serving other veterans as a healthcare worker with the Veterans Administration (VA).
2. Think about school.
Since so many positions in healthcare require some level of education, you may need to think about applying to college. Obtaining a degree can open countless doors for you in your civilian career, in healthcare and so many other fields.
Attending college is even easier for military veterans thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, legislation that delivers benefits to individuals who served in the armed forces after September 10, 2001. These benefits include assistance with certain types of training and higher education tuition.
Some schools, such as the Cambridge College of Healthcare and Technology in Georgia, have special programs for veterans seeking education in medical fields. Cambridge College awards scholarships to help veterans obtain their degrees. There are other, similar programs at schools across the country that can make your time at college less stressful by awarding academic credits for your previous military experience.
3. Translate your skills.
All veterans who are seeking civilian employment must understand how to translate their skills from military jargon into language that job recruiters can understand. You’ll find that most of your experience will directly transfer to the healthcare industry, because you’ll be dealing with many of the same federal regulations and patient volumes. However, the names of job positions and medical procedures may differ. As such, describing your skills—not so much listing your rank—will be the most effective way to communicate your experience to civilian employers.
You can also directly transfer your skills by obtaining certification in your area of healthcare. Again, the Post-9/11 GI Bill can help with this, as it can provide reimbursement for certain licensing and certification programs, as well as for testing and certain types of job training. Some institutions, like Michigan’s Lansing Community College, also host “bridge programs” that help veteran medics and medical technicians earn their credentials as EMTs.
4. Connect with available resources.
As a veteran, you have a number of resources at your disposal to ease the transition between your military and civilian career. The VA Transition Assistance Program (TAP) should be your first point of contact. Not only will this program connect you with veterans’ benefits, but it can also assist with your job search. For example, TAP can help you articulate your relevant professional skills on your resume.
In addition, Veterans in Healthcare is a career-specific organization that can connect you with opportunities in the medical sector. On this site, you can upload your resume and browse healthcare jobs across the country.
5. Work with a healthcare industry recruiter.
Connecting with a recruiter can help you move closer to finding a job in your particular field, especially if you’re interested in a more administrative role. A good recruiter has in-depth knowledge of the job market and hiring trends, and may know about open positions you’d never be able to find otherwise. Recruiters may offer other valuable services, such as helping you prepare for interviews or identifying longer-term career paths that match your interests and goals.