Making the transition from military to civilian employment can be difficult for any veteran. Luckily, those who served in medical and healthcare roles have acquired highly valuable skills and experience that the civilian healthcare industry desperately needs.
If you’re a military veteran seeking employment in the healthcare field, you have several options. From translating your skills to a civilian context, to finding specific positions, here are a few tips on how to secure a healthcare job:
Know how your skills will transfer.
As a former military physician or medical staff member, you are well equipped to move into civilian employment. This is thanks, in large part, to the diverse skill set you spent your military service building. Your journey toward securing employment in the healthcare sector must begin with an evaluation of these skills and how they will translate to civilian positions. Looking at your skills, you’ll likely find that much of your experience directly mirrors the responsibilities and skills that non-military jobs demand. For example, your knowledge of medical terminology, regulations, and procedures will serve you well in a civilian role because these aspects of healthcare are essentially the same, no matter the setting or context.
You’ve likely developed other skills that will also serve you well in the civilian healthcare sector—for example, good communication. In particular, any role that involves patient care requires excellent verbal communication skills, including in stressful or emotionally charged situations.
Another skill that you’ll bring from your military service is the ability to work well during high-pressure situations. Healthcare organizations often seek military veterans to fill open positions due to their experience with providing medical care on the battlefield or in makeshift, less-than-ideal conditions with limited resources. Having experience working in these high-stress, adrenaline-inducing situations may make it easier for you to work in a civilian medical setting.
If you’d like some extra help translating your military skills to a civilian healthcare career, you can turn to many online resources. Tools such as Military.com’s Military Skills Translator will provide you with a list of jobs that are directly related to your military job title. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a similar skills translator. After inputting your military branch and Military Occupation Code (MOC), the translator provides a list of related skills you can use to search for jobs and create a resume.
Research possible career paths.
Once you determine how to translate your skills from a military to a civilian context, you’ll need to decide which career paths you want to pursue. There are a number of healthcare jobs to consider, but here are some of the most popular options:
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) – For many former military medics, making the transition to the position of EMT is seamless. All your previous experience administering emergency medical care to fellow service personnel and working in high-pressure situations will help you greatly in this civilian role. Unlike some other healthcare jobs, you’ll likely only need to fulfill a few certifications or training requirements to become an EMT. Even better, the majority of states allow you to take a Military Skills Waiver test, which will speed up the process of achieving your EMT certification.
Physician assistant (PA)– All army medics have the experience and qualifications to start pursuing a career as a PA. This role will require you to work alongside a physician as you make diagnoses and deliver care to patients. In order to obtain a job as a PA, you will need more than your skills as a military medic, however. You must first obtain a master’s degree and a license to practice in your state.
Registered nurse – Another way to directly translate your experience as a military medic is to seek a job as a registered nurse (RN). In this position, you’ll work directly with patients to assess their condition and provide essential care. As such, you’ll have the opportunity to draw upon your excellent communication skills and your medical expertise. The nursing field is growing, and becoming a nurse requires less education and less time than becoming a physician assistant.
Understand where to look.
To begin your job search, you have to know where to find job listings. Start by using online tools such as the Military.com Job Search, which will connect you with open positions across the country. Otherwise, look to the many employers who actively seek to add veterans to their payroll.
If you wish to look outside the private sector, consider healthcare positions in the federal government. Through the Department of Justice, you can acquire work as a medical professional at federal prison facilities. In addition, the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services also hire healthcare workers. However, the largest government organization that takes on healthcare professionals is the VA. No matter where your healthcare interests may lie, you have a good chance of finding a position where your skills and military training are in high demand.