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How To Transfer Your Military Skills To College

military skills

Are you approaching a crossroads in your professional career? Whether you are retiring from the military, transitioning to civilian life or returning from a deployment, the skills you learned in the military can serve you well in college and civilian professional life. It's important to know how to transfer your military skills to the civilian world. That may mean entering your civilian career right away, or it could mean pursuing your college degree. How do you know what's the best path for you? It may take some reflection and research, but there are many tools and resources available to guide you on the right path in your journey.

Assess Your Skills

A good first move in deciding your next step is to leverage the military skills and interests you have developed. Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to look over your military resume, achievements and training so you can be prepared to make decisions without a looming deadline. You may have learned and honed skills during your military service that can translate to a civilian careers. The key is figuring out how to translate and explain these skills and experience on a civilian resume in terms a non-military person can understand.

One outstanding tool to help you do this is's Veteran Jobs Skills translator. For example, if you type in your military occupational specialty as a Construction Engineering Technician (Army - Warrant Officer), this tool shows that your civilian skills include blueprints/technical diagrams, budget management, building and landscape design, building construction, cargo handling and electrical power distribution. It also shows that you could be qualified for equivalent civilian jobs such as construction/skilled trades, operations/plant management, carpentry/framing and building/construction inspection.

The site also includes current job listings in these fields, as well as information on related fields that might require additional training or education. If you decide you want to pursue a career path based on your military experience, this can be a good first step in researching how your current military specialty can translate to a civilian career.

These two tools also may be useful in doing your military skills assessment:

  • My Next Move is an accessible online tool from the U.S. Department of Labor. You'll fill out a questionnaire about your interests and the results will help you learn what you're trained and suited for, as well as how to pursue careers in that field.
  • Occupational Information Network (O*NET) was developed for the U.S. Department of Labor and helps military members translate skills into civilian terms. Simply enter your MOS, AFSC, Rating or job title, and the database will return a summary of your military job and some examples of skills you can use on your resume.

Time for a Change?

It may seem like an obvious choice to pursue a career or a college degree related to your current military occupation specialty. If you were in the military police, you might study criminal justice and potentially be one step ahead of some of your classmates by having real-world experience in military law enforcement. That doesn't mean you're limited to attending the police academy, or being a patrolman or state trooper. Your military skills could allow you to pursue a criminal justice degree, or perhaps one in forensic science. You could branch out into crime scene investigation, detective work or a security consulting position.

Moving from the military to the civilian world could also be the perfect time for a change in career fields. This may mean starting college in a different field, and asking yourself hard questions about your interests and passions. Remember that whatever field your pursue, your military skills include leadership training, teamwork and the ability to work under pressure. These are attributes that can serve you well in any field.

Hitting The Books

Once you've decided on a civilian career field, you may choose to start working toward a college degree. Whether you choose a traditional or online university experience, it's important to select one based on your goals and expectations. Does the university offer options for service members to earn credits based on their military experience? Do the faculty and advisors understand the unique needs of active duty, veteran, Reserve and National Guard students? Can they help you transition the skills you've acquired into a civilian career? Finding a university that meets this criteria is important, and can help you maintain momentum as you pursue your degree.

Ready to learn more? Explore military student education at AIU Online.