New data shows that more than half of veterans who have used GI Bill benefits to become students have received a postsecondary degree or certificate, a completion rate similar to that of traditional college students and greater than non-traditional students. So what are these students studying? A report called the Million Records Project, released in March 2014 by the Student Veterans of America, tracks degree completion rates and shows what areas of concentration military students are selecting most often. Here are the top 5 fields of study for military students and some reasons why they are choosing them.
The study points to business degrees as a top choice for military students at both the bachelor and associate levels. Depending on your chosen career path, a degree in finance or business administration can lead to a career as a sales executive, operations manager, project manager or customer service supervisor. All of these positions utilize skills the military emphasizes, such as leadership, communication and teamwork, as well as individual accomplishment and accountability. Earning a business degree is also a good basis for moving into a consultant position with military contractors who specialize in your area of expertise in the service. A concentration in security or logistics management or business administration dovetails well with experience overseeing others in the military and can be an attractive combination to potential employers.
2. Homeland Security/Law Enforcement/Firefighting
The skills veterans acquire in the military often directly translate to law enforcement, homeland security and firefighting. This is why so many veterans choose these fields of study. Whether or not your military specialty includes direct experience in these fields, the leadership and decision-making skills you have learned work well in high stress situations that police and firefighters have to endure. Discipline, attention to detail and the ability to remain calm under pressure go a long way in these fields. Detective work, forensic investigation, cyber security and firefighting in national forests and state parks are all possibilities with this field of study.
3. Computer and Information Sciences
Computer and Information Sciences is a broad term that encompasses the study of information technology and computer science. Military members with a background in computer systems, cyber security or other technological occupations are choosing this field as it can often directly correlate with hands-on experience. Certifications and degrees in this field coupled with practical military experience can lead to a successful career in IT and security or could open doorways to jobs with defense contractors in the private sector.
4. Health Professions
There are dozens of career paths in healthcare that don't require medical school. Associate or bachelor's degrees in a health field can directly correlate with military students who have worked as military nurses or lab technicians, and this field is wide open for veterans who have the ability to remain calm under stress. Those with or without direct medical training can use this field of study to become healthcare managers, dental hygienists, physical therapists, licensed practical nurses or pharmacy technicians. Veterans with military recruiting or career counseling experience may be interested in exploring a career as a patient advocate, social worker or healthcare administrator.
5. Liberal Arts/Social Sciences
The study shows Liberal Arts as the most frequent associate degree field, including more than one-third of military students, while more than 10 percent of those at the bachelor's level chose social sciences. This field consists of studying a combination of the arts, humanities, and physical, biological and social sciences. This can include communication, economics, education and international relations—all fields that may directly relate to a military student's occupational experience or interests. This can lead to many careers for those with military experience including teaching, language translation and foreign affairs and intelligence analysis.
Thinking about returning to school but don't want to start from scratch? Download our Transfer Credit guide to find out how you may be able to get credit with previous college, military, or work experience.