Finding the right career after you leave the military can be challenging. Your career choice will determine what kind of schooling is required. Some jobs will take you down the college degree path, while a stable and rewarding career can be within your reach by attending vocational or trade schools.
Completing trade and career programs can lead to jobs in great paying in-demand fields like the culinary arts, cosmetology, jewelry design, many medical-related jobs, and much more. A vocational or trade school is often the shortest path you can take in securing your future, and many of these programs can be completed in less than one year and can lead to certification, licensure, and even an associate’s degree.
What are the benefits to vocational, technical, or trade schools?
These schools offer programs that provide you with job skills and training for in-demand and cutting edge tech jobs that get you into the workforce, gaining experience and earning great pay. As a veteran, you bring many skills, experience, and knowledge that can translate into many of these high-demand careers.
Vocational and technical schools are also appealing because:
- learning is hands-on, and you get to do what you learn.
- you get access to instructors who are experts in the areas they teach.
- you can quickly get valuable training and a great job.
Do vocational and trade schools accept veteran’s benefits?
The short answer is yes. If you want to attend and train at a trade school, almost all of them are approved by the VA and accept your GI Bill benefits. Before you enroll in any school or programs, make sure to verify through the VA the status of your benefits, and if the program you want to pursue is approved for the GI Bill.
You also need to be aware that some trade schools prey on veterans and offer programs that may not be legitimate or, in the end, won’t accept your veteran’s benefits. Here are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself from predatory or dishonest schools:
- Check to see if your school is accredited? The leader in accrediting trade school is the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCST).
- Check with the VA for help in finding a school that is VA approved. The VA is the best place to see if your school accepts veteran’s benefits.
Check out our Veteran Friendly Colleges Guide for more information on your veteran educational benefits and what you can expect from a veteran-friendly college.
What kind of career can I get at a vocational or trade school?
There are a wide variety of careers that are available at trade schools. Here are just a few of the career programs in high demand. Depending on your background and skill set, they would be excellent choices for you to begin a great career after your military service.
As an HVAC technician, you would install, repair and maintain heating, ventilation, refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. You can work as a general technician and perform all of these services, or you could specialize in a type of services like installation or types of systems like heating and air-conditioning. You can also work on large industrial units or smaller residential units.
HVAC Technician Salary Range:
Entry Level: $40,183
Average Pay: $47,775
Best Schools that offer programs in HVAC Technology:
Altierus Career College, Tampa, FL
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus, Cincinnati, OH
If your job in the military had anything to do with being a mechanic, then studying automotive technology is a no-brainer and a fast-growing field. It’s also a career that will let you move around—every town has an auto body shop in need of experts! If you love getting your hands dirty and interested in learning about how cars and trucks work and how to make them more efficient, then becoming an auto or truck mechanic may be perfect for you.
Automotive Mechanic Salary Range:
Entry Level: $35,287
Average Pay: $50,453
Best Schools that offer programs in Automotive Technology:
Washburn Institute of Technology, Topeka, KS
Central Louisiana Technical Community College, Alexandria, LA
As a veterinary technologist, you would assist a veterinarian in the diagnosis and preparation of an animal for treatment. You would conduct tests such as X-rays, blood work, dental scans, and medical injections. You could work in an animal hospital or clinic and work with a wide variety of people, including the vet and pet owners.
Veterinary Technologist Salary Range:
Entry Level: $29,954
Average Pay: $33,346
Best Schools that offer programs in Veterinary Technology:
Colby Community College, Colby, KS
San Juan College, Farmington, NM
As an electrician, you would install and maintain electrical systems in homes, businesses, and factories. You would be working with people, so you would also need good customer service skills. Some of your specific duties could include reading blueprints, troubleshooting, repairing and replacing components of an electrical system, and complying with local building codes and regulations.
Electrician Salary Range:
Entry Level: $49,209
Average Pay: $57,645
Best Schools that offer programs in Electrical Technology
Pamlico Community College, Gransboro, NC
Salina Area Technical College, Salina, KS
As a cosmetologist, you would work with styling the hair and applying makeup to your customers. You would need to know the newest styles and how to create styles from your customer’s pictures. You would need to have excellent attention to detail and produce outstanding results for every customer. You would be expected to follow company policies and local and federal regulations. You may also have to greet customers, schedule appointments, and run the cash register.
Cosmetologist Salary Range*:
Entry Level: $23,660
Average Pay: $29,813
* Salaries do not include commissions and tips.
Best Schools that offer programs in Cosmetology:
Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, SD
Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, AR
Do you love a great meal and experimenting in your kitchen? Then a career in the culinary arts is a great option for you! Food doesn’t go out of style, and there will always be a need for talented chefs. If you’d love to open your own restaurant or work as a chef, there are many culinary arts programs for you to pursue. There’s no reason you shouldn’t work towards that coveted chef’s jacket today!
Head Chef Salary Range:
Entry Level: $40,593
Average Pay: $46,670
Best Schools that offer programs in Culinary Arts:
Florida Technical College, Kissimmee, Florida
YTI Career Institute, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Computer Network Technician
Every business has a computer and networking system that runs its business. As a Computer Network Technician, you would be responsible for setting up and maintaining local computer networks for companies and organizations. You would also perform scheduled maintenance, install software and updates, configure operating systems, and ensure the security of vital data, software, and hardware.
Computer Network Technician Salary Range:
Entry Level: $39,251
Average Pay: $47,468
Best Schools that offer programs in Computer Network Technology
Lincoln Tech, MA, NJ, PA, and RI Campuses
Florida Career College, TX and FL Campuses
Schools will let you get hands-on practice learning the fundamentals of jewelry design, production, and repair as you learn about gems, settings, castings, metals, and more. This will lead to a great career as a jewelry designer where you would be working with jewelry and precious stones. Designing jewelry is a highly specialized skill and could lead to a rewarding job designing unique pieces, repairing, appraising, and selling jewelry for a jeweler, or starting your own business.
Jewelry Designer Salary Range:
Entry Level: $36,312
Average Pay: $58,686
Best Schools that offer programs in Jewelry Design:
Academy of Art University, San Francisco, CA
Ashworth College, Norcross, GA
Medical Billing and Coding Specialist
As a medical billing/coding specialist, you would work in a hospital, clinic, or other medical facility. You would handle billing information and associated invoices with patients. You would be responsible for keeping current codes and regulatory standards of the medical industry as well as reviewing and verifying codes of diagnosis and procedures.
Medical Billing and Coding Salary Range:
Entry Level: $38,854
Average Pay: $40,307
Best Schools that offer programs in Medical Billing and Coding:
Penn Foster College, Scottsdale, AZ
Herzing University, Atlanta, GA
As a massage therapist, you would work on your client’s muscles and soft tissues for pain relief, stress relief, and other health benefits. Based on your level of expertise, you could work in spas, health clubs, and hotels. You could also work as a freelance massage therapist, developing your own loyal clientele leading to a highly successful, rewarding, and long-lasting career. Many states require that you are licensed, and there are many trade schools nationwide that offer training and licensure in massage therapy.
Massage Therapist Salary Range*:
Entry Level: $36,150
Average Pay: $38,319
* Salaries do not include commissions and tips.
Best Schools that offer programs in Massage Therapy:
Fortis College, 30 U.S. Campuses
Williston State College, Williston, ND
*Note: All salary estimates from Payscale.com