A career in health care is an excellent option if your military experience includes work in health care. There are many paths to choose from, and even if you don’t have experience you can still apply your post 9/11 GI Bill® Benefits towards a career in health care.
Top Job Opportunities in Health Care for Veterans
Health care is a diverse field that provides many opportunities for helping others, within or outside of a clinical setting. Health care is focused on maintaining or restoring both physical and mental health. This is a great field for veterans who have worked in military health care and are transitioning into the civilian workforce, as well as veterans who do not have medical experience but are interested in a health career. Veterans who have prior experience working in military health care already have experience with caring for patients and using medical technology, so the health care field is a logical next step in their career. Military health care providers are in demand, because they have experience working in very demanding environments, and are able to easily integrate into a new role in a civilian health care setting.
The variety of careers available in the health care field make it possible for veterans to determine how long they want to spend in school, and pursue a career from there. There are jobs available in health care that require an associate degree, all the way up through medical school or a doctorate. The health care field is a great way for veterans to continue their careers, while continuing their service to others.
What is the best pathway to a job in health care?
Many of the skills that veterans gain through military service translate well into the health care field; in fact, military health care workers often have an easier time transitioning into the civilian workforce than members of the armed forces who worked in other fields during their military career. This is due to several factors:
- The federal standards and the number of patients one provider is responsible for is the same in the military and in the civilian sector.
- Medical terminology, protocols, and procedures are the same across military and civilian health care roles.
- There are many opportunities for health care providers in the civilian workforce: private practice, research, or civilian hospitals.
While veterans who have worked in health care in the military are already prepared to transition into the civilian health care workforce, there are also opportunities in health care for veterans who had other jobs during their military career.
How can veterans become qualified for these jobs?
In 2016 and 2017, four of the top 15 employment opportunities for veterans were in the health care field. These include:
- Registered nurse
- Nurse practitioner
- Mental health counselor
- Physical therapist
There are several pathways to a career in health care for veterans. Veterans may also be able to obtain college credit for their military experience, which can help them complete a degree more quickly, and begin their health care career sooner.
For veterans who want to enter the health care field more quickly, there are several jobs that require an associate degree instead of a bachelor’s, allowing veterans to enter the workforce two years earlier. These include:
- Registered nurse: Nurses with an associate degree have many options within the field of nursing. Additionally, the projected employment growth rate for nursing jobs for the next ten years is higher than average for other careers.
- Nursing assistant: These individuals work under the supervision of nursing staff to provide patient care in many different settings, such as nursing homes or hospitals. Becoming a nursing assistant is a great way to enter the health care field and gain nursing experience.
- Medical secretary: Individuals in this role provide administrative support specific to medical facilities, such as communicating with patients, scheduling appointments, and managing medical records.
- Medical assistant: While some medical assistant duties are similar to those of a medical secretary, medical assisting goes beyond administrative duties and also includes patient care. This can include administering medication, drawing blood, and recording vital signs.
- Health information technician: These technicians are trained to work with electronic health records, and organize, maintain, and protect patients’ health data
- Licensed practical nurse (LPN): These nurses handle many basic nursing tasks, in addition to monitoring the health of patients, assisting with personal care, administering medicine, and changing catheters and dressings or bandages. LPNs can work in assisted living or long-term care facilities, hospitals, or physician’s offices.
- Pharmacy technician: These individuals support pharmacists with distributing medication and filling prescriptions, counting out medication, and taking orders from customers.
- Medical or clinical laboratory technician: These technicians assist with lab work for patients, including analysis and diagnosis.
- Radiologic technologist: Technologists work with doctors to perform diagnostic imaging on patients, such as CAT scans or X-rays.
- Surgical technologist: These individuals help prepare operating rooms for surgery and provide hands-on assistance during surgeries.
- Physical therapist assistant: PTAs help physical therapists by implementing treatment plans, help patients with prescribed exercises, and track patient progress.
- Medical coder: These individuals transcribe notes on what procedures were done or services were provided during medical appointments and apply codes for billing and insurance.
- EMT and paramedic: These positions usually require a certification or specialized training program instead of a degree. These professionals provide emergency medical care and transport for patients to critical care centers and hospitals.
There are additional career opportunities for Veterans with bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees. These include:
- Athletic trainer or exercise physiologist: These roles require a bachelor’s degree, and involve preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries, as well as developing plans to help patients recover and regain their physical fitness.
- Physical therapists: Most physical therapy roles require a doctoral degree. Physical therapists help people prevent injury, and help people with rehabilitation after surgery or injury.
- Physician assistant (PA): Becoming a PA requires a master’s degree. PAs work under the supervision of a doctor, and provide patient examinations, diagnose conditions, and provide treatment.
For veterans transitioning from their military career to the civilian workforce, the health care field offers options for many different interests, as well as options for veterans with different levels of education and experience. Veterans can also apply their G. I. Bill benefits to many online health care degree programs.
Heather Maxey works at a non-profit that addresses military ineligibility. She is an Army spouse, and met her husband while working as a Health Educator at Fort Bragg.