Top College Degrees for Veterans

Updated: November 24, 2020
In this Article

    As veterans leave military service, many choose to use their GI Bill benefits to attend school. In doing so, they face the challenge of figuring out what makes the most sense to study. To help, in this article, we’ll outline the top college degrees for veterans – and why these degrees make sense.

    Top College Degrees for Veterans Specifically, we’ll cover each of the following:

    • College Degrees: Does Picking the Right One Matter?
    • Top Veteran College Degree 1: Fire Engineering / Fire Science
    • Top Veteran College Degree 2: EMT / Paramedic
    • Top Veteran College Degree 3: Teaching / Education
    • Top Veteran College Degree 4: Information Security
    • Top Veteran College Degree 5: Computer Science
    • Top Veteran College Degree 6: Physical Therapy
    • Top Veteran College Degree 7: Network Administration
    • Top Veteran College Degree 8: Nursing
    • Top Veteran College Degree 9: Engineering
    • Top Veteran College Degree 10: Criminal Justice
    • Final Thoughts

    College Degrees: Does Picking the Right One Matter?

    Yes and no. Picking a college degree can absolutely overwhelm veterans heading back to school, especially if they’ve been out of the classroom for an extended period. And yes, picking the right degree is important insomuch as you’ll spend a significant amount of time in school studying that material, so it should be something that interests you. Furthermore, for certain professional fields, you need to study certain majors. For example, it would be difficult for an English literature major to get a job as a mechanical engineer.

    But, having said that, the major you select won’t write your future in stone. Many graduates end up in jobs that have nothing to do with their academic majors. According to recent Department of Labor statistics, the average employee in his or her 20s changes jobs every three years. As such, the numbers just suggest that veteran graduates will have a few jobs after their service, regardless of college major.

    But, once again, veterans will spend a lot of time studying the major they choose, and it absolutely can help with landing your first post-college job. As such, it’s better to choose the right one than pick a degree at random.

    In no particular order – as it depends on your personal preference – the following sections summarize the top ten majors for veterans according to analysis by Best Colleges Online.

    Top Veteran College Degree 1: Fire Engineering/Fire Science

    As with several of the degrees on this list, this one absolutely qualifies as a major that will lead directly into a post-college career. Fire engineering or science (each college offers different options), will help veteran graduates become firefighters. And, as veterans generally have the physical capability to perform these jobs, this degree provides the classroom knowledge necessary to land your first position as a firefighter.

    Top Veteran College Degree 2: EMT/Paramedic

    Whereas fire engineering degrees help landing jobs, an EMT or paramedic major is required for landing one of those. For these medical careers, veterans must meet certain academic milestones prior to actually beginning work. However, the fact that many veterans – especially ones with combat experience – receive significant first aid training in the military will help during classroom work with these majors.

    Top Veteran College Degree 3: Teaching/Education

    At all ranks – officer and enlisted – service members are expected to teach. It may just be teaching two or three other troops basic radio procedures, or it may entail teaching hundreds of senior military members planning processes. But, regardless of what you taught, all veterans taught something during their service. And, these military experiences also provide veterans a tremendous amount of patience and work ethic, critical skills for the teaching position. So, if you’re interested in continuing this teaching in a civilian capacity, a teaching or education degree is a great option.

    Top Veteran College Degree 4: Information Security

    In the military – as with the civilian world – digital attacks have become more and more prevalent in the past few years. As such, companies and governments are willing to pay qualified individuals a lot of money to provide information security services. For veterans who worked in IT-related military specialties, combining this military experience with an IT degree can lead to a rewarding – and high-paying – civilian career.

    Top Veteran College Degree 5: Computer Science

    Information security isn’t the only computer-related degree that aligns with many veterans’ military experiences. Many veterans worked in related military fields that relied heavily on computer use, and this experience can translate well into classroom experience. For veterans with military backgrounds in computers, combining that experience can also lead to a high-paying civilian career as a programmer, coder, or developer.

    Top Veteran College Degree 6: Physical Therapy

    If you’re anything like this article’s author, years in the military wearing combat boots, patrolling with heavy body armor and gear, and completing high-paced training and deployments have helped destroy your body. As such, most military members are intimately familiar with the value physical therapists provide. If you’d like to provide these services as a civilian, a physical therapy degree is a great option. And, this definitely qualifies as a career where the degree is required.  You absolutely need the academic background prior to practicing physical therapy. But, if you’re willing to undertake this rigorous academic work, you’ll be rewarded with a satisfying and well-paying career.

    Top Veteran College Degree 7: Network Administration

    It’s undeniable – digital networks help run the world today. Consequently, network administration proves a highly in-demand field. And, as the military continually experiments with new network technology, many veterans have significant experience with network administration, whether they know it or not.  This experience establishing, operating, and troubleshooting networks provides a tremendous real-world foundation to bring into the classroom. And, combining the experience with the degree opens up outstanding job opportunities for veterans.

    Top Veteran College Degree 8: Nursing

    As with the EMT and physical therapy degrees, a nursing major can provide veterans a pathway into a civilian career in healthcare. And, healthcare tends to be a recession-proof industry. In other words, whether the economy is doing well or poorly, people need healthcare services. As such, veterans who major in nursing will find plenty of job opportunities after college – and the satisfaction of continuing a career of service.

    Top Veteran College Degree 9: Engineering

    Fact: not all veterans dealt heavily with numbers during their time in the service. But, if you served in a technically-heavy military specialty or just have a particular aptitude for math and numbers, engineering may make sense for you. It’s certainly not an easy degree, but it can lead to a career as a professional engineer, a well-paying and in-demand job.

    Top Veteran College Degree 10: Criminal Justice

    While this college degree happens to be last in this article, it shouldn’t be one of the last degrees you consider as a veteran. Essentially any military experience can be justified as supporting a transition into civilian law enforcement. And, if such a career interests you, a criminal justice degree can round out your resume with the academic foundation to support your military experience. Furthermore, in certain federal law enforcement jobs, veterans can receive retirement credit for their military service, further supporting this degree choice.

    Final Thoughts

    As stated above, the college degree you choose as a veteran won’t necessarily dictate the next fifty years of your life. But, you’ll certainly spend a fair amount of time studying this topic in school, so it’s better to select a degree you enjoy. Additionally, for certain professional fields, you need specific degrees. Bottom line, do your research and make an informed decision, as this is far better than picking a degree at random.


    About The AuthorMaurice “Chipp” Naylon spent nine years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. He is currently a licensed CPA specializing in real estate development and accounting.


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    Written by Veteran.com Team

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