Changing Lanes: How to Start a Successful Career in Tech as a Military Veteran
A career change for veterans can be both exciting and challenging, especially if they are seeking to enter the tech industry. With valuable skills and experiences gained during military service, veterans in tech bring a unique perspective to the field. As they step into this journey, veterans can find rewarding opportunities that match their passions and strengths.
In this article, we will explore the possibilities and steps veterans can take to navigate a career change into tech successfully. We will also look at the resources available that can empower more former military members to break into the industry and explore exciting new roles as veterans in tech.
Why Ex-Military Members Should Explore Tech Jobs
Tech jobs are ideal for veterans for many reasons. There are a lot of resources available through the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that support this transition. Former military members also possess attributes that align seamlessly with the demands of the tech industry. Let’s delve deeper into why a career change for veterans, particularly in tech, is a great move.
Various Resources to Support the Transition
Recognizing that the transition to civilian lives can be challenging, the US government has come up with several initiatives to help former military members pursue crucial education and job training. These programs ease their transition into meaningful employment in the private sector, ensuring a stress-free career change for veterans.
One of the most popular initiatives to increase the number of veterans in tech is the GI Bill, which was passed in 1944. It helps veterans cover a portion or all of their college, graduate school, and training program costs across all fields of study. Another initiative is the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC), which allocates $45 million annually to veterans seeking to learn new tech skills.
The GI Bill benefits are available to members of the military who were on active duty for a minimum of 90 days, after September 10, 2001. The amount of the education benefit differs according to various factors. Meanwhile, VET TEC is open to veterans with at least one day of unexpired education benefits. Note that limited funding is available annually.
Transferable Skills Applicable to Tech Jobs
Veterans possess a wide range of transferable skills acquired during their military service, which make them exceptionally well-suited for tech jobs. For example, the military exposes veterans to various environments and scenarios, making them highly adaptable to new challenges. This skill is important in the tech industry where new technologies and innovations emerge rapidly.
Another key skill developed in the military is collaboration. Veterans have experience working as part of cohesive units where teamwork is essential for success. This is crucial as most tech roles involve working closely with peers or in cross-functional teams. Such skills are just a few of the qualities veterans bring to the table, making them well-equipped to thrive in tech roles.
In-Demand Job Opportunities Across Industries
The high demand for tech workers has led to competitive salaries, job stability, and a wide range of opportunities across various industries. Take the software development field, for example. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a software developer earns a median pay of $109,020. It also projects that the field will grow by 25 percent between 2021 and 2031.
Additionally, there are diverse job opportunities in tech that don’t even require coding skills. Product managers, sales development representatives, and UX designers are examples of high-paying tech jobs that are accessible without any programming background. This shows that veterans seeking a career change can potentially find rewarding opportunities in tech roles, regardless of their interests and goals.
Career Options: Top 5 Best Tech Jobs for Veterans
For veterans looking for a career change, there are numerous options in tech that align well with their unique skills and experiences. Here are the top five best jobs for veterans in tech, along with the expected salary and career outlook.
1. Data Scientists
Data scientists play a critical role in today’s data-driven world. They work with large amounts of data to uncover insights and patterns that help organizations make smarter business decisions. In data science, veterans can use their problem-solving abilities to extract valuable insights from complex datasets. They can also apply their mission-oriented mindset to focus on solving real-world problems and making a positive impact on business and society.
2. Software Engineers
Software engineering makes an excellent career change for veterans. Former military members are trained to be problem solvers, which is an attribute that is highly crucial in software engineering. Veterans can apply their critical thinking and analytical skills to design, develop, and troubleshoot software solutions effectively. Their attention to detail also translates well into the field where they are expected to write precise and clean code.
3. Cyber Security Engineers
A huge number of veterans in tech are in the field of cyber security engineering. This is because they get to leverage their specialized training in security protocols and risk management. Veterans’ unique experience makes them well-equipped to understand and address cyber security threats effectively. Working in this field will also serve as an extension to their military duties where they continue to safeguard important data against security breaches.
4. Quality Assurance (QA) Engineers
QA engineers are responsible for ensuring that software products and applications meet quality standards before they are released to users. The nature of this role makes it ideal for veterans who are trained to pay close attention to detail. On top of that, veterans also have strong discipline and work ethic, helping them adhere to deadlines without compromising product integrity.
5. Tech Sales Representatives
When discussing a career change for veterans, tech sales might not be on top of the list. However, this is a great career track for ex-military members who are looking for a non-coding tech job that pays well. In tech sales, veterans can use their excellent communication skills—developed through their time on duty—to convey technical information effectively. This helps them build strong relationships with clients which can translate into sales and revenue. If you are interested in this career path, try a bootcamp like Prehired or SV Academy.
Popular Training Options for Veterans Looking to Break Into Tech
Veterans have access to various training options to acquire the skills needed for tech roles. The US government-sponsored education benefits have opened up a lot more options for veterans, allowing them to tailor their training to match their career goals and interests. Popular training options for veterans making a career change into tech include the following.
Coding bootcamps offer intensive and focused programs that teach coding and programming skills in a short period. Many bootcamps offer specific tracks for web development, data science, cyber security, and other tech fields. Coding bootcamps are worth the investment for people who seek job-centric training that is more affordable than a four-year degree.
The resources available through VA have made a career change for veterans a relatively easy endeavor. Here are some of the best coding bootcamps for veterans that accept GI Bill benefits, based on data from the VA website:
VET TEC Training Programs
Similarly, VET TEC training programs exist to support veterans’ transition into tech. The VET TEC benefit can be used to cover both in-person and remote training programs related to the field of technology. This initiative sees the VA partnering with various education providers such as nonprofits, coding bootcamps, and online platforms.
Below are some training providers and programs that are accessible to veterans through VET TEC:
- Code Platoon: Computer Programming Web Developer, Software Engineering Immersive
- Sabio: Full Stack Software Development, Full Stack Web Development
- Fullstack Academy: Cyber Bootcamp Full-Time & Part-Time, Web Development Immersive & Flex, Grace Hopper Web Development
- IBM SkillsBuild: Cybersecurity, Data, IT Support, Project Management, Web Development
- NPower: Tech Fundamentals, Cybersecurity, Cloud Computing, IT Support
A college degree can be a valuable training option for veterans seeking a career change. Many universities and colleges offer tech-related degree programs, certificates, and diplomas in fields like computer science, data science, and software engineering. Computer science degrees generally take around four years to complete and cost anywhere between $45,000 to $70,000.
Although most tech employers are foregoing the degree requirement for proof of skills, some still favor employees with a four-year degree. This is because a college degree covers a comprehensive curriculum that covers various aspects of tech, ensuring that graduates walk away with well-rounded knowledge and skills.
The Best Ways to Pay for Tech Training As a Veteran
As a veteran, there are several ways to pay for tech training to enter the industry. Before enrolling in a tech training program, veterans should research all available financial assistance options and consult with the desired training provider. Below are some options and resources to consider for veterans making a career change.
GI Bill Educational Benefits
The GI Bill provides education benefits to eligible veterans which include funds for technical and vocational training programs. Veterans can use the Post-9/11 GI Bill or other versions of the GI Bill to cover tuition and fees. They are even entitled to a monthly housing stipend while in training. Note that GI Bill benefits are only available for in-person programs.
VET TEC Coding Training
The VET TEC initiative covers tuition and housing allowances for eligible veterans. It is designed to equip ex-military members with the skills needed to succeed as veterans in tech. Although the eligibility is tied to the GI Bill, VET TEC doesn’t really affect the GI Bill fund. Veterans can use both benefits at the same time. Fund for VET TEC is limited every year so applicants are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Scholarships for Veterans
Some schools or coding bootcamps offer special scholarships or tuition discounts for former members of the military. Some also partner with veteran organizations to provide additional financial support. Here are some scholarships designed to facilitate a career change for veterans:
- Code Platoon: Transgender Veteran Scholarship (Full tuition)
- General Assembly: Semper Doctrina Veteran Scholarship (Full tuition)
- Flatiron School: Access Scholarship (Up to $5,000)
- Coding Dojo: Military Heroes Scholarship ($1,000)
- BrainStation: Veterans Scholarship (Amount undisclosed)
Is Breaking Into Tech Worth It for Veterans?
A career change for veterans, particularly toward a tech role, is worth it for various reasons. The tech industry offers a wide range of job opportunities in various areas like data science, software development, and cyber security. This allows veterans to explore high-paying careers in a field that aligns with their interests and goals.
Veterans also possess many skills that are highly valued in the tech industry. They include leadership, problem-solving, adaptability, and collaboration skills which are transferable to most tech roles. As the industry continues to evolve, veterans in tech can be at the forefront of innovation and make a real impact on society.
Career Change for Veterans FAQ
Many tech companies actively seek to hire military veterans due to the valuable skills and experiences they bring to the table. Some of the biggest companies looking to hire veterans include Amazon, SpaceX, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and Meta. The most popular open roles for veterans in tech include software developers, cyber security specialists, and data scientists.
VET TEC (Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses) and GI Bill benefits are initiatives offered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support veterans’ educational pursuits. Eligible veterans can use GI Bill to cover their college, graduate school, and training programs. Meanwhile, VET TEC empowers veterans to learn digital skills to help them thrive in the tech industry.
Some transferable skills that veterans bring into their new roles in tech include leadership, problem-solving, collaboration, and attention to detail. Military service also instills a strong sense of duty and commitment which translate to veterans’ work ethic. They are also trained to be great communicators—an essential skill that is required to succeed in any career field.
Some of the easiest tech positions to get into are those that don’t require any coding experience. Because the barriers to entry are low, non-coding tech jobs such as UX designers, product managers, technical writers, and tech sales representatives are much more accessible to everyone regardless of their background.