How to Break Into Tech as a Veteran in 2024: Complete Guide
Embarking on a tech career as a veteran is an exciting journey filled with possibilities. Careers in tech offer high salaries, a positive job outlook, and plenty of opportunities for professional growth. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 377,500 openings for tech careers every year until 2032. For veterans in tech, their unique skillset is valued in the tech field.
Vets with a passion for technology can find a range of educational opportunities to add technical skills to their existing desirable transferable skillset. The ability to problem solve, communicate, and contribute to the team through teamwork or leadership are traits that tech companies look for in their employees. To learn how to break into tech as a veteran, this complete guide will walk you through the crucial steps to follow.
Step 1: Assess Your Skills and Set Goals
Launching a career in tech starts with identifying your transferable skills from the military such as leadership, problem-solving, and adaptability. There are many soft skills that are learned and developed during military service that are powerful skills when applied to a tech career.
Begin researching various tech roles in fields like software engineering, cyber security, data science, or web development to see how your skillset aligns with certain jobs. Consider your passions within the tech field, keeping an eye on trends and technologies in demand. Consider how these trends compliment your career goals and the roles you find intriguing.
Finally, set clear goals for both short-term milestones and long-term achievements to guide your journey to transition from the military to a tech career. Create a map or vision of where you see yourself in the next few years and what impact you want to make in the tech landscape.
Step 2: Research Educational Options
As you progress, explore educational pathways tailored to veterans. Coding bootcamps, online courses, and traditional degree programs are the main ways to learn the skills you need, and you can land tech jobs after military service without a degree credential. Some of these options even allow you to leverage your GI Bill benefits for financial support. Choose an educational path that aligns with your learning preferences and career goals.
Educational Pathways: Tech Training for Veterans
Coding bootcamps, online courses, and traditional degree programs all offer unique paths for tech training for veterans looking to enter the tech sector. Coding bootcamps are short, intensive training programs which makes them particularly appealing to veterans seeking a rapid transition. Online courses provide flexibility, allowing you to learn at your own pace, while degree programs offer a more comprehensive academic experience.
|Weeks to months
|Full-time, part-time, self-paced
|Weeks to years
|Full-time, part-time, self-paced
|$0 – $300+
|$3,501 – $32,825
Leverage GI Bill Benefits
The GI Bill is a powerful veteran benefit available for online tech training and various in-person educational avenues in the tech field. Whether you choose to pursue a coding bootcamp, an online course, or a formal degree, the GI Bill can provide financial support, covering tuition, housing stipends, and book allowances.
Coding bootcamps like General Assembly and Code Platoon are renowned for their veteran-friendly environments and accept GI Bill benefits. Traditional institutions like universities and community colleges also often participate in GI Bill programs.
Step 3: Explore Veteran-Specific Programs and Initiatives Within Tech
Many organizations recognize the unique skills veterans bring to the table and have established programs to ease their transition into tech roles. Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) is a well-known veteran-specific initiative that offers training in areas like cloud development and cyber security.
Transition Assistance Programs
Transition assistance programs, often provided by military and veteran affairs offices, guide you through the civilian job application process. They offer insights into translating your military experience into terms understandable to civilian employers. They also help you hone your resume-building and interview preparation skills. Examples include the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and Hire Heroes USA.
Veteran-Focused Mentorship and Communities
Mentorship plays a crucial role in navigating the nuances of the tech industry. Military resources like veteran mentorship programs allow vets to seek mentorship through professional networks. Meanwhile, veteran-specific communities provide a supportive environment for networking. These types of groups often host events and webinars that can be instrumental in expanding your knowledge and network.
Here are some of the most popular veteran-focused mentoring programs and communities to check out:
- American Corporate Partners (ACP) and Veterati both offer programs that pair veterans with mentors from leading companies who provide valuable guidance on career development.
- Mentor Spaces and TechVets are platforms that facilitate mentorship connections specifically for veterans entering the tech field.
- LinkedIn groups dedicated to veteran professionals may offer mentorship connections.
- Veterati and VetsinTech are veteran-specific community platforms where vets can interact with fellow veterans who are making strides in the tech industry.
Step 4: Build a Professional Network
Actively building your network positions you for career success in the tech industry, so establishing connections and relationships with other tech professionals or aspiring tech professionals is essential. In-person events or online gatherings not only expand your network but also expose you to the latest trends and insights in the tech world.
Attend Tech Events
Attend tech events, meetups, and conferences to connect with professionals in the industry. Events such as TechCrunch Disrupt or local meetups focused on specific technologies provide excellent opportunities to engage with like-minded individuals.
Join Online Networking Platforms
Online platforms are one of the easiest ways to broaden your professional network. A powerful tool for networking, job hunting, and staying informed about industry trends is LinkedIn. Join relevant LinkedIn groups and participate in discussions to establish connections with professionals who share your aspirations.
When using networking platforms, vets should focus on creating a compelling profile that highlights your military experience and showcases your interest in the tech field.
Engage With the Tech Community
Establish a presence in the tech community by attending meetups, conferences, and webinars. Engage in online forums and discussions, and consider sharing your experiences and insights through blogging or contributing to open-source projects.
Step 5: Leverage Key Job Search Strategies and Develop a Tech-Focused Resume
Navigate the dynamic tech job market by searching key job boards, company websites, and professional networks to find tech job opportunities.
Use a Range of Job Search Platforms
Popular job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn each host postings for job vacancies in the tech sector. When job-hunting, you should also regularly visit company websites, as many organizations post job listings directly on their career pages. Engaging with your professional network, both online and offline, can also let you tap into lesser-known job markets and discover opportunities through personal connections.
Customize Your Job Applications to the Role
For each application, emphasize the relevant skills you possess in both the application, your cover letter, and your resume (more on that below). Use keywords from the job description to highlight your proficiency in key areas and showcase how your background uniquely qualifies you for the role. This personalized approach significantly increases your chances of standing out among applicants.
Tailor Your Resume
Your resume is a key tool for presenting yourself to potential employers. Tailor it to highlight related skills that you gained during your military service.
- Emphasize the transferable skills that align with the demands of the tech industry. For example, place a strong emphasis on leadership and problem-solving skills throughout your resume as these qualities are highly valued in the tech industry. Use specific examples from your military career to illustrate these skills in action.
- Showcase projects or coursework that demonstrate your engagement with the tech field. Highlight projects where you led a team to implement a technological solution or overcame challenges in a high-pressure environment.
- Highlight educational experiences like coding bootcamps, online courses, or a degree in a tech-related discipline. Include details about the technologies you’ve worked with and the outcomes of your projects to provide tangible evidence of your capabilities.
Attend Face-to-Face Career Events
Make a point to attend job fairs and virtual career events to network face-to-face. These experiences can be invaluable when networking and let recruiters, hiring managers, or potential employers know much more about you and how you’d fit among the team than a resume can.
Step 6: Prepare for Tech Interviews
Thoroughly prepare for technical interviews by researching common questions, practicing coding challenges, and showcasing your adaptability and willingness to learn. Interviews are a great opportunity for you to expand on experiences from your career in the military that demonstrate your ability to adapt to new situations and learn complex skills.
Common Tech Interview Questions
Interviews for tech companies often involve multiple rounds of calls, face-to-face meetings, and sometimes even presentations. Recruiters, hiring managers, and employers want to not only learn about your work experience but also your passion and motivation that drives your career transition into tech.
Interviews are a great opportunity to relate how your military experience and transferable skills make you a great match for their role. Below are some common tech interview questions to prepare for:
- What are your career goals?
- What is your preferred programming language?
- Are you a team player or do you prefer to work alone?
- Why do you want to be a programmer/work in tech?
- Can you walk me through the successes and challenges you faced when completing a project of yours that you’re proud of?
Coding Challenge Resources
For many roles in tech, one aspect of the interview process is a coding challenge, where your programming skills are assessed alongside soft skills like problem-solving and communication. This can be one of the most intimidating parts of the interview process for applicants but there are great resources to help prepare you.
Below are some of the most popular online platforms to find coding challenges designed to help you prepare for interviews. Many of these resources also come with entire interview prep packages.
Step 7: Stay Updated and Keep Learning
In the ever-evolving world of technology, staying informed about industry trends and consistently updating your skills is crucial. Read tech blogs, take online courses, participate in webinars, and embrace a mindset of lifelong learning and curiosity. Below are some ways you can stay on top of the evolving tech industry and continue to hone and refine your skills.
- Sign up for industry newsletters from publications, tech or software companies, thought leaders, or tech professionals that you admire.
- Subscribe to industry YouTube channels, or other tech-related media
- Update your skills through online courses offered on platforms like LinkedIn, Coursera, or Udemy. Some courses are free while others may charge a small fee.
- Consider pursuing certifications that would advance your expertise or qualify you for more specialized roles
- Attend and participate in tech-related events, conferences, and virtual events like webinars to get early insights into the future of tech and cutting-edge ideas. These also offer you opportunities to network with other industry professionals and experts.
- Adopt a mindset of perpetual curiosity and a desire to learn. The tech industry is relatively new and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Keep your skills and knowledge relevant and up-to-date.
From Military to Tech: Your Career in Tech Awaits You
Breaking into the tech industry is a journey that requires persistence, continuous learning, and a proactive approach to networking and skill development. But breaking into tech today doesn’t require a four-year degree and a tech background. Just the passion for the field, a willingness to learn and grow, and the development and application of both technical and soft skills.
Military personnel are uniquely positioned for roles in tech through their breadth of transferable skills and guidance from the supportive veteran community in tech can help. By adapting the steps above to your unique situation and career goals, you can make your transition from a military career to a tech career exciting, enjoyable, and fruitful.
Veterans in Tech FAQ
The best IT jobs for veterans include roles like software engineer, data scientist, cyber security engineer, and quality assurance engineer. These are some of the top-paying jobs in tech and vets can often use their GI Bill benefits to fund the education they need to launch a career in these fields.
IBM, Cisco, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are major tech companies hiring veterans into tech roles. However, there are many other smaller-scale tech companies and even startups that will hire military vets who have tech skills as their transferable skills of adaptability, problem-solving, and communication are typically of a high level.
In the tech industry, there are many high-paying jobs for veterans with no degree requirement. For example, software engineer and web developer jobs have high salaries and require only a solid understanding of the technical skills needed for the job. Coding bootcamps and online courses can equip you with these skills and make you job-ready without having a degree.
Below are high-paying jobs in tech that don’t require a degree and their average annual salaries listed on ZipRecruiter at the time of writing:
Data analyst – $82,640
– Software engineer – $102,726
– Full stack web developer – $104,803
– Mobile app developer – $102,539
– Cyber security analyst – $99,400
In the US military, people with tech skills or a background in tech can find work as information security analysts, network engineers, robotics engineers, and satellite communications systems operators, among others.