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Careers After the Military: 4 Opportunities to Pursue

Military History

Military service members preparing for a career after the military often undervalue their skills and knowledge gained during their service to the country. A veteran’s military occupational specialty code (MOS code) or Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) may not translate directly to a civilian career. However, when considering the duties and responsibilities of their military roles, veterans may discover relevant matches to civilian jobs in government agencies and the private sector.

Consider the civilian job outlook for veterans possessing knowledge and interest in military history. Possible qualifying positions include teaching history in secondary and postsecondary schools, working as policy analysts for multinational organizations, and serving as academic program directors. These are only a few of the post-military career options available to veterans who have earned an advanced degree such as an online Master of Arts in Military History.

Making the Transition After the Military

Military personnel usually begin making plans to pursue careers after the military for several months or years before reentering the civilian world. The Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) provides the Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) that helps Army personnel in comparing military earnings, benefits, and career prospects against civilian jobs.

Military.com provides an extensive checklist for military members searching for a post-service job. The information helps veterans identify a particular type of work, craft an effective resume, prepare for job interviews and preemployment testing, and collect required paperwork, including: discharge papers, letters of recommendation, school transcripts, and licenses and credentials.

Many former service members struggle to find employment immediately, as Military.com notes, especially those who lack a college degree. Many veterans settle for positions that don’t match their talents and strengths. The post-military job search is even more challenging as employers fail to appreciate the skills, experience, and potential of veterans.

Ironically, the talents and characteristics that military personnel develop during their service are among those that employers prize the most. These include leadership and teamwork skills and coolness under pressure. In addition, many veterans possess valuable technical and professional skills involving computer systems analysis, engineering, medical training, construction, and military history.

Understanding how to apply the expertise acquired while in the military to a post-military career is one of the points raised in Norwich University’s webinarTransitioning from Military to Civilian Life Through an Advanced History Degree.”

Developing Essential Skills for a Career After the Military

Military service members cite a passion for military history as one of the reasons for enlisting. Some develop a deep interest in military history during their time in service. Converting this abiding interest into a fulfilling post-military career is one of the goals of Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Military History program. Norwich University’s history as the first private military college in the U.S. is reflected in the program’s comprehensive curriculum and expert faculty.

Within its program curriculum, the university provides a unique perspective to students who are interested in gaining a deeper knowledge of military history and key military conflicts. Students develop analytical, critical thinking, and written communication skills, all of which constitute the foundation of numerous post-military professions. These and other practical skills complement the competencies that former service members gain during their time in service.

Historiography and history methodology are fundamental skills developed through the online Master of Arts in Military History curriculum in courses such as these:

  • The program’s core course, Introduction to History and Historiography, covers topics including the methods that historians use to collect historical data and formulate hypotheses, using primary and secondary sources, and identifying bias and selectivity in historical interpretation.
  • The work of noted military strategists and theoreticians from the Thirty Years’ War to the present is examined in the course Military Thought and Theory. Explored are such military concepts as deterrence and nuclear war, and modern revolutionary warfare.
  • The uniqueness of U.S. military institutions and military policy from the Colonial era to modern times is studied in U.S. Military History. Covered topics include the Frontier Wars, the rise of the U.S. as a great power in the 20th century, and civil-military relations from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf Wars.

Potential Career Paths for Veterans

An advanced degree in military history can prepare veterans for a range of employment opportunities that build on their service experience. Here are brief descriptions of the job duties, salaries, and employment outlook for several careers after the military.


Historians principally present and interpret historical events to inform the public and contribute to the collective knowledge about the past. Historians may work for government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, historical societies, and beyond. Their work entails analyzing historical records, photographs and other illustrations, interviews, films, and personal correspondence and other writings by historical figures. They present their findings via reports, books, articles, exhibits, websites, and educational programs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that the number of jobs available to historians will increase by 3% between 2019 and 2029. The average annual salary for historians was $63,680 as of May 2019, although historians at federal agencies, excluding the U.S. Postal Service, earned an average annual salary of $97,850. 

Policy Analyst               

Policy analysts’ work is often overlooked but of great importance to the public. Most of the country’s current laws and policies had their genesis in think tanks and other organizations that employ policy analysts to research complicated matters that have a tremendous impact on society. Among the problems that policy analysts study and report are the effects of crime, ways to improve health care delivery, and the best responses to global political and economic threats.

The salary survey website PayScale estimates that the median annual salary for policy analysts is around $59,600. However, policy analysts’ duties often mirror those of political scientists, who the BLS projects will experience 6% job growth between 2019 and 2029. Political scientists earned an average annual salary of $122,220 as of 2019, according to the BLS.

Assistant Professor               

The assistant professor role is a subcategory of the postsecondary teacher role at a college or university. Becoming a tenured full professor usually requires a doctorate, but a master’s degree may fulfill the basic requirement to pursue an assistant professor position. Assistant professors typically teach one or more courses within their specialty. They also may conduct research, apply for grants to fund their research, and supervise graduate teaching assistants. To earn tenure, an assistant professor, or adjunct professor, must publish original research.

According to PayScale, the median annual salary for assistant professors is around $69,000. The BLS estimates that the median annual salary for postsecondary history teachers was $79,540 as of 2019, while postsecondary teachers of political science earned a median annual salary of $85,930. Employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to increase by 9% between 2019 and 2029.

Academic Program Director               

The academic program director position encompasses the many responsibilities of managing an academic department, including forming academic policies, making tenure and faculty employment decisions, and budgeting. Academic program directors are sometimes referred to as academic deans, provosts, or chief academic officers. They supervise faculty research, develop curricula, and confirm that students meet the graduation requirements. They may also participate in the student admissions process, maintain academic records, and plan course schedules.

PayScale estimates that the median annual salary for education program directors is around $62,500. However, according to the BLS, postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual salary of $95,400 as of 2019. The BLS estimates that the number of jobs for postsecondary education administrators will increase by 4% between 2019 and 2029. 

Resources for Careers After the Military

Many resources can help veterans start their businesses or obtain meaningful employment. Regardless of how veterans start or pursue their careers after the military, they may face personal difficulties transitioning to civilian life after their time in the military. Various resources are available to veterans to help them to overcome these struggles, obtain meaningful careers, and lead rewarding lives.

The National Veterans Foundation provides information on a range of resources, such as crisis hotlines, disability compensation, health insurance claims and questions, and housing and homelessness. A common affliction that many veterans face during and after their time in service is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition can be a detriment to a veteran’s health and potentially impact the ability to obtain employment or start a business. Veterans Affairs offers extensive resources regarding treatment and support for this condition.

Veterans may also face more general struggles in adjusting to civilian life after the military. For example, a veteran accustomed to the military lifestyle of following direct orders and abiding by a strict schedule may have difficulties adjusting to new freedoms and flexibilities in civilian life. Rebootcamp offers helpful tips for veterans on preparing for and readjusting to civilian life, such as establishing strong social and professional networks, learning to talk about their time in the military, and knowing that it’s fine to question supervisors and other authority figures.

Every veteran’s situation is different, so may be the struggles of transitioning to civilian life. A veteran may never have applied or signed an apartment lease and thus may not understand the process. CNBC notes that veterans may find it beneficial to ask questions and find mentors who can help them overcome certain struggles.

Setting the Stage for a Successful Career After the Military

With the right preparation and forethought, veterans can build on the valuable skills and experience  gained during their service to launch a fulfilling career after the military. For those with a deep interest in military history, the online Master of Arts in Military History degree from Norwich University—itself a part of our country’s proud military pedigree—can help veterans claim a path to a stellar second act.


Recommended Readings

5 Career Options for a Marine Historian
History Teacher Job Outlook: Obtain Your Masters to Become a Tenured Teacher
Different Types of Historians and Their Careers


Benefits, U.S. Army
Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program, U.S. Army
How to Find a Career After Military Service, Military.com
Historians, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Policy Analysts: Shaping Society Through Research and Problem-Solving, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Policy Analyst Salary, PayScale
Political Scientist, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Postsecondary Teachers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Assistant Professor, Postsecondary / Higher Education Salary, PayScale
Postsecondary Education Administrators, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Education Program Director Salary, PayScale
Grants Programs and Eligibility, U.S. Small Business Administration
Business Grants for Veterans / Business Funding for Veterans, USA Grant Applications
Veteran Resources, National Veterans Foundation

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