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Get Hired in Healthcare: An Online Guide for Student Veterans

From military-friendly degree programs to acing hospital interviews, learn how to transition from active service member to healthcare professional.

Ron Kness
Author: Ron Kness
Ron Kness

Ron Kness

Ron Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years with the Minnesota Army National Guard. For three years, Mr. Kness served as the 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division Command Sergeant Major, traveling to operational theaters, active duty and National Guard posts, and military medical facilities to help soldiers and their families. Mr. Kness also served on the Senior Leadership Team that developed and implemented Minnesota’s “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” program. He holds a BA in Business Administration from Metropolitan State University, Saint Paul, MN, and is a graduate of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy located in El Paso, TX.

You serve your community, your country, your unit. You battle time constraints, solve problems, and lead with determination and grit during emergencies. You’re part of a team, you put the lives of others ahead of your own, and you make a difference to those around you. While this holds true for many of our military servicemembers, it also applies to professionals on the front lines of healthcare.

In 2016 and 2017, CareerCast.com ranked the top employment opportunities for military veterans. Of the 15 careers profiled across those two years, four (registered nurse, nurse practitioner, mental health counselor, and physical therapist) were in healthcare. And according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in healthcare are expected to grow 13% between 2021 and 2031.

What does this mean for veterans? Career opportunity. The following guide helps veterans of all services get hired in healthcare, from identifying the right career and educational paths to marketing themselves and nailing interviews. Ready to help people heal?

Step 1 Finding Your Healthcare Niche

Veterans serve in many different capacities while in the military. Some have been in a job related to the civilian healthcare system, while others may have been in a completely different field altogether. For those with military healthcare experience, the transition to the civilian healthcare workplace is fairly straightforward. For example, an Army 68W Combat Medic could serve on the civilian side as an EMT or paramedic as the training required is similar.

What if you don’t have military healthcare experience, but would like to enter that field after getting out? Many of the skills you learned in the military can transfer over to a civilian healthcare job – especially the “soft” skills not directly related to your military job. To help you identify the military training that is applicable to a civilian healthcare career, here are a couple of resources to use – career crosswalks and skills assessments.

Career Crosswalks

A career crosswalk takes the skills and knowledge you acquired during your military job, and creates a list of civilian careers that might be a good fit. You can then drill down to more specific information about the civilian career, including estimated salary, top employers, and sometimes actual job openings. Here are four of today’s most popular career crosswalk resources for veterans.

To show the value of using one of these tools, take our Army 68W Combat Medic for example. Using the crosswalk at O*NETOnLine, we find several direct medical job crossovers in the civilian sector, including:

  • Medical and Health Services Managers
  • Health Educators
  • Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and Paramedics
  • Licensed Practical Nurses – (See LPN Programs Online)
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
  • Home Health Aides
  • Medical Assistants – (Learn How to Become a Medical Assistant)
  • Medical Equipment Preparers
  • Phlebotomists

Drilling down into the EMT/Paramedic listing for example, we find the job statement: “Assess injuries, administer emergency medical care, and extricate trapped individuals. Transport injured or sick persons to medical facilities.” All things trained for by a Combat Medic.

Moving down the listing, the tasks include:

  • Administer first aid treatment or life support care to sick or injured persons in prehospital settings.
  • Operate equipment, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs), external defibrillators, or bag valve mask resuscitators, in advanced life support environments.
  • Perform emergency diagnostic and treatment procedures, such as stomach suction, airway management, or heart monitoring, during ambulance ride.
  • Observe, record, and report to physician the patient’s condition or injury, the treatment provided, and reactions to drugs or treatment.
  • Assess nature and extent of illness or injury to establish and prioritize medical procedures.

And the listing goes on to include these categories of information about that job:

  • Technology Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Abilities
  • Work Activities
  • Detailed Work Activities
  • Work Context
  • Job Zones
  • Education
  • Credentials
  • Work Styles
  • Interests

Skills Assessments

But what if you don’t have direct healthcare experience? How do you find out which of your skills crossover to the healthcare field? Career OneStop has an assessment that that matches the skills you have against the skills required for a particular job. Start by entering your skill level for each of the skills listed using the Skills Matcher. Once all questions are answered, a list of jobs comes up that can be sorted in various ways. Find the job you want to see how your skills match that job, along with the annual salary, education required and employment outlook.

Shortlist Your Options

Once you have a list of three to five careers that make sense, see how they compare across six to eight areas, such as salary, estimated growth, minimum education required, average education needed, and where they work. As an example, here’s an abbreviated sample table of some key information you can find about each position researched:

Career Name Median Salary Estimated Growth Typical Education Where They Work
Registered Nurse $77,600 6% Associate or Bachelor’s degree Hospitals – 61%
Healthcare Centers –18%
Nursing care facilities – 7%
Government – 5%
Education – 4%
EMT/Paramedic $36,930 7% Postsecondary Nondegree Award Ambulance- 48%
Local Government – 28%
Hospitals – 18%
Medical Assistant $37,190 16% Postsecondary Nondegree Award Physician’s Office – 57%
Hospitals – 15%
Outpatient Care Centers – 9%
Chiropractors Office – 4%
Phlebotomists $37,380 10% Postsecondary Nondegree Award Hospitals – 37%
Labs – 32%
Healthcare Centers – 15%
Physician’s Office -8%
Outpatient Care – 2%
Physician’s Assistant $121,530 28% Master’s Degree Physician’s Office -56%
Hospitals – 23%
Outpatient Care –8 %
Education – 3%
Employment – 3%


  • Average growth for all occupations is 5%; all of these jobs are expected to grow at least as fast as average; some will grow much faster than average 2021-2031.
  • Data courtesy of Bureau of Labor Statistics

The key to Step 1 is getting direction and learning more about the civilian opportunities and how each one you find relates to your military training. Ideally, the crosswalks and skills assessments help you narrow down your options to a career that makes sense for you. Once you find that career, it’s time to consider training. Visit our Learn How to Become section for details on how to enter specific healthcare careers. Also see if an online program in healthcare may be the educational choice for you.

Step 2 Healthcare Education & Training

Many civilian healthcare jobs require some type of post-secondary education. Even if you trained in the military for a particular job and are coming into that same job as a civilian, you may need to earn a specific license in your state. In the five selected jobs in the table above, the education required ranges from a post-secondary non-degree award (diploma, certificate, certification or credential) to a master’s degree.

Getting the right higher education and training can be tricky. You need to decide on the school type, program, learning format, and how to use your military education benefits smartly. With numerous options available, making the right choice can be challenging. For instance, some schools offer more resources and are more veteran-friendly. Let’s go through these factors step by step to help you get the most value from your education.

Finding the Right School

One question frequently asked by veterans who want to expand their post-secondary skills is “Which school is right for me?” With hundreds of schools in the U.S. offering high quality healthcare programs it can be confusing. For example, do they have the proper accreditation? Are they affordable? Are they veteran-friendly? And do they offer career services that help with job placement? With these questions in mind, the answers will help determine not only which schools are best for veterans, but which ones make the most sense. When researching healthcare programs as a veteran, keep a careful eye out for the following.

GI Bill Certification

The average college student graduating today walks across the stage with a diploma in one hand and a student loan debt of $37,132 in the other. Using GI Bill benefits can cut student loan debt dramatically for veterans. Generally, there are two GI Bills in existence today: the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Let’s start with the last one first.

The MGIB can get confusing because there are two named the same, one for active duty personnel (MGIB-AD), and another for Selected Reservists, including the Reserves from all branches and the National Guard (MGIB-SR). The biggest difference between the two is the amount they pay each month: $2,210for a full-time student using the MGIB-AD and $439 for the MGIB-SR. In both cases, the money is paid to the veteran and they must pay their own education expenses.

The most popular of the GI Bills is the Post 9/11. It pays in three ways:

  • Tuition and applicable fees are paid directly to the school by the VA; 100% public school coverage; $26,381.37 per year at a private school
  • Monthly housing allowance paid to the veteran; varies according to college zip code and credits taken
  • A book stipend paid once per semester to the veteran; $1,000 academic yearly cap

All three types of payments are also dependent on the tier percentage of the veteran. Reaching the 100% tier requires at least 36 months of active duty service; minimum coverage of 40% requires at little as 90 days of continuous active duty service. With the Forever GI Bill changes, the minimum coverage increased to 50% on August 1, 2020.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the only GI Bill whose education benefits in whole months can be transferred to dependents, a spouse, or both. However, under a recent change, transfer requests must be made after serving 6 years, but before the 16th year of service.

The Yellow Ribbon Program

Another feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the Yellow Ribbon Program. The advantage of this feature is that it can help offset the unpaid difference between what the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays in tuition and fees and what the school charges when attending a private school. Under the rules, schools with a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA can waive up to 50% of the unpaid difference, and the VA pays an equal amount on top of the initial tuition and fees they already paid. This can leave the veteran student with no out-of-pocket costs. However, there are some things to watch out for:

Yellow Ribbon schools
  1. Not all schools are Yellow Ribbon schools
  2. A Yellow Ribbon school may offer less than 50% coverage, which means the VA would pay less, leaving the student with an unpaid difference.
  3. Schools set their own parameters as far as the number of YR students in their program, the maximum yearly payment cap per student and which courses and departments are covered. For example, a school’s YR program may cover undergraduates but not grad students, or healthcare students but not business students.

Check out your school to see their individual YR program.

Tuition Top-Up

Veterans Service Centers

Credit Transfers

Credits for Military Experience

Step 3 Transition Assistance Programs (TAPs)

Getting out of the military and back into the civilian world can be more difficult than you think. While serving, re-stationing to a different military installation and where you would live were in most cases planned out for you. And many military branches hook military members up with a sponsor at their new location to help them get settled in.

In civilian life, you’ll need to make decisions about location, career planning, children’s education, housing, spouse employment, and healthcare coverage. Each military branch offers a transition program to help with these aspects. Many service members don’t start their branch’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) soon enough – beginning one year out is advisable. Explore your branch’s TAP options below.

U.S. Army

U.S. Army

The Army’s Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program takes about 40 hours to complete spread over a 24 to 40-month period. The mistake many separating soldiers make is not starting early enough, therefore limiting their flexibility as far as the time they have to react to issues that may come up during the TAP process.
A typical TAP program in this branch centers on these areas:

  • Commander’s notification
  • Pre-separation counseling
  • Completing the Pre-separation Counseling Checklist
  • Learning more about SFL-TAP
  • Scheduling additional services as necessary

Many soldiers go on to receive employment assistance training, by either attending a Department of Labor Employment Workshop (DOLEW), or viewing the DOLEW training online. The training provides the skills and knowledge necessary for military members to meet their transition goals into the civilian job market.

Once DOLEW is completed, additional assistance and services are available to help select a career objective, write a resume, find a job opportunity, apply for a job and prepare for an interview. The additional services are scheduled and completed based on mission requirements so it could be spread over a number of weeks or even months depending on the mission load for the exiting Soldier.

U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy

The Navy calls their transition assistance program Transition GPS, which stands for Transition Goals, Plans and Success. It provides services to all retiring or separating Sailors and their families so that they can re-enter the civilian workforce, work on a higher post-secondary education or just retire. As part of the Navy’s Military Career Life Cycle program, each Sailor must meet the Navy’s Career Readiness Standards prior to getting out and Transition GPS is part of that career readiness program.

Transition GPS is taught over a 5-day period and is comprised of four main topics. While the topics are the same for Sailors either retiring or separating, the timelines are different:

  1. Pre-Separation Counseling – 18-24 months if retiring/12-18 months if separating
  2. 5-Day Workshop – 12-18 months if retiring/ 8-12 months if separating
  3. Optional Career Tracks – 6-12 months if retiring/6-8 months if separating
  4. Capstone – 3-6 months for both

Through the program, Sailors and their spouse receive information on post-military benefits, financial planning, career decision-making, education, certification, and training resources among other topics of interest that they can use to make their transition less stressful.

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force

According to the Air Force, “The goal of the Transition Assistance Program is to provide information, tools and training to ensure service members and their spouses are prepared for the next step in civilian life; whether pursuing additional education, finding a career or starting their own business.” To that end, their TAP consists of:

  • Separation counseling to be completed 24 months before getting out if retiring or 12 months for those separating
  • The transition workshop. Optional for some airmen such as those with over 20 years of service, verified civilian employment or those enrolled in an accredited education program
  • The VA Benefits and Services briefing
  • Capstone. Verifies career readiness standards have been met and should be completed NLT 90 days before getting out.
U.S. Marines

U.S. Marines

Located in the Career Resources Management Center on each Marine base and part of the Marine Life Cycle program, their Transition Assistance Program focuses on preparing each Marine and family for the transition to civilian life. The Transition Readiness Seminar part of the program is a 5-day event that provides Marines and their families the resources and training necessary to attain their civilian personal and professional goals after getting out. The core curriculum in the Seminar includes:

  • Resilient Transitions
  • Military Occupation Specialty Crosswalk
  • Department of Labor Employment Workshop
  • Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits I and II Briefs
  • Financial Planning

The Marines also have a separate transition workshop for spouses called Spouse Transition and Readiness Seminar or STARS for short.

U.S. Coast Guard

U.S. Coast Guard

Part of the Work-Life Program, the Coast Guard’s Transition Assistance Program mandates that all eligible servicemembers complete the standardized components of TAP, including:

  • Pre-separation Counseling
  • The Transition GPS Seminar

The Transition GPS Seminar consists of:

  • DOL employment Workshop
  • VA Benefits Briefing I and II
  • Military Occupational Code Crosswalk
  • Financial Planning
  • The opportunity to join the Coast Guard Reserves
  • E-Benefits Registration

As part of their Individualized Transition Plan (ITP), servicemembers can choose between three different “tracks” depending on their civilian goals:

  • Education
  • Technical Training
  • Entrepreneurship

Step 4 Network, Network, Network

What you know when you transition out is important, but who you know can be just as valuable. One of the best things you can do when entering civilian life is build a network of people you can reach out to, learn from, and, if you’re lucky, discuss job opportunities. Here are three easy ways to get connected.

Contact Fellow Veterans

Contact Fellow Veterans

One of the best ways to find a job in the civilian marketplace is to establish or maintain contact with servicemembers who transitioned out before you. They can be a wealth of information as far as what they did (or things you shouldn’t do) after you get out to find a job commensurate with your knowledge, skills, and abilities in your chosen field of interest.

Because many open job positions are not advertised – as high as 80% of them – they can be an inside track to jobs that you would have otherwise never known existed. And because they know you, they can also be a champion in your corner as far as recommending you to their employer.

Use Social Media

Use Social Media

To maximize your networking efforts, create professional accounts on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Employers often look at these platforms when researching job applicants. You can increase your visibility in the industry by joining groups related to your career field, such as healthcare. This helps you connect with new people and may even lead to job opportunities shared within the group.

Leverage Job Search Sites

Leverage Job Search Sites

Don’t overlook setting up profiles on job sites such as Monster and Indeed. Also, attend healthcare career and job fairs with your resume in hand. It is also wise to have your 30-second “elevator speech” memorized so that you can verbalize what you are looking for as far as a job in the healthcare profession to those that are interested in hiring veterans in that field. You must always be prepared because you never know when an opportunity will present itself.

While it may be tempting to take the first job that comes around, know your worth and stick to your employment goals and aspirations to get the job you want in your salary range.

Step 5 Market Yourself (and Your Military Experience)

Getting the right healthcare job can be frustrating. You have great experience and top skills. You’ve provided top-notch medical care on the front lines while serving… yet it’s been hard even getting your foot in the door for interviews. Why is that?

According to Army veteran Erick Girard, “It’s been a struggle. I’m overqualified for this job and that job. Sometimes employers don’t understand my resume. They don’t understand what I did while serving and just put my resume aside.” To prevent that happening to you, here are 3 ways veterans can maximize their chances of getting noticed and, ultimately, getting hired.

1. Civilianize your resume
Many employers that hire may not be familiar with military terminology. For instance, an Army 68W means nothing to them, but using the words “combat medic” means something to those in the healthcare field; better yet, use EMT or paramedic military equivalent. Civilianize job titles and acronyms as much as possible to still represent yourself honestly, but in terms civilians can understand.

2. Use Veteran’s Preference if authorized
Veterans can get either 5 or 10 points added to their score, which can raise them up higher on the hiring list.

3. Highlight your soft skills
During an interview, highlight the non-technical or “soft” skills learned in the military, like teamwork, problem solving, and attention-to-detail. They are applicable to almost any job that you apply for, are skills civilian employers like to find, and many times not found in a resume. However, be ready to give examples of when and how you utilized these skills in the service. The more specific your example, the better.

The Right Words

One of the hardest things for veterans to do is to explain what they did in the military in terms civilians can understand. It is no secret they speak a “different” language with abbreviations, acronyms, and terms that to them are just part of their everyday language.

But to a civilian without military experience, it’s like a foreign language and doesn’t tell them what a veteran did while serving. Veterans need to civilianize the language in their resume enough so that it makes sense to a hiring official or recruiter, but still accurately explains what they did in the military. Below is a sample of how to do that:

  • “Trained as an Army 68W with battlefield combat lifesaver experience …” Instead say “Trained as a military emergency medical technician equivalent with casualty on-site experience …”
  • “A 68C with TMC and ER experience …” Instead say “A nursing assistant with both medical clinic and emergency room hospital experience …”
  • “With patient administration experience at a TMC as a 68G, …” Instead say “With patient administration experience at military medical clinics as a trained medical assistant, …”

And this is where the crosswalks mentioned earlier can help make the change in language from military to civilian.

Veteran Strength

Healthcare employers not familiar with hiring veterans may wonder what advantages there are to hiring a veteran over an experienced civilian. While there are many reasons, here are 6 of the best:

1. Adaptable:
Veterans learn early in their military career how to adapt to rapidly changing conditions as can be the case in an emergency room setting or at a mass casualty scene.

2. Team player:
Veterans understand the value of teamwork both as a leader of a team or member. They also understand the synergy that can be obtained when members work together toward a common cause instead of individually. Many settings within the healthcare community involve two or more providers or teams working together such as handing off an ER patient to the Operating Room staff or transferring a patient from an ambulance to the ER.

3. Diversity:
Veterans are experienced in working with people from all walks of life, including different races, genders, backgrounds, religions, and economic statuses. This makes them great at collaborating with a variety of individuals, which is important when working in diverse environments like inner-city community healthcare centers.

4. Performance under pressure:
Veterans understand working under tight schedules and with limited resources. Much of their experience came from working under some of the most austere stressful conditions – the battlefield. Therefore, staying with a task until it is completed correctly – regardless of the working conditions – is nothing new to them. It is an attribute necessary to have in an active Emergency Room or at an accident involving many casualties.

5. Respect for policies and procedures:
Veterans know the value of adhering to standards, policies, and procedures. Taking shortcuts can get fellow military members killed or wounded, therefore they have a unique perspective at upholding and following procedures to the tee.

6. Conscious of health and safety standards:
Similar in nature to number 5 above, veterans are aware through their training and experience of health and safety protocols in place both for themselves and the welfare of others. Individually, they are drug-free; on a company level, they will protect and account for employees, property, and materials left in their charge.

Nail the Interview

Your resume and cover letter did their jobs and got you to an interview. Now what? First, as with your resume and cover letter, avoid using military jargon. If you must, then be sure to define the terms in civilian language the interviewer will understand.

This is a time to highlight any skills, technical or soft, that may not have been addressed in your resume. Soft skills such as integrity, organization, accountability, and attention-to-detail are desirable to employers. Try to relate relative examples of your military experience/training as part of your answers to asked questions. This shows the interviewer that you are trained in that line of questioning.

Employment Resources for Veterans & their Families

For veterans with healthcare experience from their military service, the transition to a civilian healthcare job can be almost seamless. Because training on both sides is similar, and many of the credentials transfer over relatively easily; it is one of the more pain-free career adjustments compared to other career choices. Fortunately, there are also numerous healthcare and other career field opportunities and training available for veterans to make the transition process as easy as possible; here is a list of 25 sources that may help secure a job after service.

1. Vet Jobs – A job board and prep services site free for transitioning veterans and spouses with over 2.4 million jobs available.

2. Clearance Jobs – This job board lists exclusively jobs that require a security clearance. Depending on when a veteran’s clearance was re-investigated last, it could be valid for up to two years after getting out.

3. USA Jobs – A massive job search site where jobs can be sorted according to keywords. Using the word “healthcare” brought up over 184 pages of jobs that included the job title, hiring agency, job location and annual salary.

4. Feds Hire Vets – This is an information site for Federal employment training and resources for veterans, transitioning military service members, their families, and Federal hiring officials. There are also links to each department within the Federal government, including healthcare positions under the Department of Health and Human Services and at other agencies.

5. Veterans’ Preference – Veterans’ Preference is an award-style program where veterans can get up to 10 points added to their score, which can place them higher on the hiring list for all new jobs in competitive service and many in excepted service. The link explains the point system and the criteria to be awarded points where applicable.

6. VA for Vets – A job site strictly for those who want to work for Veterans Affairs (VA). The site has many different areas to include upcoming job fairs and other employment opportunities. It even has a section for military spouses looking to work for the VA.

7. Military.com – A job search site for veterans, it is a good resource to learn about job searching and applying. It also includes a military skills translator and transition center. Jobs can be sorted by industry of which Healthcare and Nursing Jobs is one of the categories.

8. Military Hire.com – Run by veterans and hiring managers, this site connects veterans with jobs. Just sign up, post a resume and search for jobs. It also has a lot of job search information on how veterans can better prepare themselves to get hired.

9. TA Online.com – A career website for transitioning military members, it has a Career Tools section where one can post and manage their resumes, Transition Advice and it even has a military job title translator which is important when writing resumes. For example, enter in the Army’s 68W and it returns Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics.

10. G.I. Jobs – A site of tools, guides and advice to help veterans find employment faster. There are links to job boards, companies, schools and transition resources.

11. Veterans Employment Center – Military spouses can use this site to see if they qualify for the Department of Defense’s Spouse Education Career Opportunities (SECO) program. It also has other resources whether looking for a career job or are interested in starting a business.

12. G.I. Bill – Learn about the benefits of the Post 9/11 GI Bill including Transfer of Benefits, Yellow Ribbon Program and what kind of training it will pay for, along with payment rates.

13. Vista College – Offering nine programs in healthcare, plus four other fields that lead to diplomas, or associate and bachelor’s degrees, this college also offers scholarships for active duty personnel, dependents and veterans. Classes can be taken at one of their resident campuses or online.

14. Heroes for Healthcare – A non-profit organization whose mission is to get veterans with healthcare experience into jobs commensurate with their training and experience.

15. My Next Move – A unique site where veterans can explore different jobs types by keyword, industry such as healthcare, or a job like the one you had in the military. Includes the knowledge, skills, abilities, personality, education and job outlook information for each job explored.

16. U.S. DOL Employment Workshop – A free 196-page downloadable handbook for transitioning veterans with information from identifying transferable skills to writing resumes. Very complete and informative!

17. Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment – Also known as Voc Rehab, this VA site for disabled veterans is the place where they can get personalized counseling and employment resources so they can do a job within their limitations.

18. Military to Civilian Resume Writing – A succinct article on how to write a military to civilian resume.

19. Military Connection – A job listing board of healthcare job openings across all 50 states serving all branches of the military. Veterans may also upload their resume to this job board.

20. Healthcare Jobs for Veterans Article – An article that explores why healthcare jobs for veterans with healthcare experience are such a good fit after getting out.

21. Bureau of Labor Statistics –A listing of the different types of healthcare occupations. At first look is a job summary, education required and annual salary of each occupation. Drill deeper and get a plethora of information about that selected occupation.

22. Healthcare Licensing by State – A listing by state of the healthcare agencies responsible for licensing and credentialing.

23. Veterans in Healthcare – A listing of over 1,800 healthcare jobs for veterans from across the United States.

24. Monster.com – From the job board giant, this article discusses why healthcare is a good career opportunity for veterans.