Thursday August 9, 2012
September approacheth, students. Are you recent vets ready to trade the combat load for a bookbag? (The rumors are true -- civilians won't chew you out for carrying it by one strap.)
Personally, I left the military almost two years ago now (how time flies.) I've managed to get the financial aspect of being an adult full-time student comfortably under control, thanks to the many benefits available to veterans. Even my recent transfer from a city college to an astronomically more expensive private institution has been far less frightening than I imagined.
But there were bumps in the road, and it took me a while to figure out how to do more than just squeak by. Even with full compensation from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you might need to tap some less-touted resources if you want to make full-time study your top priority (without just living off microwaved noodles.)
I've got a few ideas to get you started in a new article, Back to School: Bridging the Financial Gap.
Switching gears: Maybe you're at a different crossroad, aching to join the military but wondering whether you should follow your parents' advice and give college a chance. You can always become an officer later -- but what are the advantages? Following on the heels of my primer on commissioned officers, here's a more down-to-earth look at some tangible benefits of becoming an officer to help put this challenging decision in perspective.
Whatever you do, don't miss the bus.
Tuesday August 7, 2012
With titles like this, it's a wonder I haven't been hired as a comedy writer. Oh, chuckle.
Anyway. As I prepare to enter the clinical phase of my nursing education this Fall, my mind naturally turns to healthcare careers -- a broad field both in- and outside the military, and one recently lauded by Tripp Ritter over at Payscale.com as one of the fields with "the best earnings growth since 2006."
Like I said, healthcare is a huge playing field, populated more and more by a variety of specialized support jobs. The same is true in the military, so we'll start off with just a couple of the many ways you can break into healthcare with a background in the service:
- Career Profile: Navy Hospital Corpsman: Behold, the Navy gave me a broad brush-stroke to start with! Let's consider why Corpsman may be the path to take if you're not yet sure which branch you'd like to climb in the healthcare family tree.
- Overview: Biomedical Career Technicians: But if you're sure you want to go for one of those tech-heavy hospital jobs, here's one for you. Unfortunately, you've traded certainty about your career track for the old "Which military branch is better?" conundrum.
That ought to get you started. Have no fear: There's plenty more to come.
Monday August 6, 2012
My sincerest condolences and wishes for healing go out to the victims of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, as well as the police officer critically wounded while tending the injured. I'd say more, but I fear I'm far too angry to maintain a sufficiently respectful tone.
I will say this to any who read my blog or articles because they're considering a career in the service: If you feel that hate crimes and domestic terrorism are serving America or avenging September 11th, you shouldn't bother talking to a recruiter. Stay home and keep playing Call of Duty if you need an outlet for your aggression.
So Wade Page was a veteran. As far as I'm concerned, you can keep him. Strike his name from the rolls and forget about playing "Taps." A real soldier would have the honor to respect the laws of his country, the lives of his fellow citizens, and even the rights of his enemies. (He'd also have the brains to properly identify an enemy.)
Friday July 27, 2012
"Firing cannons out of airplanes and storming beaches is all well and good," you may say, "but I want one of those fat cash jobs when I get out of the military."
First of all, nothing is cooler than firing big guns and storming beaches.
Second of all, I get it. There's a lot of variety out there in military careers, and some of us want the jobs that translate directly into a solid resume when we're discharged. You can write a solid resume with any military occupation, but it can be tricky if you haven't worked directly in the field you're after in the civilian sector
So let's take a look at one of those jobs: information technology (IT) tops the list in Payscale.com's "Entry Level Jobs for High School Graduates."
Notice that the median salary quoted in that article is after several years' experience, with no college education. I wonder where you can get a job in IT out of high school, and free training, and money for a degree and credentials, so you can push that salary higher? (Am I being too obvious?) I'll describe one possible route in this profile of Navy Information Systems Technicians.
Wednesday July 25, 2012
Just last month marked the 60th anniversary of one of the military's most unusual publications: PS Magazine, a recurring instructional publication that teaches soldiers about equipment maintenance. It's a six-decade-old technical publication -- that's a comic book.
"Who cares," you ask? I did in 2003, when Sergeant Lucky was just a Lance Corporal returning from Kuwait, and interested in a career as a comic book artist. (Hey, life doesn't always turn out the way we planned at 21.) See, PS was started by Will Eisner, the pioneer of great American comics, after he served his time in the Army. Even though the book is no longer drawn in-house by servicemembers, it was inspiring to a young Marine who was interested in, among other things, becoming an active duty Combat Illustrator.
I never made good on that ambition, but just as well -- I'm happy with my life as it's developed, and sadly the Marine Corps has now all but eliminated its Combat Illustrator program. But were I still a younger man (and not so attached to my identity as a Marine) I might be tempted by the Army's version of that job, the Multimedia Illustrator.
Seems to me if you like drawing and want a gateway into such a career -- with some financial assistance, paid training, and maybe a chance to fire a rifle -- it's a pretty good deal. Still, you should consider the facts in more detail before getting too excited: read a more detailed profile of the Army Multimedia Illustrator job here.
Monday July 23, 2012
As promised, folks, you can find the second installment of my Overview of Air Force Aircrew Careers at the About.com Military Careers topic site. (Here's Part One, if you missed it.)
I have to confess, I was going to make a cheap joke about how often I find myself squeezing Tom Cruise references into these articles. But looking back it turns out I'm delusional, and in fact the aircrew piece only brings me up to two (the first was in my profile of Army warrant officer pilots.) Granted, I pushed my tally to three with the title of this blog post, but I'm still worried about my deteriorating memory. And disappointed, because if I reach 20 Cruise/military film references, I get a set of steak knives.
And to my brothers- and sisters-(still)-in-arms: If, like me, you ever find yourself so bored that you have to pass the time by slipping corny jokes into your actual work, here are some of my thoughts on Four Ways to Refresh Your Military Career.
Monday June 25, 2012
Well, I've finished my first full month as About.com's Topic Writer for Military Careers. It's been fun so far, but I'm just getting started (and I've got a long way to go, since there are so many ways to serve).
I've decided to finish the month out strong, and bring you a few more thoughts on careers in the service before we enter July:
Wednesday June 13, 2012
Yes, it's time for a round-up of new articles on Military Careers, using the ancient art of the confusing blog post title.
As I write this from vacation at Cape Cod, I've enjoyed my fifth day of oversleeping without consequence. My wife keeps reassuring me that I'm perfectly entitled to indulge this tendency, but that doesn't quiet the vague apprehensions I feel each morning after my time in the service. Hence my decision to share some thoughts on oversleeping and other "minor" mistakes that are actually considered crimes in the military. There are plenty of other ways to get in trouble, but I figure these few are a good jumping-off point for anyone considering a military career.
If you're not put off by all that and still want to join, good for you! If you also decide that the Marine Corps is for you -- well, I'm supposed to be impartial here despite my own former affiliation, so I'll just cross my arms and nod in silent approval. Also, I'll be laughing, because I know that for at least the first six months after you graduate Marine boot camp, all you'll be doing is imitating your Drill Instructors' leather-lunged voices. A few may actually go beyond parody and try to earn "the smokey bear" -- if so, check out how to make good on those aspirations to become a Marine Corps Drill Instructor.
Last but not least, let me turn to my fellow recently discharged veterans. I hope you're all enjoying some late mornings, like I am. But eventually you'll have to get back on the horse (unless you're independently wealthy, in which case, I am available for entourage duty for a modest retainer). No lie: Job-hunting sucks, but if you're interested in some civilian positions in the Federal government, I've written a tutorial for veterans creating an account on USA Jobs, the government's central job-search engine.
There, see? The title of this post makes total sense now.
Friday June 8, 2012
Given that unmanned aircraft are seeing heavy use in the War on Terror -- the CIA used drones to kill al-Qaeda's number two this week -- one might wonder how much longer it will be before real military pilots are out of a job.
Not for a while yet, it seems. According to Bob Cox of the Star-Telegram, helicopters like the Army's OH-58 Kiowa are still in high demand from soldiers in a tight spot, so much so that the Army and Bell Helicopter have a five-year plan to replace downed Kiowas with 50 rebuilt models.
As far as I can tell, this means manned military flight is still a safe career bet, at least for the time being. And interestingly, the Army has the only cadre of pilots among all four service branches that accepts enlistees without a college degree. Don't believe me? I've just published a profile of Army Rotary Wing Aviators with the details.
Wednesday May 30, 2012
The end of the month is approaching fast, and that can only mean one thing for many of us, especially those in the US Military: pay day!
No one looks forward to pay day more than someone in the service. I'm right there with you, even though I left the military over a year ago. (I cheated -- isn't the Post-9/11 GI Bill grand?) Those automatic scheduled payments are as comforting to a service member after a long hard month of work as a mother's heartbeat is to a baby after -- well, anything, really. I hear babies get upset easily.
But speaking of getting upset: Nothing changes that warm-and-fuzzy feeling faster than a glitch in the pay system. It's the inevitable consequence of trying to pay hundreds of thousands of people at the exact same time from one pot. Even though Veterans Affairs has a customer service line for those troubling times, I still long for the days when I could go straight up to the administration office at my battalion and stand there, staring at someone, hoping my mere presence would annoy them into helping me get paid before time came to punch out for the day.
Those poor administrators get all the flack, but it's a good thing they're around. I can't imagine having to call the Defense Finance Accounting Service on my own and waiting on hold for two days straight. You can find out a little bit more about the under-appreciated work of an Army Financial Management Technician in this career profile.