Federal Job Search Archive

To Choose the Best College Majors, Veterans Need Early Career Counseling, Data Shows

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It’s a hard truth: Nearly half of recent veterans who use their GI Bill benefits to further their post-secondary education are failing to obtain a diploma or certificate within a decade, says a study released this year. And according to an analysis by The Resume Place, a major cause of this shortfall is veteran students’ uninformed choice of college majors, which leads to underemployment, unemployment or just plain dissatisfaction.

The details of the study: Some 51.7 percent of post-9/11 veterans using GI Bill education benefits completed an associates, bachelors or graduate degree or a vocational certificate program within 10 years, according to a 2014 report by Student Veterans of America and partner organizations. This compares to a four-year graduation rate of 59 percent for young non-veterans in 2011, says a USA Today analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

But there is plenty of hope for better outcomes, especially for veterans who seek advice early on in their college careers. “If we can get student veterans talking early on in college, they can avoid mistakes in the choice of a major – and a career,” says Lisa Andrews, Ph.D., director of The Office of Career Services at University of Maryland University College. “It’s ideal to make a career choice before you choose your major.”

Career Counseling Should Help Steer Veterans’ Path Through College

Veterans are wise to choose a college major carefully and early, so that they get the maximum return on the GI Bill money and all the hard work they put into their higher education. Career counseling can enable that.

“Veteran students should select courses, projects, professors and internships that will support their post-graduation careers,” says Kathryn Troutman, author of Military to Federal Career Guide, Second Edition and president of The Resume Place.

Student Veterans Face Barriers to Making Good Career Choices

Student veterans need advice because many don’t know enough about which college majors will be the most marketable when they graduate. Nor do they necessarily understand how their military experience can help them build a civilian career.

“Veterans are a little reluctant about choosing what they want to do,” says Andrews. “In the military, they were always just told what their work assignments would be.” So Andrews and her colleagues endeavor to help students express or discover what they like to do.

Here are six steps that veteran students can take to steer their post-secondary studies toward a successful and rewarding career.

Step 1: Examine How Military Experience Can Translate to a Civilian Career

“Student veterans who have done a certain job in the military need to analyze how it can translate to the world of civilian work,” says Troutman. A college career counselor can translate military occupational jargon into language that will make sense to civilian hiring managers and human resources departments.

As they begin their higher education, veterans should also find out if they can “CLEP” any of their military training or experience, which gives them a head start on the course credits they will need for graduation.

Step 2: Take Assessments for Aptitudes and Interests

Veteran students can ask their college career counselors for testing to help them understand their own personality types, interests and skills. Assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory are commonly given to college students. “Assessments give you information about yourself that can help you make a career decision — but they don’t make that decision for you,” says Andrews.

Step 3: Explore Other Personal and Labor-Market Factors in the Career Decision

Veteran students should also look at their own talents, skills, experience and interests – beyond their military service – to see what careers might be a good match. College career counselors can help veteran students research the marketability of various majors and the projected demand for the corresponding career fields. “While earning potential is a critical consideration for most college students, it shouldn’t be the sole basis for a career choice,” says Troutman.

Step 4: Choose a College Major As Soon As Possible

Next, student veterans should work with their counselors – as early in their post-secondary education as possible – to settle on the optimal college major, given their choice of careers. The earlier veterans elect a major, the sooner they’ll be able to graduate and get on with their careers, family life, and other aspirations.

Step 5: Find Student Internships Relevant to College Major and Choice of Occupation

With their numerous connections to employers and alumni, college career counselors can help veteran students line up internships, which are so often the best launch pad for the desired career. Counselors can help students write the resumes that may be required for internship applications.

Step 6: Start Early on the Search for That First Post-Graduation  Career Position

Early in the final year of their post-secondary education, veteran students should begin working with their counselors to line up a well-chosen post-graduation job. Career counselors can help with resume, interview and job-fair preparation. They can also point soon-to-be-grads to the people, jobs databases and other resources that will be critical to finding an employment opportunity that aligns with their college major and career choice.


Lisa Andrews has over 19 years of experience in higher education. As the Director of Career Services, her office services the over 93,000 students enrolled at University of Maryland University Center (UMUC), 50% of which are veterans. In 2012, she was selected as a Fulbright Scholar in Germany as a part of the International Education Administrators Program, where she created connections with higher education systems around the world.

During her career, she has serviced students at The George Washington University, University of Arizona, and Stetson University in addition to her work at UMUC. She earned a PhD in Higher Education at the University of Arizona, a Master’s in Counseling and Human Relations at Villanova University, and Bachelor’s in Psychology at Elizabethtown College.

Ms. Andrew’s passion is guiding and coaching students at all stages in their education to choose and succeed in the right career. She is also currently the President-Elect for the Maryland Career Consortium and is a member of the Maryland Career Development Association, the Mid-Atlantic Career Counseling Association, and National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).


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Kathryn Troutman is known as the Federal Resume Guru and is the developer  of the Ten Steps to a Federal Job®. She teaches hundreds of career counselors each year about her highly acclaimed methods of federal job search and has published dozens of titles, including the recent award-winning Student’s Federal Career Guide 3rd Edition.

Fun Federal Jobs Part 1


Who says federal employment is all about pushing paper around?

Federal jobs can also be fun! Everyday at the Resume Place, we find jobs that engage our clients’ passion and skills. We spend a lot of time surfing USAJobs.gov. This is a new installment for our blog that we’re calling Fun Federal Jobs. Here are this week’s entries… Maybe you know someone who would like to apply?

Wood Crafter

$25.58 to $29.87 / Per Hour

Architect of the Capitol

Closing date: Monday, August 25, 2014

The person in this position must be good at basic carpentry. But what a fantastic place to work! These folks get to hobnob with Supreme Court Justices and congressmen. The announcement reminds us, “The mission of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is to serve Congress and the Supreme Court … The AOC is responsible for the maintenance … and preservation of 17.4 million square feet of buildings … throughout Capitol Hill.”

This Wood Crafter will review blueprints and drawings in order to “assemble and/or re-manufacture parts and pieces of historic wood items, or splice in new wood with old since the historic features of many Capitol Hill structures must be precisely recreated and/or modified to exact specifications.”

Precisely recreating historic treasures? Remanufacturing original wood details of the Capitol? Fun! Sounds like Hollywood. This is a great job for a craftsperson that is imaginative and creative. Calling all history buffs!


General Biologist/Wildlife Biologist (Airplane Pilot)

$63,330.00 to $98,677.00 / Per Year

Department Of The Interior, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Closing date: Monday, June 09, 2014

Are you a biologist with a Pilot’s license? If so, this job’s for you! This unbelievable job is located in Bettles, Alaska. Never heard of Bettles? Neither had we. According to Wikipedia, “The population was 12 at the 2010 census.” It is located 35 miles North of the Arctic Circle.

This is a fantastic job for someone who loves wilderness and autonomy. The biologist/pilot would lead the biology program for the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, tracking animals from the air and monitoring the area. The refuge is home to wolf packs, moose, wolverine, beavers, muskrats, marten and mink. And don’t forget, BEARS.

Make sure you read the fine print, because this biologist/pilot won’t spend all their time in the air: “You will be required to safely carry, handle and use firearms for bear defense of self and others.”

You will also pilot some tricky situations. Your duties include conducting flights in “marginal” weather conditions “in mountainous terrain with landings and takeoffs from lakes, rivers or snow with floats, skis or wheels in flat light or glassy water conditions.” Sounds fabulous! When can we visit?


Economic Assistant

$35,230.00 to $45,804.00 / Per Year

Department Of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Closing date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The job title says Economic Assistant, but in private industry, this job is very similar to a “Secret Shopper.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics is advertising two of these positions in Los Angeles.

The Economic Assistant’s primary task is, “Visiting retail and service establishments such as department stores, supermarkets, medical offices and hotels to collect retail price data.” How else will Congress know the cost of a gallon of milk? The Economic Assistant also tracks housing prices by “contacting homeowners, renters, and apartment management companies by personal visit.”

This is a great opportunity for someone looking to get off their feet and out of retail. Unfortunately, you might be battling a lot of traffic. The job requires up to 75% travel in the Los Angeles area and requires a driver’s license.


Let us know if you decide to apply to any of these positions. And stay tuned next week as we find more Fun Federal Jobs on USAJobs.gov!