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What Vets Need to Know About Transitioning to a Healthcare Career

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As your military career winds down and you turn toward the next phase of your life, you can’t help but wonder, “Will my skills from the military transfer to civilian life?”. Your military background sets you up for success in a number of fields, and healthcare is often a good match for military vets. The healthcare field is a strong contender, whether or not the candidate received medical training in the military, as the skills and values required in the military translate well to the demands of the healthcare field.

Not sure how you can transition to the healthcare field after military service? Keep reading to find out how to make the jump and enjoy the strong job outlook and pay of medical careers.

Why Healthcare Is a Great Field for Military Vets

The healthcare field offers many opportunities for military vets. While working in a medical position is not right for everyone, many vets thrive in healthcare settings. Here are some military attributes that are mandatory to the healthcare field:

  • Calm under pressure. Military personnel face rigorous demands daily, starting in basic training and continuing throughout their military careers. Vets who’ve seen combat have a greater ability to stay calm under pressure. While you won’t have to deal with enemy fire or an overzealous drill sergeant screaming in your face, healthcare settings have a similar fast-paced, high-pressure environment. The bottom line: if you have what it takes to make it in the military, you have what it takes to deal with the hectic, high-pressure, always changing world of healthcare. Your ability to hold up under pressure is appealing to recruiters in the medical field.

If you have what it takes to make it in the military, you have what it takes to deal with the hectic, high-pressure, always changing world of healthcare.

  • Varied experiences. Medical jobs in the military often require soldiers to perform a wide range of tasks. If you trained in a health-related field in the military, you already have a considerable amount of experience. Vets who work in war zones or military hospitals that received patients injured in combat often see unique cases. If you can handle the unexpected situations that result from combat injuries, you can handle the more commonplace cases that arise in civilian work settings. You also have the foundations in the medical field with a solid understanding of medical terminology and procedures. All of those experiences give vets an advantage when it comes to civilian healthcare settings.
  • Helping others. As a vet, you know just how much of an impact a helping hand can make. Healthcare careers let you help others every single day you go to work, no matter what specific medical career you choose. Many healthcare positions work directly with patients, so you can see the immediate effects of your skills. Others work behind the scenes, ensuring the medical facility runs smoothly.
  • Giving back to vets. It is no secret that the VA healthcare system faces workforce shortages in medical positions. While opportunities are available in a variety of settings, working in a VA hospital or other healthcare facility for veterans will help you connect to those patients on a deeper level. There is some truth to the saying that only a fellow vet can fully understand what those patients have been through in their military careers. Pursuing a career in the medical field gives you a chance to help those veterans in a very meaningful and hands-on way.
  • Diverse career paths. The healthcare field offers many different avenues for military vets. This allows you to pursue the type of healthcare career and the specialty that interest you the most. You also have varied work environment options, from hospitals and clinics to private practices and medical laboratories. Because of the demand in medical careers, you may have opportunities to advance to learn new specialties to continue expanding your knowledge.

Because of the demand in medical careers, you may have opportunities to advance to learn new specialties to continue expanding your knowledge.

  • Variety of duties: For some people, the unknown aspect of the medical field is stressful. No two days are the same, and some people prefer a little more consistency. The military prepares vets to handle situations where they will be required to change tasks at a moment’s notice.
  • Career outlook: Healthcare careers always require new candidates to meet the demands of the position. The job outlook is strong in many positions, and a number of healthcare careers only require a certificate or Associates Degree. These careers have a much higher than average expected growth rate. That gives you a wider range of options during your job search, and provides greater job security once you enter the field.
  • Vet recruitment programs: Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities actively seek out veterans for healthcare positions. They may offer special training programs or a transition program to help you ease into your new career.
  • High salaries: Healthcare careers are often high-paying positions, even for entry-level careers. A steady salary at a high-level helps you transition into civilian life while being able to support yourself and your family.

Healthcare Career Options for Vets

Healthcare career options vary when it comes to opportunities for military vets. The possibilities range from general patient care to specialty areas, such as dental and massage. Even veterinary care is an option with only a short training program. Exploring the possibilities helps you determine which avenue to pursue.

Consider these healthcare career options:

  • Nursing: A nursing career puts you to work directly with patients. You will care for patients, monitor their conditions, administer medications and perform other duties as assigned, both with and without supervision. A Licensed Vocational Nurse/Licensed Practical Nurse Diploma usually takes around a year to complete. With a median pay of $43,170 per year and an expected growth rate of 16 percent, a LVN/LPN Degree gives you solid job prospects right out of the gate.

With a median pay of $43,170 per year and an expected growth rate of 16 percent, a LVN/LPN Degree gives you solid job prospects right out of the gate.

  • Medical Assisting: Medical assistants perform varied tasks, often a mix of patient interaction and administrative work. You might take vitals or medical histories from patients, in addition to helping run the office and handling paperwork. Office management is often part of the training process for medical assistants. Vista College offers both a Diploma and an Associate’s Degree program for medical assisting, giving you the flexibility to decide how in-depth you want to go with your training. Medical assistants earn a median salary of $30,590 per year. The job prospects are much faster than other career fields at 23 percent expected growth.
  • Dental Assistant: If you do not mind a trip to the dentist, considering working for one. Dental assistants support the entire team in dental offices, often preparing equipment, updating records, handling administrative tasks and interacting with patients to ensure their comfort. Office management and scheduling duties may also be part of the role. This field also comes with the option of a Diploma or an Associate’s Degree. Dental assistants can expect a median pay of $35,980 per year, and a rapidly accelerating job growth rate of 18 percent.
  • Massage Therapy: Do you get frequent requests for massages? Do you love making people feel better but don’t want to mess around with bodily fluids, lab work and other aspects of medical offices? A career in massage therapy could be a solid option for you. Massage therapists use touch to work on the muscles and soft tissues in the body to help relieve patient stress, ease pain, recover from injuries and feel better overall. Massage therapists make a median salary of $38,040 per year. The job prospects are much better than average, with a projected growth rate of 22 percent.
  • Veterinary Tech: If you prefer working with animals over humans, a veterinary tech position is a possibility. This position is similar to that of a nurse for humans, except you are working with animal patients. Duties include assisting the veterinarian, administering medication and tests, cleaning up and educating owners on how to take care of pets or carry out a treatment plan. The median salary is $31,800, and the projected growth rate is 19 percent, making this another solid career option.
  • Medical Lab Technician: A medical lab technician performs lab tests to help in the diagnosis and treatment process. This position allows you to help patients without working directly with them. While the more advanced technologist position typically requires a Bachelors Degree, technician positions generally only require a Diploma or Associates Degree, getting you in the field faster. The median salary for a medical lab technician is $38,970. The projected job growth rate is 18 percent.
  • Medical Insurance Billing and Coding: Earning a Medical Insurance Billing and Coding Diploma or Associates Degree gives you the skills necessary to perform the administrative tasks that keep a healthcare office running. Typical job duties include coding medical procedures, data entry and handling health insurance claims forms. This position ensures data is accurate, secure and accessible, following established guidelines. When you work in this type of position, you will not work directly with patients on a regular basis. The median salary for medical records and health information technicians is $37,110 annually with a projected growth rate of 15 percent.

The median salary for medical records and health information technicians is $37,110 annually with a projected growth rate of 15 percent.

Training Require to Transition to a Healthcare Career

The training for healthcare careers varies depending on your previous experience and the specific career path you plan to pursue. Even if you worked in a medical field in the military, you may need additional education or training before you can pursue a healthcare career.

The requirements for medical professionals vary greatly from state to state. Many positions require a license in order to practice in a particular state. That license requires specific training or a certain number of hours of experience or schooling. Some healthcare licenses also require a written exam.

Degree programs for many healthcare positions take two years or less to complete. That makes the transition from military to medical career faster, so you get out in the field helping people and earning a paycheck. Some medical positions require only a Diploma, which takes roughly one year to complete. Others require a minimum of an Associates Degree. Others give you the option of either a Diploma or an Associates Degree. An Associates Degree takes about one extra year over a diploma, but you also get a more in-depth education in the field. This could prepare you faster for career advancement or additional responsibilities.

Tips for Choosing a Healthcare Career for Vets

You know you want to pursue a healthcare career, but which one is the right career path for you? Choosing the right healthcare careers for you comes down to individual preferences and strengths. Here are some tips for choosing the best medical career for you:

  • What medical experience do you have? Specific healthcare work experience you gained while in the military gives you a foundation for a civilian healthcare career. Consider a field similar to the one in which you worked while enlisted for an easy transition with a transfer of skills.
  • What other job skills are on your resume? Other work experience from the military may help you narrow down a specific part of the healthcare field. Think about the tasks that you performed daily, and consider how they might translate into a health career. Did your job require you to break down complex information to a basic level? That skill comes in handy in practical nursing when explaining a complex medical situation to a patient. Did you have to make split second life-or-death decisions in your military career? A fast-paced ER position requires that same type of quick and smart decision-making.
  • What personal traits stand out? The skills on your resume aren’t the only things about you that can help determine an ideal career path. Are you naturally curious? Working in a lab lets you put that curiosity to use every day. Are you good with animals? A vet tech position could be a rewarding option.
  • Does a particular field draw your attention? Many people already have an idea of the type of medical career they would like to pursue after leaving the military. After reading through the descriptions of various medical positions, image what it might be like to perform the required tasks day after day. You will likely find that one or maybe two specific positions sound the most appealing.
  • How long do you want to attend college? If you need additional healthcare training before you enter the field, consider how long you want to spend in school. You could go back to school to be a veterinarian, dentist or medical doctor, but those options take years of schooling. Associate degree programs for positions such as dental assistants and medical assisting take roughly two years. Diploma programs generally take only around a year. While the timing of education shouldn’t hold you back from what you truly want to do, taking that timeframe into consideration is important.

Taking the Next Steps Toward a Civilian Healthcare Career

If you’re interested in transitioning into a healthcare career after leaving the military, Vista College offers you the support you need. With a variety of Certificate, Diploma and Degree programs, you can find a program that matches your needs and preferences. We offer flexible programs, all of which can be completed in 2 years or less, to get on your way to a new career in healthcare faster. With the strong job prospects, solid salaries and your compatible military background, healthcare could be the ideal field for your civilian career goals.

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