How Veterans Can Transition to a Healthcare Career as a Civilian

Life in the military is not just a job, it's a lifestyle. When someone chooses this lifestyle, they are doing more than just getting a job. 

Military members often describe their team as being like family and often live wherever their career dictates. In addition, service members dedicate their lives to helping protect and serve the country. After committing so much to their job, it can be a huge challenge to transition back to civilian life. 

One of the biggest challenges that veterans face is finding employment after returning back from military service. Veterans may need extra flexibility for military leave, time to recover from injuries, access to mental health services, and assistance with reintegrating into civilian social groups. All of these factors can make finding a regular job difficult. 

If you are a veteran trying to decide where to go next in your career, you might want to consider a job in healthcare. Healthcare jobs provide an opportunity to perform meaningful work and can help you rediscover your purpose. 

In addition, healthcare jobs are often flexible, offer good benefits, provide a decent salary, and make great use of many military skills. Healthcare is the third-most common industry that vets work in.

Veterans have many of the skills necessary for a successful healthcare career, and healthcare organizations are often eager to hire them. This guide goes over how veterans transitioning to civilian life can start their careers in healthcare. 

Resources for Veterans Looking to Transition to a Healthcare Career

Even though there are plenty of healthcare organizations eager to hire veterans, the transition from military to civilian work can be challenging. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help make things easier for veterans and their families. 

Military Health System and Defense Health Industry

Military Health System Defense Health Industry provides opportunities for veterans to find jobs in medicine, mental health, dentistry, and research. Members of the Army, Navy, and Military can enjoy an expedited hiring process that makes it easier to get started in a new career quickly. 

In addition to benefits for veterans, this program offers the opportunity to qualified spouses of military personnel to bypass competitive application processes and get started working right away. 

Veterans Employment Center

The Veterans Employment Center is another good resource that can help veterans find, apply to, and prepare for jobs as civilians. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers veterans the opportunity to work with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) who can help them find employment after an injury or mental health problem sustained while on duty. 

They can help veterans with establishing, reemployment with a former employer, job placement and counseling services for new employment, starting their own business, help you find work in a different field that better suits specific talents, and independent living services if they can’t return to work right away. Job Search

By using to perform a job search, candidates can filter jobs based on what companies are hiring veterans in the healthcare industry. also has special job search options for veterans with disabilities, military spouses, and people in the National Guard or Reserves. 

Department of Labor Transition Assitance Program

The Department of Labor Transition Assistance Program helps smooth the transition from military to civilian life. They provide assessments that can help veterans find careers matching their skills and personalities, resume building, networking, apprenticeships, and help to earn certifications. 

The Department of Labor, the Departments of Defense, Education, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Personnel Management all collaborate to form the transition program. 

American Heroes at Work

American Heroes at Work is a program developed specifically to help veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The program was developed in 2008 to connect employers with potential employees and provide guidance to employers on best practices to accommodate veterans with those injuries. 

Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes

Hiring Our Heroes is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and helps military members and their families find meaningful work after they complete their service. They host job fairs and hiring events, skill development webinars, and give recognition to organizations that are especially helpful to veterans. 

The Hiring Our Heroes job board has hundreds of healthcare-related job postings that are specifically made for veterans and veteran spouses. 

Credentialing Assitance

These programs are offered to people in specific branches of the military to help them gain the skills and certifications they need to start a successful career. 

Army National Guard Credentialing Assistance

The Army National Guard offers up to $4,000 per year for certifications like Associate Professional in HR (aPHR), Certified Logistics Technician (CLT), Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Certified Welder (CW) Commercial Driver License (CDL), and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). See here for more information. 

Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL)

COOL is another resource that can be used by Active Duty Navy and Navy Reserve, less Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and Voluntary Training Unit (VTU), to receive funding for credential examinations and renewal fees. 

Applications for funding are open to applicants on October 1 of each year, and distribution of funds is given on a first-come, first-served basis. See here for more information. 

Marine Corps Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL)

COOL for Marine Corps members is available for active duty marines only. To receive funding for certification, the marine must be currently working in or assigned to a related field. See here for more information

Coast Guard Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL)

If you are part of the US Coast Guard, you can speak to your Education Services Officer (ESO) for help with credentials. Applications for funding must be submitted at least 14 days prior to the start of your desired training course or examination date. See here for more information. 

Air Force COOL

Enlisted airmen may be eligible for up to $4,500 in reimbursement to cover the cost of certain certifications. If you fail your certification course or exam, you will be required to pay back the money to the Air Force. See here for more information. 

Healthcare Organizations That Hire Veterans

One of the best ways for a veteran to get started in the healthcare industry is to find an organization that specifically works to provide jobs for veterans. These programs often provide special accommodations to veterans and their families that make the transition from military to civilian life a little bit less stressful.

  • Main Line Health. Main Line Health offers special employment opportunities for veterans. They often participate in job fairs for veterans and pride themselves on incorporating military-like values into their workplace including integrity, trust, respect, and collaboration. 
  • HCA Healthcare. HCA Healthcare offers flexibility, active duty benefits, and transition assistance to military workers and their spouses. They have hired over 40,000 military members and their spouses since 2012. 
  • Advent Health. AdventHealth has taken the Veteran Hiring Pledge and hires military veterans to work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, corporate offices, and clinics. 
  • Cardinal Health. Cardinal Health offers benefits like military leave, veteran support groups, a Veterans Professional Advancement Course (VPAC), and hosts a benefit event each year for veterans. 
  • Premise Health. Premise Health is part of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and is a Vets Indexes 3-star employer. 
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb. Bristol-Myers Squibb has built a special Veterans Community Network (VCN) to help support veterans as they re-enter civilian life. Veterans can communicate with VCN ambassadors to get help preparing for interviews, polishing their resumes, and finding a job that is a good fit for their skills. 
  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Anthem has shown support for veterans and their families by recently giving a $100,000 Grant to Easterseals’ Military & Veteran Services. They provide employment opportunities as well as emergency support to veterans and their loved ones. 
  • Pfizer. Pfizer offers employment opportunities for veterans including special programs for veterans with disabilities, peer mentoring, generous military benefits, and continuation of pay during military leave. 
  • Medtronic. Medtronic The Medtronic Veteran Employee Resource Group (VERG) helps veterans develop skills they need for civilian life as well as providing information about job opportunities in their organization. 

Why Veterans Make for Great Healthcare Employees

Experience in the military can help people develop skills that are frequently used in healthcare. While the jobs are different, they require a lot of the same focus, organization, and commitment to service. 

Some of the reasons veterans make for great healthcare employees include: 

1) Work Well Under Pressure

Both military personnel and healthcare workers need to be able to respond calmly and think critically in a crisis. Both jobs can require making life-or-death decisions and being able to deal with immense pressure. 

2) Clear Communication

Because they work in such a high-stakes environment, veterans and healthcare workers have to have excellent communication skills. Poor communication can lead to problems like medication errors, mistakes during procedures, or problems with important and expensive equipment. 

3) Teamwork

One of the things that veterans are most known for is the way they work as a team. Teamwork is also incredibly important in healthcare since everyone from the phlebotomist to the surgeon plays an important role in diagnosing and treating the patient. 

4) Responsibility

The best healthcare workers are able to admit when they have made a mistake, take initiative when something needs to be done, and hold themselves responsible for providing excellent care to their patients. Veterans have often worked hard to develop these skills. 

5) Attention to Detail

Healthcare providers have to notice subtle changes in patient condition, watch for tiny mistakes in sterile technique, and pay attention to patterns and trends in multiple test results. Attention to detail is vital for anyone who wants to have a successful healthcare career. 

6) Focus on Service

Military members sacrifice a lot to serve and help others. Because of this, transitioning to healthcare may help veterans maintain that sense of purpose and pride in making the world a safer place for others. 

7) Adaptable

Both healthcare and military personnel are often ruled by the clock and have regimented routines. However, they also have to be able to adapt to sudden changes without getting flustered or frustrated.  

Common Healthcare Roles Veterans Start Careers In

Veterans often have skills and attributes that make them great candidates for jobs in healthcare. Jobs good for veterans can range from entry-level positions to those that require more advanced degrees. Some of the best healthcare jobs for veterans include:

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants work alongside physicians in doctors' offices and clinics to provide routine checkups and basic medical care to patients. They can do things like measure vital signs, draw blood samples, assist with bedside procedures, and apply basic wound dressings. 

Medical assistants must have at least a high school diploma, and many finish a medical assistant program before beginning to work. The average salary for a medical assistant is $38,270 per year. 


Phlebotomists can work in hospitals, clinics, surgical centers, or clinical laboratories. They collect blood by performing venipunctures, arterial punctures, or capillary sticks. 

Phlebotomists are responsible for using clean techniques and avoiding injury to their patients while drawing blood and transporting the sample safely to the lab for testing. 

Phlebotomists need a high school diploma and most need certification before starting their work in a healthcare facility. There are phlebotomist training programs that can be completed in just a month or less. The average salary for a phlebotomist is $37,380 per year. 

Registered Nurse

Registered Nurses are in high demand all over the country. They work in hospitals, clinics, long-term care centers, surgical centers, and even from home. Registered nurses spend their days assessing patients, administering medications, charting, assisting with procedures, and managing medical devices. 

Becoming a registered nurse requires at least an associate degree as well as passing the NCLEX-RN examination. After passing their exam, registered nurses must maintain licensure with their state. The average salary for a registered nurse is $77,600 per year. 

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners, also known as advanced-practice nurses are able to make diagnoses and prescribe medications. They work under the direction of a physician but have more autonomy and a larger scope of practice than registered nurses. Nurse practitioners can perform bedside procedures like endotracheal intubation and placement of invasive lines. 

Nurse practitioners must have at least a Master’s Degree and have to pass a licensing exam before they can legally practice. The average salary of a nurse practitioner is $121,610 per year. 

Pharmacy Technician 

Pharmacy technicians work alongside pharmacists to dispense both prescription and non-prescription medications to patients. They help keep the pharmacy organized, and medication stocked, and keep their clients safe from dangerous medication interactions. 

Most states require pharmacy technicians to be licensed and some require them to earn a certification by completing an approved pharmacy tech training program. The average salary for a pharmacy technician is $36,740 per year. 


Emergency medical technicians are often the first people to be called to an emergency. They usually work in an ambulance as drivers or give basic first aid to patients who call 911. EMTs have to work well under pressure and be able to make quick decisions in an emergency. 

Working as an emergency medical technician requires at least a certification. They earn an average salary of $36,930 per year. 

Challenges Veterans May Face When Transitioning to the Civilian Workforce

Unfortunately, many veterans struggle with the transition from military service back to civilian life. According to the Veteran’s Employment Challenges Report, over 64% of veterans say that they have had difficulty with this change, and a lot of the difficulties are caused by problems finding and keeping employment. 

  • Health challenges. Veterans often struggle with physical injuries and mental health problems as a result of their military service. These health challenges can make finding work more difficult. 
  • Transferable skills. While veterans have many essential skills, it can be a challenge to explain to new employers how skills learned in the military can translate to other jobs. 
  • Finding a new purpose. Being in the military is important, meaningful work. Often, veterans talk about the relationships they build during their years of service and the loss they experience when it is over. It can be difficult to fill that space. 
  • Lack of experience. When a veteran enters civilian life, he or she may have to compete with others who have spent years gaining experience in civilian jobs. 
  • Less education. Some people join the military straight out of high school while their peers begin taking college courses or begin in a trade school. Veterans may need to spend some time in school before they are able to apply for jobs. 

Check out the resources above to learn how to overcome these challenges and get started in your healthcare career in civilian life.

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