Certainly, obtaining a post-secondary education is an important element in securing gainful employment when making the transition from the military to the civilian workforce. Having either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree will help to separate your resume from the hundreds of other applicants for a particular job. Having a relevant degree in the industry you are looking to obtain employment in will further separate you from the pack. To really separate you, and what will make you a real contender for a position, is having relative experience within the industry along with the right post-secondary credential. How can you obtain “relative” work experience in an industry while serving your country?
As a military service member, you certainly have “work experience”, experience that some employers highly value. The challenge is how to obtain “relative” work experience. One way to gain some “relative” work experience is completing an internship as part of your degree program.
In previous posts, we have stated that not all colleges and degree programs are created equal so the need to do your research. This is the same for internships. Not all colleges, particularly those offering online degree programs, offer the opportunity for their students to participate in internship programs. There are two types of internships; paid and unpaid. The number of credit hours for an internship is specific to each college that offers them, but they are largely based on the number of hours of the internship, and the level of academic engagement throughout the program.
For active duty service members trying to complete an internship may be problematic, however, it is not impossible. If the internship is or can be part of your degree program, then you can use your military tuition assistance benefit. For veterans using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, participating in an internship may help you to maintain your enrollment when classes are not in session so your can keep receiving your benefits. It just depends on how the school structures the internship opportunity for you.
As part of your research in looking for a college to pursue your education with, look at their experience with internships and experiential learning. Does the school offer them? What assistance do they provide to students in finding and applying for an internship program? Is the program flexible to meet your time constraints, can you participate in the program on nights and weekends? Is it a paid or unpaid internship? Do you have to get approval from your chain of command to participate in the internship? Can you use your current duty position and unit as your internship?
When selecting an internship program there are some things you should take into consideration in order to gain the maximum benefit from them. The links below provide two differing perspectives on leveraging and maximizing internships to your benefit. One is provided by Forbes magazine and provides some useful information on how to turn your internship into a job. Forbes article on internships
Quintessential Careers, a job seeker website, provides information on the importance of an internship in getting the right job. Quintessential Careers article on internships
As a current or former member of our nation’s military, you certainly have a wealth of experience, experience very few others have. However, when it comes to competing for the next job and career, you need to make yourself as competitive as possible. Earning the right degree or credential is very important, so too is having the RIGHT experience. Participating in an internship through your college degree program is one way to get the right experience, and you are completing two things at once; earning your education and gaining relative work experience.