MARCH 2, 2015 – So, ETS. Everyone in the army knows that magical date that transforms them from soldier into a civilian. Count down calendars are planned around it, leave plans are made, deployments juggled. When you reach that miraculous state known as the double digit midget you find yourself going through meetings and briefings about your benefits, about the job search, about finances, and more. Death by PowerPoint may well become your biggest frustration as you approach your ETS.
If you’ve waited until you reach the double digit midget stage before you start considering the job search, however, you may already be off to a bad start to your post military life. Sure, you’ve been in Army Engineering for years, gaining valuable skills in engineering and leadership that will transfer well into the civilian world. Without the right licenses and degrees, however, it’s quite possible you won’t have the opportunity to display your competence owing to a lack of anyone even calling you in for an interview.
Fortunately you have a pair of aces in your pocket when it comes to preparing for this, if you play them early enough. Thanks to the GI Bill and the Internet you can start preparing years before your ETS. Respected accredited universities have begun to offer entire degree programs online, which is ideal for soldier students who need to be able to take the classroom with them when they PCS or deploy.
Here are five engineering degrees you should consider obtaining before your ETS.
12O to A Pro’s Pro in Engineering
As a 12O you were an officer in the Corp of Engineers with a broad spectrum of skills. You likely have a degree already. It’s time, however, to take it to the next level. A bachelors is an entry level degree, and after your time in, you aren’t entry level any longer.
Set yourself up for success by applying your GI Bill benefits to an advanced degree while you are still in. A Masters establishes your reputation in the eyes of civilian employers, demonstrating on paper what you have been proving in action. You aren’t just an engineer, you’re a thought leader amongst engineers.
12Os interested in establishing themselves as thought leaders in Engineering would do well to consider obtaining a Master of Science in Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, choosing electives specific to their personal experience while serving.
21H Construction Engineering Supervisor
You enlisted and did your time in the ranks. When many of your peers left after their enlistment ran out, you re-upped and climbed the ladder of promotion. You’ve been the backbone of ensuring that the infrastructure needed to keep everything from observation post to permanent basing facilities running.
You are an enlisted civil engineer, and by the time you finally ETS you’ll likely have put in a couple of decades at it. With that much time available, and that much experience built up, you should seriously consider how best to set yourself up for a second career. Start with a bachelor degree, but don’t stop there. With one or two decades to prepare, your GI Bill should be applied towards a long term strategy and gain you a Civil Engineering masters.
21Hs who are planning for a second career after retirement should prepare a plan to eventually obtain a Master of Civil Engineering degree from an institution like Norwich University.
21X General Engineering Supervisor
You have also done your time in the ranks, and proven yourself to be a leader. A career NCO, you have been leading crews in their engineering duties for quite some time. An officer may have planned the project, and enlisted hands may be executing the plan, but you are the glue that holds it all together.
You have spent years ensuring that the material is there, the shifts are staffed, and that everyone knows their task. You’ve overseen safety planning, performed supplies tracking, and executed the plan. You’ve made it happen, and when you enter a civilian life, you have all the skills you need to ensure that it happens again. You just need the paper to prove it.
Like the 21H, 21Xs should consider a long term plan that will eventually result in their receiving a Master of Engineering Management, available at Ohio University.
21T Technical Engineering Specialist
You create the plans. You chart out the locations. You ensure that when a construction team starts their work they are putting the project right where it needs to be and that they have the precise understanding of what they are building. You’re a surveyor, a draftsman, and a practical engineer.
When your ETS comes up, whether it’s after eight years or 30, you’ll have a world of practical experience you can put to work in civilian life. The question is, will you have the documentation that will land you a civilian job that matches the job you’ve already been doing in the army? To ensure you get your foot into the interview room, you’ll want to have an architectural degree before you leave.
21Ts desiring an architectural degree can get their Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Colorado – Denver.
21Y Topographic Engineering Supervisor
Everyone in the Army uses maps. They need them to plan convoy routes that get the supplies to the FOB. They need them to ensure the artillery delivers on grid the first time, every time. While everyone else needs those maps, you are the one that creates them. You are the one surveying the topography in minute detail and plotting it out. You’re the one taking the intel photos and adding instillations in real time. You’re the one keeping everyone in place, on time, and informed.
When you leave the army you will have a host of skills needed by the world. Whether it’s the USGS, Google Maps, or NASA’s Mars Map project, you have what it takes to make these projects an up to date reality. All you need is the ability to show that you can make 21st century maps through both practical and theoretical know how. The degree is your ticket.
21Ys looking for a degree that fits their particular skill set should consider a degree in Geographic Information Science and Technology from the University of Southern California.
At some point, everyone in Army Engineering professions leaves the service. It may be after a single enlistment, it may be after a full 30+ year career. Regardless of the length of time, every soldier, enlisted or officer, should be prepared for life after the uniform. I’ve detailed five possible degrees matching five MOSs within the engineering field that you can pursue in order to be prepared, but there are many other possibilities out there. It’s not important that you pick one of these specific online schools, but it is important that you do pick something and use your GI Bill benefits to get yourself set up for success after your ETS.
James Hinton is a former army aviation soldier who earned his combat patch in Afghanistan. Since his ETS he has spent his time advising other former soldiers on the transition to civilian life and boring his daughters with stories about army cooking.