Many service members face a difficult choice when they’re preparing to leave the military: should they pursue a degree or enter the workforce full time? While the generous benefits of the GI Bill can make school seem like an obvious choice, pursuing full-time work has its own merits and can prove to be a better choice for some veterans. A full understanding of the benefits and drawbacks for each option will help you make the right decision for your career goals.

Weigh the Value of Experience

Most professionals understand the value of listing a degree on their resumes, but it’s easy to overlook the value that on-the-job experience brings to your application. By getting your foot in the door and racking up experience, you’ll develop and enhance the kinds of practical, applicable skills that catch the eye of potential employers.

If you’re still unsure of which industry or type or work is best suited to you, entering the workforce also allows you to experience a position first hand to determine whether you’re on the right career path.

Have a Clear Goal

With the education offerings of the GI Bill, pursuing a degree after military service can have huge financial appeal. Unfortunately I’ve worked with many veterans who were eager to take advantage of these benefits even though they didn’t have a clear vision of the type of work that they wanted to do after graduation.

If you don’t have a goal when you enter a degree program, you run the risk of graduating with a degree that’s ultimately unrelated to your desired field or that makes you overqualified for your target positions.

Consider Both

Civilian work experience and a degree program can each strengthen your application, so if you’re on the fence about which to pursue, consider doing both. Online and evening classes make this option more feasible than ever. You’ll have more flexibility to find the right degree program after you’ve gained exposure to the job market and made a confident decision about the type of work you’d like to pursue.


Did you enter school or go right into full-time work after serving in the military (or pursue a combination of both?) Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.