Employment & Careers

Approximately seven percent of the United States veteran population is unemployed, and the overall rate of unemployment for veterans tends to remain at or just below the national average.  However, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans (also referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans) — a growing population supplemented by the end of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — is significantly higher than the national average, with veterans aged 18-24 faring the worst.  Collected here are resources containing advice and strategies for gaining employment and establishing a career after ending a period of military service. Click here for our full list of resources on Employment & Careers

Since 2009, a slow improvement in both veteran and non-veteran employment has occurred.  Yet, the gap between the two populations remains.  These rates are comparable to the era immediately following the Vietnam War, when a large influx of veterans returning to a weak economy led to a one percent greater instance of unemployment among veterans than the national average.  Veterans of other eras did not see the same disparity.

A number of contributing factors to this trend have been identified, which extend beyond the global economic downturn.  For many veterans. the military is their primary professional experience; but translating military training into civilian employment can be a complex process.  Not all military skills are transferrable to the private sector, and even many certified proficiencies are hampered by differences between military and civilian accreditation.  A veteran’s résumé reads differently than a civilian’s, and employers may have difficulty understanding military accomplishments and work history.  Also, time spent away from home and civilian life decreases opportunities for networking and establishing professional connections.  

Raising the Bar

A significant movement is underway to improve the employment rate among returning veterans. While there are many different approaches to the issue, the broad goals may be summarized as follows: to improve partnerships between the private sector and veterans; to improve transition assistance and job-hunting skills; and to create employment opportunities.

Some efforts focus on improving a veteran’s career tools and giving them better access to the job markets.  They include specialized job boards, résumé consulting, networking organizations, and mentorship. Other opportunities include job training programs for high-demand industries, provided for free or subsidized by the G.I. Bill

On the national level, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have spearheaded White House Joining Forces, which seeks to build partnerships between the private sector, veterans, and service organizations in a nationwide effort to connect veterans to jobs.  The recently passed VOW to Hire Heroes Act provides tax incentives to companies when they hire a veteran.  Additionally, many city, state, and federal offices, as well as some companies, have preferred hiring practices for veterans.