Your master sergeant is all over you to sign up for TAP. Your mom keeps asking about your plans. Even the cashier at the PX is talking about resumes. Your transition into civilian life looms in the not too distant future, but you’re working on your Xbox more than your LinkedIn profile. As you seriously start to consider life after the military, don’t rule out a career in manufacturing.

Manufacturing today is actually a lot like today’s military: high tech and fast paced. In just six months, with some post-military training, a little bit of research, and high-speed effort, you can land a career with great benefits that will make your mom proud and a salary that will make your battle buddies green with envy.

Research before your transition
As your separation date approaches, you need to start looking for opportunities early. If you’re smart enough to consider a career in advanced manufacturing, you may need to take courses at a community college to brush up on your technical skills. Use your last few weeks in the service wisely by researching job requirements and local schools that offer industry-standard certificates.

Head over to your computer and complete the U.S. Manufacturing Pipeline’s assessment. This will help you determine which type of manufacturing career is right for you. After completing the assessment, explore the training resources from Get Skills to Work, a coalition of more than 550 schools and companies committed to training and hiring transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans, to discover which schools will help you get the training you’ll need to be successful.

Try to leave the service with a set path. By enrolling in a certificate program or applying early for programs and schools you want to attend, you’ll put yourself one step ahead of the competition.

Get Training
Although going to school for a bachelor’s degree is an option, it’s not always the right option for everyone. If a full-time, four-year degree program just isn’t in the cards, you can still use a portion of your GI Bill for a certificate or authorized training program.

Hull Technician Fireman Tristan Reynolds arc-welds a flange aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor

Hull Technician Fireman Tristan Reynolds arc-welds a flange aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor

Many colleges, like Tarrant County College, in Fort Worth, Texas, offer alternatives to four-year degrees. TCC provides a 2-year degree program in welding technology but also offers two certificate programs in basic welding and advanced welding. The basic certificate consists of five courses, meaning you can get the skills required for an entry-level job or apprenticeship after just one full semester or about six months. The advanced certificate can be completed in an additional semester.

One semester of welding classes at TCC costs approximately $1,080, leaving you with plenty of GI Bill benefits to put towards housing, textbooks, a degree, training or more certifications later. Programs like these open the door to post-service employment without expending all of your benefits.

Conduct a targeted job search
As your training wraps up, it’s time to start looking for jobs. Register in the U.S. Manufacturing Pipeline, and see what job and apprenticeship opportunities are out there for you. An easy search of “welding” brings up pages of job openings with an average annual salary of $32,000, which you will be qualified for with a certification. You can also attend the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes job fairs in cities throughout the country and speak directly with representatives from companies searching for Veterans with your new found skills.

Positions in welding are available throughout the country, either close to or very far away from Mom. Highlighting the skills and experience you gained in the military like working in fast paced environments, mission focus, and an ability to work in teams will help you get your foot in the door and ace your interview.

As our military downsizes, companies like GE, Alcoa, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and over 500 others have come together as the Get Skills to Work coalition with the idea that Veterans can and will revitalize American manufacturing–and have a rewarding and lucrative career in the process. Visit for more information and to get a jump-start on your manufacturing career. They’re waiting to hire you, so what are you waiting for?

SethBodnarSeth Bodnar is General Manager of GE Transportation’s Global Signaling Solutions. Before joining GE, Seth was an officer in the US Army. Upon graduating first in his class at West Point, Seth served as an infantry rifle platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division, with service in Iraq in 2003-2004. After being selected for and completing the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course, Seth served in the 1st Special Forces Group, commanding a detachment of Green Berets during multiple overseas deployments. He is a recipient of both the Rhodes and Truman scholarships and holds two masters degrees from University of Oxford. 

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Published on Aug. 25, 2014

Estimated reading time is 4.2 min.

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  1. Jennifer Reeds September 6, 2014 at 10:38 am

    “If a full-time, four-year degree program just isn’t in the cards, you can still use a portion of your GI Bill for a certificate or authorized training program.”

    Often times with your experience a 4 year degree isn’t the best option. Taking a training program instead can be a quicker route to a higher paying and highly valued position.

  2. Jenkins R September 4, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you for this great information. Can you recommend any online training institutions for VAs? Asking for my dad.

  3. Susan Pohorski August 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Thanks so much for shining a light on manufacturing careers and technical education! Wisconsin Technical College System staff had a luncheon discussion just this week about helping veterans find rewarding careers.

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