Transitioning into Higher Education or a Civilian Career

  • The transition from military service to college or a new job can be full of exciting opportunities, but at times can be overwhelming.  Knowing your options as well as some of the potential hurdles, whether it is understanding the higher education marketplace or knowing the signs of a deceptive job listing, can help you in achieving your personal goals and get a great start to the next stage of your career.

    Paying for College  
    Employment Job Scams 
    Employment Protection 

    Knowing your options 
    The options for advancing your education are limitless. Whether you’re considering a local community college, professional school, traditional four-year university or an online degree, there are programs to meet every student’s needs. But similar to any investment, a consumer should do their homework and understand their options.  

    For-profit colleges 
    For-profit colleges comprise a growing share of the postsecondary education market. Their flexible scheduling and online courses make them an attractive option for many nontraditional students, including military personnel and veterans. For-profit colleges are the right fit for many transitioning service members.

    Some for-profit colleges actively recruit veterans because of a provision in the Higher Education Act, which allows them to qualify for additional federal funds by enrolling students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Defense Department’s Tuition Assistance Program.

    The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions found that some use aggressive recruiting tactics, and mislead potential students about costs, transferability of credits and job placement rates.

    A bachelor’s degree from a for-profit college runs 20 percent more on average than a degree from a public college. Ninety-six percent of for-profit students, including veterans, take out student loans, and low completion rates at some for-profits can mean a student accumulates debt without increasing their earnings potential.

    Bottom line, students have to make the choice that is right for them -- college is an investment in their future. The flexibility offered by some for-profit schools make them the right choice for many veterans and military members, but like any expensive purchase a student and their family should evaluate their options and make the right choice for them, not because of pressure or misinformation from a recruiter.

    Don’t be apprehensive to ask some important questions before you enroll… 

    • Does the school accept military transfer credits? Ask about the school’s policies regarding credits from military training, nontraditional learning (CLEP, DANTES, etc.), and previous colleges. Have your transcripts ready, and provide them to the school before you begin classes.
    • Is the school military friendly? How many veterans are currently enrolled? Is the class schedule flexible for military students? Is there academic and health support on campus?

    Paying for College 
    Once the decision is made on where to attend school, the next step is how to pay for it. Seventy percent of Pennsylvania college students take on student loan debt. Comparing financing options is an important part of being a smart consumer.  

    Funding options such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, scholarships, grants, work study and federal loans are attractive. But if those don’t make ends meet, private loans - often offered through banks with higher interest rates- may need to be considered. Here are some tips when shopping for a private college loan.

    • Talk to the school's financial aid office. Most legitimate lenders require a form certifying the need for additional aid to cover the cost of attendance.
    • Shop around. Look for lower interest rates and loans that offer flexibility if you have trouble making payments.
    • Know your rate. Some private lenders advertise very low interest rates - but few borrowers qualify.
    • Find your co-signer. Most private student loans require a co-signer, who will be legally obligated to repay the loan if you can’t or don’t.
    • Know the lender. Be mindful of direct marketing tactics, which use names and logos to give the appearance of federal government affiliation. The federal government doesn’t send advertisements or solicit people to borrow money.
    • Don’t let promotions or incentives sway your decision. Taking on college debt is a serious and long-term obligation; don’t allow a small gift to be the determining factor in your decision.
    • Don’t be a victim of identity theft. Don’t provide personally identifiable information over the phone or Internet to someone who contacts you. Always verify that the company you are dealing with is a legitimate one.


    Employment Job Scams 
    Transitioning from military service to the civilian workforce can be an exciting step in your career, but can also be challenging.  When plotting your own course of action it’s important to understand your options, and be aware of the employment scams targeting the military and veteran communities as well as potential risks of using job placement services. 

    Below are some tips on recognizing the signs of deceptive job listings, as well as helpful links on employment protections for veterans and military members, veterans’ preference, and where to find help in your job search.

    Many employers recognize the valuable skills and work ethic former military members bring to the work place, and many actively recruit veterans. However people interested in scamming veterans and military members use the same tools to reach out to job seekers including advertising online, in newspapers and around the community.

    Below are tips for recognizing deceptive job listings, employment scams or dishonest placement services.

    1. Paying or being required to provide bank account information to be guaranteed a job. Once someone has your cash, or your bank account or credit information they can use it. Often no job materializes.
    2. An ad promotes “previously undisclosed” federal government jobs. All federal jobs are announced on the website usajobs.gov, and information is free.

    When using a job placement service –

    1. Be sure it is job placement and not job counseling. Job counseling can aid you in resume preparation, interview techniques and skills identification, but can have high fees without the guarantee of job placement.
    2. Get the details of your contract in writing. Know the amount you’re being charged, if the hiring company also pays a fee, the timeframe for finding a job, and what happens if the service doesn’t find you a job or any job leads. A legitimate company will give you answers, if they’re reluctant or give you confusing answers, consider another company.
    3. Do your research. Check with consumer protection agencies to see if there have been complaints about the company – including the OAG’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Better Business Bureau. However, remember even if there are no complaints, it doesn’t mean a company is legitimate. If the job placement service mentions a company or organization in an advertisement, call the company or organization to verify its hiring.


    Employment Protections 
    Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

    USERRA is a federal law affecting employment, reemployment, employment benefits and retention in employment, when employees serve or have served in the uniformed services. It applies to all employers, public and private regardless of size, including federal, state and local governments. The law includes responsibilities and protections for both the employer and the employee in the case of an employee’s military service.

    Because USERRA is a federal law, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General does not have jurisdiction in cases of noncompliance.

    For more information on USERRA or to download a factsheet, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s website

    Job Assistance for Pennsylvania Veterans 
    Pennsylvania has 65 CareerLink offices across the state to aid all residents in their job searches. Pursuant to federal law and funded through federal grants, many offices have designated staff to provide specialized assistance for veterans. Staff can help veterans match their job skills with employer job openings, refer the veteran to training or community veteran services agencies, and contact an employer on the veteran’s behalf.

    To find a CareerLink office near you or for assistance through the state Department of Labor and Industry, visit L & I’s Job Gateway.

    Have a question about government jobs and Veterans Preference? 

    For federal jobs click here.

    For the state Civil Service Commission click here