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Tactical Veteran: STEM is fast track to getting ahead

May. 14, 2014 - 10:26AM   |  
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Science, technology, engineering and mathematics — closely interrelated fields that are referred to by the acronym STEM — are crucial for driving innovation, both for our country and for the world.

That means STEM workers are in demand, which is good news for veterans, many of whom have gained incredible experience working with some of the most advanced technology our country has to offer. Using your generous Post-9/11 GI Bill, pursuing a STEM job can put you on a path to a career that will be challenging, but very rewarding.

The career fields that fall under the general STEM rubric are surprisingly diverse. Just a few examples:

■ Science: clinical lab scientist; environmental scientist; biologist; clinical psychologist.

■ Technology: Web developer; information security analyst; computer systems administrator; computer programmer.

■ Engineering: nuclear engineer; surveyor; civil engineer; transportation inspector; water resource specialist; aircraft mechanic and service technician.

■ Mathematics: cryptologist; statistician; computer scientist; math professor; database administrator.

Dozens more can be found online here: Some are surprising — for example, fish and game wardens require a background in life sciences, while risk management specialists have a mathematics background.

Companies that are heavily represented in these fields are looking for candidates with the capability to try to push the boundaries of their STEM discipline. That means not only experience on your résumé, but also a college education. Most STEM jobs will require a bachelor’s degree and up, on top of what you may have already learned in a similar military occupation.

But if you’re up for the challenge, the rewards can be substantial. Check out these statistics about STEM jobs from the Commerce Department:

■ Over the decade from 2008 through 2018, STEM occupations have been projected to grow by 17 percent, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations.

■ STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts.

■ Those with STEM degrees enjoy higher earnings regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations.

“The greatest advancements in our society, from medicine to mechanics, have come from the minds of those interested in or studied in the areas of STEM,” the Commerce Department stated in a 2011 report on STEM jobs.

“Although still relatively small in number, the STEM workforce has an outsized impact on a nation’s competitiveness, economic growth and overall standard of living. STEM jobs are the jobs of the future ... essential for developing our technological innovation and global competitiveness.”

As a veteran, you understand what it means to serve your country. By pursuing a career in a STEM field, you could have a huge positive impact on your country for generations to come. More background on STEM and efforts to promote job growth in these fields is available from the STEM Education Coalition at

In my next column, I’ll take a look at companies and areas where you can find some of the best STEM opportunities.

Steven Maieli is the founder of, which highlights links to federal, state, for-profit and nonprofit veterans benefits and other resources. He also writes a blog on transitioning veterans’ issues at Send questions and comments to

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