Increase Your Skills and Education From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

service member on laptop

Current as of Jan. 6, 2021


Make the most of the unexpected time you have at home because of coronavirus disease 2019. Explore the wide range of education resources the Department of Defense offers for service members and their families. They include:

If you need help navigating opportunities that are available to you, Military OneSource education consultants can help. They can answer questions about financial aid, scholarships, tutoring and college information. Call 800-342-9647. You can also use OCONUS dialing options or  schedule a live chat.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Changing Jobs in the Military: Is It Possible?

Airmen prepare an engine for shipment.

Every service member has a specific job, often called a military occupational specialty or rating, usually assigned very soon after enlistment or basic training. Each specialty includes specific duties you will be expected to perform to help your service branch protect the peace and fulfill its mission.

Specialties are assigned based on your personal talents and skills, available “billets” or job openings, and the overall mission needs of your service branch, both current and future.

Can I transfer to a new military MOS if I don’t like my current one?

Check out the different military jobs.

From armored tank drivers and infantry units to musicians and mechanics, the military offers professional opportunities for almost every career.

If you’d like to change specialties and try something new, there are steps you can take to find a new position as you continue your service. But be aware, a change in military specialty is not always possible or guaranteed.

The Army and Marine Corps calls this type of change a “reclassification” or “change of military operations specialty.” The Navy calls it a “cross-rate,” and in the Air Force it is “re-training.” But no matter what it’s called in your branch, be aware the military expects service members to stay in their first specialty for a while – usually several years. After all, it’s taken time and resources to train you – the military wants to see a return on its investment.

Occasionally, a branch may run a “mandatory reclassification” to maintain a balanced fighting force.

Increasing your chances of transferring to a new military position

You must ask for a transfer through your chain of command. Your branch’s approval depends a lot on your personal situation. If your service record is clean, and you have a good reputation with your chain of command, your request is more likely to be considered.

In addition, a transfer may be more likely if:

  • You are re-enlisting. You can request a specialty reassignment when you re-enlist, during which you agree to serve for another few years in your new position. This is likely the best time to make a move to a new position.
  • There are too many personnel in your current position. If your current specialty is overstaffed, it may be easier to move to a different specialty with fewer staff positions.
  • Your desired specialty is understaffed. If the specialty you would like to join is in need of more personnel, you are more likely to be able to make the change. Your service branch may even send out a call looking for people interested in switching to critically understaffed positions.
  • You’ve received more training or education, like a college degree, that makes you more valuable in a different position. Some specialties aren’t available until you’ve served for a few years, like many positions in the special operations units.

Will I be able to use my military MOS to find a civilian job?

You can absolutely use the skills and experience you’ve gained in the civilian workforce. In fact, many of the specialties require civilian-based credentials and training to operate effectively. For example, both military and civilian air traffic controllers are FAA-certified.

There are several Department of Defense programs dedicated to helping separating service members find solid civilian careers. For example, each service branch runs a credentialing program designed to translate a service member’s specialty and general military experience into a civilian-style resume hiring managers can understand. And remember, Military OneSource is here to connect you to the resources and services you need to live your best military life.

4 Tips for Transition and Career Success

Service member looking into sunset

Making the transition into civilian life is exciting but does take preparation. Make sure you are well-prepared by following these four tips.

Receive personalized support for your transition.

Military OneSource assists in easing transition stress with our specialty consultation for transitioning veterans.

  1. Maximize your individual transition plan: Make the most of your individual transition plan. Your ITP is your transition road map, and you will develop one during pre-separation counseling. If used correctly, your ITP will help guide you through tough decisions like your next career move, meeting your financial goals or continuing your education. Develop your plan with care and thought toward your goals and objectives for any areas of your life affected by the transition. Update and refine action steps to help keep you focused on your goals.
  2. Stay motivated: Bring your “can-do” attitude to this next step in life. Approach civilian life with the same strength, curiosity and courage with which you carried out your military mission.
  3. Practice networking: Transition assistance programs emphasize the importance of networking for your job search and career development. Networking simply means talking to people about your career goals. Seek out people who may be able to help you with advice, job leads and contacts, and let them know about your skills and employment goals. For helpful tips on networking, visit the Department of Labor sponsored CareerOneStop website.
  4. Show confidence: Take time to recognize and appreciate the scope of knowledge, skills and abilities you acquired in the military. It will be easier to present yourself to any prospective employer when you show confidence in your military experience. Not only do you have exceptional technical skills and training, you’ve also mastered the military traits of good discipline, teamwork, leadership and the ability to put mission first. Employers value these qualities in applicants regardless of the nature of the work.

Practice these four simple steps to help boost your personal and career development and ease your transition from military to civilian life.

Read This: Must-Dos for Separating

Soldier saluting

You’ve made the decision. Now it’s time to make the most of it. There’s a list of tasks to accomplish, and most of them come with a due date:

A Full Year of Support

As you transition into civilian life, you and your family have full access to Military OneSource for 365 days after separation or retirement.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options. Prefer to live chat? Start now.

  • DO get your plans in place. Think about your post-military goals and the income you’ll need. Start researching how your military experience could translate to a civilian career. Learn about your installation’s Transition Assistance Program available to help you and your family prepare for a successful transition.
  • DO start your Transition Assistance Program early. You must complete a mandatory initial counseling session with a transition counselor and complete pre-separation counseling no less than 365 days prior to your separation or retirement date. During TAP, you’ll also receive briefings from the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor. For extra assistance in your transition, check out Military OneSource’s specialty consultation for transitioning veterans. And remember, you can attend TAP more than once!
  • DO schedule a final medical and dental exam. You’ll need a mandatory, final medical and dental exam with your installation’s medical clinic 90 days before you separate.
  • DO schedule the move of your household goods. The earlier, the better. You’ll have one year after leaving active duty to complete your final move. The sooner you can schedule, the better your chances of getting the dates you want.
  • DO talk to your spouse about participating in the Military Spouse Transition Program. This program is designed to guide military spouses through the military to civilian transition.

Finally:

  • DON’T wait until the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to complete all the tasks required. Many have to be completed 365 days before you separate.

Military Retirement: Do You Have This Covered?

Soldier with flag

Transitioning to civilian life is just like everything else in military life. Doing it successfully takes preparation. Give yourself plenty of time to complete all the required tasks before you officially retire. There are four basic steps to take:

1. Separation requirements: Must-dos before your retirement date

Do you have questions about saving for retirement?

Contact Military OneSource to speak with a financial counselor.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

Start with the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program website. You’ll find detailed information about transition assistance and how to connect with your service branch’s program. You can also contact your installation’s TAP office.

Initial Counseling and Pre-separation counseling: You need to complete an Individualized Initial Counseling session and Pre-Separation counseling at least 365 days prior to your separation or retirement date, but you can schedule it up to 24 months before your retirement date.

Core Transition Curriculum: As part of the Transition Assistance Program, you will have the opportunity to attend mandatory briefings on transition preparation, employment preparation, and the benefits offered from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more about the core requirements on the DOD TAP website.

Final medical exam: Schedule your mandatory, final medical and dental exam with your installation’s medical clinic 90 days before you separate.

Scheduling final move: You will have one year after leaving active duty to complete your final move. But the sooner you can schedule, the greater the chance of getting the dates you want. Learn more under the benefits section in number 3 below.

2. Plan your post-retirement budget: Know what you’ll have to work with

Review your military retirement pay, benefits and expenses to plan your budget and calculate what you’ll have each month.

Income: You’ll receive one of three types of non-disability retirement pay:

  • Final basic pay – for service members with an entry date prior to Sept. 8, 1980.
  • High 36 – for service members with an entry date between Sept. 8, 1980 and Jul. 31, 1986, or for those with dates after Aug. 1, 1986 and before Jan. 1, 2018 who didn’t elect REDUX or opt in to the Blended Retirement System.
  • CBS/REDUX – for service members with an entry date after Jul. 31, 1986 who accepted a mid-career bonus at the 15-year mark and agreed to remain active duty for at least 20 years.

Note: Service members enrolled in the new Blended Retirement System will have slightly different retirement payments than the three outlined above, including a different monthly retired pay formula, a possible lump sum payment taken at time of departure, and a Thrift Savings Plan. Learn more in these frequently asked questions regarding the Blended Retirement System.

Payouts: Federal and state taxes will be withheld from your retirement check. Also remember medical and dental premiums, and Survivor Benefit Plan premiums.

Annual adjustments: Just like your active-duty pay, your retirement pay adjusts annually based on the cost of living to protect your income against inflation.

3. Benefits you’ve earned as a retiring service member

As an active-duty service member, you receive a number of benefits. What happens to them when you retire?

TRICARE: Retiring service members must enroll themselves and eligible family members or risk losing TRICARE benefits. This includes family members with Medicare Part A and B. For more information on health care plan options for retiring service members and families, visit the TRICARE website.

Dental and/or Vision: You may choose to enroll in to dental and/or vision insurance through the FEDVIP benefits program You can enroll during the annual open season each fall, or whenever you have a qualifying life event. Dental and vision plans have a monthly premium based on the plan you choose. Find more details at the Benefeds website.

Final moving expense: You have one calendar year from your retirement date to use your last government-paid move anywhere within the U.S. or to your home of record outside the country. Check with your installation’s Personnel Support Office for information.

Life insurance: Your Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance plan continues uninterrupted for 120 days after separation. During that time, you can convert your life insurance to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance. You can still convert after 120 days, but you will have to prove that you’re in good health. Visit the VA life insurance webpage for more information.

Commissary and exchange privileges: You and your family have the same access to both facilities after retirement. The only exception – overseas privileges may be subject to a Status of Forces Agreement.

GI Bill/Education and Training: Depending on which GI Bill you have, and when you leave the service, your GI Bill may be good for 10 years, 15 years or indefinitely. Get the details at your installation’s education office or visit the VA education webpage for more information.

Home loans: Find out about a VA loan to purchase or build your dream retirement home. To qualify, you must have served at least 24 months and have an honorable or general discharge. Call 800-827-1000 or visit the VA housing assistance webpage.

The Survivor Benefit Plan: The plan provides a portion of your retirement pay to your spouse or other eligible person after your death. As long as you have an eligible spouse or child, you’ll automatically be enrolled, and at the maximum level unless you elect otherwise. Contact your installation TAP office or the Defense Finance and Accounting Service with any questions.

4. Finally, prepare for civilian life.

You’ve got military life down cold. What’s it like being a civilian? Time will tell. The best way to prepare is to know what to expect and have some strategies for success.

Saying goodbye: You’ve been through enough moves to know what it’s like to leave friends who feel more like family. But these days, social media makes it easy to keep in touch.

Job searching: Ace that interview. Get a head start. You can attend a Transition Assistance Program employment workshop on your installation as early as two years before retirement.

Miss the lifestyle? It’s not as farfetched as it sounds. You’ve been in a tight, exclusive community with its own unique lifestyle. Look into joining a military organization that can keep you connected and in the loop on retirement issues.

Retirement is the first step to your next successful life and career. Know what’s ahead, be prepared, and enjoy.

New to the Military – Resources

You’re learning to navigate the new world of the military, and that takes knowledge and resilience. At Military OneSource, we’re here to support your military career with the tools you need to be a successful member of the armed forces.

Websites and mobile tools

Through Military OneSource, you also have access to these online training and mobile solutions:

  • Basic Pay: See DoD pay tables for active-duty service members.
  • myPay: Log in to manage your pay information, leave and earning statements, and W-2s.
  • CoachHub: Kick stress to the curb with a personal online coach. Partner with a coach to manage your stress, set goals and keep them on track with online support.
  • Love Every Day: Connect in a fun and meaningful way with your partner every day for 21 days to rekindle and strengthen your relationship.
  • MoodHacker: It’s a mobile, self-management tool that helps you track, understand and improve your mood.
  • Plan My Move: Go to Plan My Move, enter your basic infomration and get a three-month, customizable checklist to help you plan and track your military move.
  • MilitaryINSTALLATIONS: Your official Department of Defense source for installation and state resources available to active duty, guard and reserve service and family members.
  • Plan My Deployment: This website can take some of the stress out of deployment or mobilization, through access to information and resources, as well as a task list for those preparing for a deployment.

Recreation and travel

Your Morale, Welfare and Recreation program offers lots of ways to relax, have fun and connect with others.

Fitness, aquatics and sports programs – Hit the gym, fine-tune your best downward dog yoga pose or swim laps at the pool. Or release some of your competitive energy and represent your unit or service branch in an organized sport. If you aren’t near an installation gym, no worries – get your sweat on at any of the more than 3,000 YMCAs and private fitness facilities that offer military memberships to those who are eligible.

Boating programs, bowling centers, golf courses, stables and special interest recreation programs – Now’s the time to try something new. Get a great deal on a boat rental, horseback riding or another special interest program like scuba diving or flying. Get a group of friends together for a night of bowling or a round of golf – typically at a lower cost than similar activities in the civilian community.

Individual skills development programs – Get in touch with your creative side with arts and crafts, check out a program at a performing arts center, or learn some handy automotive skills and get down and dirty while working on your car.

Libraries – Check out a best-seller, read a magazine article or study for an upcoming test with library resources. Visit your installation library or log in to your Military OneSource account to access the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library from anywhere in the world. Download select titles to your smartphone or tablet, get an audiobook for your next road trip or brush up on your math skills.

Information, Tickets and Travel –Information, Tickets and Travel is a travel resource designed to help you access all sorts of fun opportunities. Get tickets to a movie or an amusement park at a reduced rate or ask an Information, Tickets and Travel employee for help planning your next vacation, from airfare to resort reservations. Use your discounts to see sporting events or go to a concert you’ve been anxious to see – all without breaking the bank.

Recreational lodging – Break out the selfie stick because recreational lodging opportunities will have you snapping a lot of pictures on your next vacation. Rent a beach cabana, find the perfect ski chalet or take your family members camping – all at significant savings.

Outdoor recreation programs – Even if you don’t consider yourself the outdoorsy type, there’s so much you can try. Whether it’s mountain biking, paintballing or hunting, your Morale, Welfare and Recreation program can help you get out there. Rent a tent and sleep under the stars, or rent a few coolers, tables and chairs and host a backyard BBQ (equipment rental varies by location). If there’s not an installation near you, consider checking out the no-cost annual pass offered by the National Park Service that provides you with access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Yosemite, anyone?

Recreation centers – Get your video game fix with a tournament against your friends, watch the big game with good company or just take advantage of free Wi-Fi at your local rec center.

Single service member programs – Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs offer a variety of single service member programs that support singles ages 18 to 25 with sports, trips and tours, concerts, holiday and special event activities and much more.

For more information about your local Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Start Your Career With Military Kids – Come Grow With Us

Children sing a song in a Child Development Center

The Department of Defense is the nation’s largest employer-sponsored child care system and one of the largest youth development programs in the country. Through the Department of Defense’s career opportunities initiative, Come Grow With Us, you can apply for both entry and management-level positions in many child development programs and youth programs world-wide.

Department of Defense child and youth development careers

Watch this video of the career opportunities available within military child development and youth programs.

Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbH4k6dvOX4.

As a Department of Defense child development and youth program employee, you’ll enjoy competitive pay and benefits, including:

  • Health and life insurance
  • Paid leave
  • Retirement and 401K benefits
  • Tuition assistance
  • Training, mentoring and professional development
  • Career advancement opportunities

Plus, many of the Department of Defense’s 850+ high-quality child development and youth programs are located on or near military installations worldwide. And, for military spouses seeking employment, spousal preference is offered as well.

If you are interested in a career that offers flexibility and advancement, while providing a vital service to our military families around the world, this employment opportunity is for you.

Some available jobs that may be open in your area include:

  • Child development directors and assistant directors
  • Training and curriculum specialists
  • Before and after school directors
  • Youth program directors
  • Direct care staff

Both entry and career-level positions with Department of Defense programs can be found at:

Ask an Installation Employment Readiness Specialist

Both military spouses and recent college grads from military families can talk to their installation’s employment readiness specialist.

Skills you need to succeed as a child and youth development staff member

If you’re considering a career field in early care and education or youth development, ask yourself these questions to see if you’d fit the qualifications for many entry and management-level positions.

  • Do you have experience with children? Previous experience working with children and youth may give you an advantage when seeking employment. Don’t just count formal student teaching or training, though – an employment history of babysitting or camp counseling will look great to potential employers.
  • Do you have formal early childhood education or youth development training or certifications? Most employers request candidates have at least a GED/high school diploma. Having an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in child development, education, psychology, social work, youth development, or physical education can set your application apart from others. Child care-related certifications like the Child Development Associate, or CDA, or the Child Care Professional, or CCP, credentials may also increase your employability, as do basic first aid and CPR certifications.
  • Are you looking for a rewarding, meaningful career? Few careers offer the chance to directly support military children and youth, offering them the foundation they need to succeed as adults. If you enjoy a challenge and are passionate about working with children and youth, this job opportunity is for you.

For more information

If you have questions about Come Grow With Us opportunities, send us an inquiry form and a program manager will reply.

Managing Your Career as a Military Spouse During a PCS

Work group at table

You’re beginning a new chapter of your military life. As a military spouse, a successful transition may include finding meaningful work at your new duty station. By tapping into your network of support and accessing a variety of programs and resources, you can continue to advance your career while building a new nest. Here are some strategies to help manage your career during a PCS.

Maximize your resources to help land military spouse employment

Take advantage of all the tools and services available to you to advance your career through location-based, telework or other flexible arrangements. They will empower you with the information and connections you need to continue your career wherever you land.

  • The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities, or SECO, program provides education and career guidance to military spouses worldwide, offering comprehensive resources and tools related to career development, education guidance and employment opportunities. The MySECO website can help you whether you are new to the workforce, advancing your education or established and looking to grow in your career. Check out the My Individual Career Plan, the SECO Scholarship Finder, specialized career coaching packages and self-assessments to help you discover your education or professional strengths.
  • The Military Spouse Employment Partnership, or MSEP, connects military spouses with hundreds of partner employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers. Use the MSEP Job Search to find thousands of job postings in your current or new location, including Hot Jobs, positions that need to be filled immediately.
  • Installation spouse employment readiness specialists, accessed through the Military and Family Support Center on your installation or through your service branch, offer hands-on assistance with everything from resume writing and preparing for interviews to resources for portable careers. Most employment installation readiness programs offer workshops, host hiring fairs and partner with local community-based agencies to help spouses and family members find employment.

Update your resume and prepare a list of references

It’s never too early to update or enhance your resume. Designed specifically for military spouses, the MySECO Resume Builder helps you create a resume customized for the position you are seeking. You’ll also want to prepare a list of references who can speak to your accomplishments and skills.

Take advantage of the Military Spouse Preference Program

As a military spouse who is relocating, you get preference when you apply for a Department of Defense civilian job thanks to the Military Spouse Preference program. You can apply for spouse preference for Appropriated Fund and Non-Appropriated Fund federal jobs as early as 30 days before your spouse’s reporting date. Appropriated Fund vacancies are filled on military installations. Spouse preference is available for these positions at pay grades up to GS-15. Regulations are different for spouse preference outside the United States.

Connect with a SECO career coach

Consider connecting with a SECO career coach as you prepare for a move or after you’ve landed at your new location. Career coaches assist military spouses by providing useful resources for managing a career during a PCS, including help with finding education opportunities that fit mobile life, maximizing job search efforts, building your network and exploring portable career options.

Transfer licenses and credentials

If you’re in a job that requires a license or credential, either by state or a national accreditation, you’ll need to transfer your license or credential. Go to the Spouse Licensure Map to find out which states require which types of licenses or credentials and what office you need to contact to transfer them. The state licensing and career credentials initiative is designed to make it easier to transition your credentials to a new state.

If you move due to a permanent change of station, and you pursue the same licensure or certification in your new location, you can apply for up to $1,000 in reimbursement of relicensure or certification fees from your service branch.

Build your network to find opportunities and support your peers

Networking leads to 70 percent of all jobs and is key for managing a career during a PCS. Here are a few places to begin:

  • Join the MSEP Spouse Group on LinkedIn to connect with hiring managers and human resources professionals from the organizations in the partnership, as well as other military spouses.
  • Check out the Spouse Ambassador Network, a group of MSEP organizations that promotes military spouses in communities where they live.
  • Connect with a mentor through mentoring organizations, like the Military Spouse eMentor Program, to find an experienced professional who can offer you guidance and help establish connections.

Explore portable career and temporary work

Portable careers can be ideal for the military spouse life. Explore different portable career paths, learn about opportunities to take your job with you (Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzPs0uTJ1Os.), read tips on telecommuting, and use the MSEP Job Search to find telework positions. Develop transferrable skills that make any job portable.

Temporary work can be great for earning some extra savings, gaining experience in your field and exploring different career opportunities. MSEP partner staffing agencies hire military spouses for a variety of jobs, from entry-level to positions requiring a license or advanced degree.

Military spouses are adaptable, resilient and flexible. Employers want to hire you no matter where you land. Use these resources to seize the adventure of your PCS while advancing your career.