A Guide to Changing Careers from Military to IT

A technical career advisor with 20+ years of staffing experience lays out the path for military veterans to successfully transition to a career in information technology.

tech careers for military vets

If you’re nearing the end of active service and looking for a fast growing, high paying career with a bright future, you may want to consider a job in IT. Given that many of the skills and qualities you developed in the military apply to roles in information technology, a career in IT could be your best move.

Why IT? Let’s start with demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employers to add about 668,000 computer and information technology jobs by 2030 to reach a total of 5.7 million jobs. In fact, businesses would like to hire more tech workers but they can’t find qualified candidates — especially developers, engineers and cybersecurity pros. Even so, U.S. IT job growth is still in record territory with no signs of slowing down.

Then, there’s the money. The median salary for Computer and Information Technology Occupations is $86,320 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than double the $41,950 median wage for all jobs nationwide. What’s more, the military or a prospective employer may even pay for IT training and certifications that will further enhance your skill set and market value.

There’s also a huge range of entry-to-mid level jobs that are appropriate for veterans who are just starting their civilian careers. Ready to get started? Here’s how veterans can navigate the transition into employment in the IT job market.

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Top Job Skills You Can Learn Without a College Degree

Top Job Skills Without College

As the economy diversifies, so do the choices you face when you're preparing to enter the workforce. A four-year degree is no longer a must for many lucrative positions, nor is it an automatic ticket to career success. And with the cost of a traditional college education continuing to rise, student loans are becoming more of a burden, as well.

In short, it pays to look around at the growing number of alternatives that can jump-start you on a career path. Specialized professions in the culinary arts, sewing, carpentry, and money management (everything from credit to budgeting to investing) offer a wealth of opportunities through affordable certificate programs and apprenticeships.

But nowhere are the opportunities greater than in the IT field, which is good news because you can pursue training and certification in much of this space online. This has become even more crucial during the pandemic, as distance learning has become the norm in many places.

And if you're trying to save money (and who isn't?), here's some good news: There are numerous free online courses to explore, and plenty of places to get started.

Follow these steps to gain real-world expertise without a college degree:

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Online Learning Tips: How to Succeed in Virtual Classes & Degrees

Business and education leaders share tips and tricks for overcoming the challenges of distance learning and getting the most value from your online education.

online learning tips

For many of us, the global coronavirus pandemic has made in-person learning a temporary impossibility, but even with the promise of a vaccine, the shift toward learning online is likely to be a permanent trend.

Beyond its current expedience, there are many advantages to pursuing a training or degree program online, including the ability to study at your own pace and schedule, practicing self-motivation, gaining expertise in the increasingly valuable array of digital collaboration tools, and saving money versus traditional classroom programs.

However, online learning, be it in front of your computer or on a mobile device, presents numerous challenges, from the lack of interaction with fellow students, to potential struggles with motivation, concentration, and time management.

For a deeper look at the challenges of distance learning and how to conquer them, we asked industry experts in business, education and technology for their best tips and tricks for online learning. Here’s what they had to say.

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Top Paying IT Certifications for 2015

Top Paying IT Certifications 2015

In the rapidly shifting IT landscape, certifications are the most reliable tool employers have to validate your skills in the latest computer systems and IT job roles. These ten certifications will have the greatest impact on your salary in 2015 and beyond.

Technical training leader, Global Knowledge, and respected industry publication turned online community, Windows IT Pro, recently published their 2015 IT Skills & Salary Report -- featuring a comprehensive salary survey of more than 16,300 IT professionals -- giving us valuable insight as to just how much the leading IT certifications can increase your earnings.

Most remarkable this year is the dominance of information security credentials, sweeping the top three spots and representing half of 2015’s top 10 highest paying certifications. Certificates in network design and administration, as well as those that demonstrate knowledge on the business side of IT, in areas like project and service management, are also hot right now.

To reduce statistical anomalies, this list only includes certifications with at least 100 salary survey responses.

Here are this year’s highest paying technical certifications:

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Top 10 IT Skills In Demand for 2015

IT pros and executives break down the most sought-after technology skills for 2015.

Computer Skills In Demand 2015

As technology continues to become an increasingly vital part of how we do business, the race is on to secure top-notch talent in IT skill positions that will not only keep the organization running through 2015, but lay the groundwork for secure and successful expansion in the coming year and beyond.

In its annual IT Forecast report, Computerworld surveyed 194 technology executives about the technical job roles they’ll be looking to fill in 2015 – here we present their findings, identify the hottest IT skill sets in each domain, and explore some of the key trends driving workforce demand.

Here are the top 10 IT skills in demand for 2015:

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20 Things I've Learned from 20 Years in IT

Veteran technician and project manager, Scott Matteson, shares tips and insights from his 2+ decades in the IT field.

IT Career Tips Advice

Working in the field of Information Technology means more than fixing computers or troubleshooting email issues. Thriving in this career requires you to sort out an intricate tangle of problems, priorities and people on a daily basis. Keeping your technical skills relevant and up-to-date is always a challenge, but one that’s well within reach if you train on the job, enjoy learning new things, and keep your thumb on the pulse of the tech community.

However, it’s harder to figure out how to deal with “back end” tasks like juggling priorities, managing stress and developing positive working relationships with peers, customers and managers. In fact, handling interpersonal relationships can be more challenging (and rewarding) than managing the tech itself – and it’s essential since the technology goes hand in hand with the people who use it.

IT roles are changing; support may be located remotely, systems might be off site, and some jobs will disappear entirely. However, there will always be pain points, pressure and personalities in the field. I've worked in the IT space since 1994, primarily in the realm of support and implementation. Along the way I've made a few observations with accompanying advice which I want to share with you. Many of these apply to my role as the “go-to” guy who can get things running, but I think they are universally relevant to any role where you're seen as a resource or a decision-maker on which other people depend to do their jobs.

So without further ado, here are 20 things I've learned in my 20 years in IT:

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Hot IT Skills in the Internet of Things

internet-of-things-home

The Internet of Things is one of the most revolutionary technology trends of our lifetime -- and it’s poised to explode. These skill sets will maximize your salary and marketability in the proliferating Internet of Things.

Hot Computer Skills IoT

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the merger of the physical world with the digital. In the IoT, everyday objects are embedded with technology – such as Wi-Fi and sensors – to acquire a unique online identity and gain the ability to interact with their external environment. This infinite network of “smart” devices promises a range of benefits for businesses, individuals and society at large, including reduced waste, increased safety, greater convenience and improved quality of life.

The vanguard of the IoT revolution is here: Smart objects ranging from fitness wearables and home appliances to connected factories and even whole smart cities are coming online daily, but this is only the beginning. As broadband and hardware costs continue to fall, innovations in mobile and cloud abound, and society continues to embrace an increasingly connected culture, the Internet of Things will explode -- Gartner (conservatively†) predicts 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020, when by IoT product and services will be generating $300+ billion per year.

Big business is all-in: Tech-giants like Cisco, IBM and SAP are launching internal business units and spending billions to grow the infrastructure of the Internet of Things, while major consumer and industrial manufacturers like Ford, General Electric, Bosch and Philips are working overtime to develop the next generation of intelligent devices. And it's a feeding frenzy on IoT startups; myriad VC firms alongside IT trend-setters like Google and Intel are rapidly acquiring promising hardware and software suppliers in the Internet of Things ecosystem.  

As the Internet of Things continues to expand, forward-thinking IT professionals will enjoy a variety of challenging and lucrative job opportunities. These IT skill sets will be especially sought-after in the age of IoT:

  1. Business Intelligence

    With so many devices consuming and sending exabytes of raw information, the true potential of "big data” will be realized. Organizations will endeavor to collect, store, and analyze smart device data streams for actionable intelligence -- business intelligence specialists with skills in sensor data analysis, data center management, predictive analytics, PaaS (Platform as a Service), as well as programming chops in popular big data platforms like Apache Hadoop and NoSQL, will be ideally positioned to meet these needs. Strong business acumen will also be a key differentiator, particularly for BI executives tasked with divining additional opportunities in the burgeoning Internet of Things.
  2. Information Security

    Already home to one of the largest talent gaps in the IT workforce, cyber security specialists will be even more sought-after as the influx of IP-enabled devices increase the complexity – and with it the potential exploits and privacy concerns – of networked devices. Will someone be able hack into your smart-fridge and gain access to your entire network? IT security pros skilled in vulnerability assessment, PKI (public key infrastructure) security, ethical hacking, and wireless network security are already being scooped up to evaluate and mitigate risks like these. Knowledge of data ethics and privacy policy will further help you advance your information security career in the IoT.
  3. UI / UX Design

    PC, smartphone and tablet screens are rectangles. Objects in the Internet of Things will come in every shape and size; some will have very small screens, and others will have no visual display at all. Talented user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers will be a hot commodity as IoT providers strive to develop effective, user-friendly interfaces despite this shift in paradigm. Marketable skills for UI/UX designers in the IoT include Responsive Web Design (wherein visuals dynamically adjust to screen-size, platform and orientation) and Service Design (human-centered design approach that intuitively guides users through complex services).
  4. Mobile Development

    Many of our smart objects will be controlled with mobile devices, i.e., smartphones, tablets, and wearables, driving additional demand for the white-hot mobile application development job role. Platform-wise, Apple iOS and Android application developers will garner the most demand, as these two platforms account for over 90% of mobile devices in U.S. circulation (currently neck-and-neck at about 45% market share each). Digging a little deeper, those with experience developing mobile apps that communicate with external hardware and sensors will be especially sought-after in the proliferating Internet of Things workforce.
  5. Hardware Engineering

    Computer hardware engineers design and build the actual electronics at the heart of the Internet of Things movement. Engineers who can develop and install Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other connectivity solutions will be in great demand. Other valuable hardware skills in the IoT include AutoCAD drafting, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) engineering, wireless sensor design, and quality assurance. Hardware technicians will also benefit from razor-sharp soft skills, such as effective verbal/written communication and conflict resolution, which they’ll need in spades to successfully collaborate with design and manufacturing teams in the IoT.
  6. Networking

    Smart devices wield a variety of sensors and applications to communicate with their environment. Getting these devices to interact effectively demands a wide array of networking tools and techniques. Network pros will need top-notch skills in designing, maintaining and optimizing large-scale traffic across secure, reliable and redundant backbones. Working knowledge of WiFi and other wireless (3G/4G/5G) connection methods will be in high demand, along with the ability to support Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Near Field Communication (NFC), and wireless protocols that don't consume a lot of battery power - such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and ZigBee. Providing for diversity of content and understanding the underlying application flow will also be vital for IT pros supporting this critical data network.
  7. Programming & Software Development

    With the industry still in its infancy, the IoT development landscape is very diverse. There are various platforms to choose from and it'll take more time before industry standards are stabilized and set in stone. Nonetheless, some programming skills are more in demand than others. Python is a choice language. It is popular with Raspberry Pi, the single-board computer that is widely used in IoT projects of all sizes. Also crucial to IoT is Node.js, a low-resource server platform that manages connected devices. Node.js is based on the JavaScript programming language. If you want to dig deeper and get into more advanced scenarios such as programming microcontrollers and Arduino boards, knowledge of C/C++ will be a must. These platforms will give you a great jumpstart in programming the IoT.

The list of marketable skills in the Internet of Things will continue to grow as new business challenges and tech breakthroughs arise. I will continue to update this post with the latest & greatest IoT skill sets as they emerge.

Gartner predicts 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020 (excluding PCs, smartphones and tablets). International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts 30.1 billion autonomous devices on the IoT in 2020, while Cisco and Ericsson each say 50 billion (but keep in mind they have a horse in this race). Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if the scope of the Internet of Things surpasses all four predictions by decade's end.

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Top Paying IT Career Paths for 2014

In addition to education requirements and marketplace demand, salary is a key factor in choosing your ideal IT career. These tech jobs have the greatest earning potential in 2014.

Highest Paying Technology Careers 2014

Finding a job you love that also pays the bills can prove a challenge in today’s economy. Luckily, those of us in the rapidly evolving IT space have a range of challenging and lucrative career paths to choose from. Most of the top paying tech careers for 2014 require years of schooling, but the expense of education will pay dividends upon joining the workforce. Unsurprisingly, many of this year’s top paying positions are in the C-suite – in addition to training, these careers demand an experienced technologist with high business acumen and a proven record of success.

IT staffing firm, Robert Half Technology, recently published its 2014 Salary Guide, featuring salary and employment trends for this year’s hottest job roles. Here we take a deeper look at the top 10 highest paying IT careers for 2014:

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