Overseas security contracting is competitive. There’s no getting around that, and the field of job seekers gets more crowded every year. It’s especially tough when you start looking at the highest paying positions, where there’s often dozens of qualified people trying out for the same slot. Since that’s the case, you as an applicant should be doing everything that you can to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Including (God Forbid) cracking a book.
Unlike the more socialist government handouts, the GI Bill is only available to veterans. If you’re eligible for it, it’s because you’ve earned it, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. When you consider that the US Census Bureau says that on average, college graduates earn $23,000 more per year than people with a high-school diploma, you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra earnings that you could earn over the course of your civilian career.
Now I’ll be honest: Does a Bachelor’s degree make you a better security contractor? Not necessarily. Book smarts don’t always translate into the real world. Just because you can write a term paper doesn’t mean that you can lead a convoy. But it will open up some doors that you might not have considered, including senior mentoring positions and management jobs. These are just a couple of ways that using your GI Bill can pay off for you:
First, it makes you a more attractive candidate. Just the simple act of going to school to learn ANYTHING shows that you’re committed to improving yourself, that you’re ready to accept new challenges, and that you can work successfully with different groups of people. From my personal viewpoint, when I see an applicant who’s at least working towards a degree, I know that I’m about to hire someone who might actually know how to spell. Most security jobs involve at least some degree of report writing, and it’s always nice when you can understand what another employee just wrote.
Next, remember that you’re bound to have a lot of downtime during your deployment. There’s not much in the way of entertainment when you’re living out on FOBs and COPs, and you can only watch the same pirated copy of The Matrix so many times before you need to unplug. Taking a college course, even if it’s only one each semester, can be a great way to kill time during your deployment. It’s easy to enroll in an online or distance learning program, and your textbooks will even be shipped to your APO address for you. Just make sure to pick a program that actually interests you, so you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Finally, take a few minutes to think about your LIFE AFTER CONTRACT SECURITY WORK. Where will you be ten years from now? I hope you’ll still be in good enough shape to pass the physical fitness qualifications, but you never know. Try to be realistic. Everyone has a shelf life, and your body isn’t going to last forever. But if you put in a few hours each week towards your degree, you can be finished in only a few years, and just having that piece of paper will open the door to a lot more full-time positions. Management or training jobs can pay just as much as static security, and usually involve a lot less danger.
No matter what your career goals are, the most important thing to remember is that the sooner you get started on your degree, the sooner you’ll finish it up. And even the hardest part, getting started, isn’t that hard any more. Just ask to speak to a school’s VA coordinator. Colleges can’t operate without taking in tuition money. For them, a GI Bill student means a steady contribution from the federal government, so they’ll rush to help you get signed up.
So what are you waiting for?