A Phenomenological Exploration of Combat Veterans’ Experiences as They Transition to Civilian Employment Using Higher Education as Career Development
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When enlisted combat arms military service members return from deployment and enter or reenter the American workforce, they often find it challenging to explain their Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) positions and associated responsibilities and accomplishments to employers. Particularly in an economy that has gone from being prosperous to becoming stagnant and recessed in recent years, veterans have returned from military service to find increased competition for fewer jobs that are mostly at the lower end of the skill requirements and pay scale. Many service members have utilized higher education as career development to mitigate the transition from being a military service member to being a civilian employee. The purpose of this study was to explore, using hermeneutic phenomenology, the lived experiences and feelings of combat arms veterans about the transition process from higher education to the civilian work environment while allowing veterans to share their feelings about their experiences in their own words. The aim of this research was to better understand the veterans’ perceptions of their career development transition to civilian employment in order to identify strategies to assist them through the transition and into civilian employment. Seven veterans of military service in the infantry were identified with purposeful sampling from the population of OEF/OIF veterans with combat arms MOSs pursuing higher education at a large southwestern university. Because there is no direct civilian employment correlate for the combat arms MOS, it necessitates that the participants identify new career directions. Participants were at least junior level in their education at the time of interview. Each participant was interviewed twice face-to-face with hermeneutic interviews conducted three weeks apart. Themes that emerged from my review of the research data are reflective of the phenomena occurring within the veteran participants’ career development experiences as they move through and move out of higher education into civilian employment. The themes that emerged from the participants’ stories of their experiences share common roots of power and have intertwining branches: new structures, new systems, and new relationships that impact the veterans’ career development. Feelings of fear and hope about their career development and future civilian employment are part of the veterans’ career transition process and experiences as illustrated in the data. This process and the constructs brought into relief from analysis provide the answers to the research questions posited about infantry veterans’ experiences using higher education as career development for civilian employment. While they expressed a clear understanding of their skills and capabilities gained through military service that they believed should be of value in civilian employment, the participants also acknowledged their concerns and worries that their experiences and abilities to contribute in civilian employment would not be recognized.
Minnis, Sarah (2014). A Phenomenological Exploration of Combat Veterans’ Experiences as They Transition to Civilian Employment Using Higher Education as Career Development. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from