Here, Andrew Bryant, an MPA student on military active duty, shares five ways veterans can build on their military background in the public policy arena.
By Andrew Bryant: When we think of the military, we generally think of the soldier on the front lines with a rifle or machine gun. But, in fact, the majority of people in uniform serve in non-combat occupations, like doctors, lawyers, nurses, medical service personnel, accountants, intelligence collection, and law enforcement. All of these backgrounds are extremely relevant in public policy.
And if, like me, you serve in a combat role, you can also be successful in the public policy arena. The skills I’ve learned in combat units—organization, leadership, communication and teamwork—transfer very well. Here are five ways that a military background can translate to the public policy field.
- Military lawyers and policemen often go on to careers in the justice system and civilian law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels.
- Military doctors and medical service personnel often succeed in public health policy. A great deal can be learned from the way the military handles healthcare. It is largely a “socialized” healthcare system in which all soldiers get free care and all doctors are paid similar amounts.
- Military intelligence personnel go into intelligence branches of our national government like the Department of Homeland Security, NSA and CIA. Intelligence collection policy is a highly contested issue right now.
- Army civil affairs and foreign area officers gravitate toward careers of diplomacy. The military spends a great deal of time working with other nations. These skills can be applied as a civilian diplomat in the state department and in organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development.
- Obviously, combat tactics like parachuting, and operating tanks don’t directly translate to running nonprofits. But organizational and leadership skills can be applied to any organization. For example, my father was an Army helicopter pilot and became the CEO of a nonprofit dedicated to job training and placement for disabled veterans.