One of the most difficult times in a veteran's life is returning to civilian responsibilities. Following months or even years of combat and the daily warfare duties employed in foreign lands, assimilating back into the civilian world can be challenging.
Far removed from the fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled work of military life, finding and maintaining employment is a tall order. For many retired service men and women of the U.S. armed forces, they don’t have a clear career path in mind, or they’re not sure how to get there.
Why Finding a New Career Path Is Important
Unemployment can be a detriment to one's mental health, and it can lead to depression. In a survey conducted on more than 300,000 Americans, 12.4 percent of unemployed individuals reported being depressed — more than double the depression levels that employed Americans reported.
To assist returning veterans find steady work, the U.S. government has initiated many programs. Using the resources available to you through the VA can help you achieve your goals. In addition, finding the right type of work to keep you satisfied is also an important step in moving forward with your new civilian life.
While the military was once your profession, you can use the unique skill sets you've gained during your service for civilian employers. Learning new ones will also help you maintain a healthy and happy life. With a variety of educational benefits available to military personnel, many veterans can pursue careers they will find rewarding.
How the U.S. Government Helps Veterans Establish New Careers
Rewarding employment provides you with purpose. It helps you overcome the hardships of your return and find new avenues to explore.
To help veterans succeed in the civilian workforce, the U.S. Department of Defense has implemented various programs including the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Program (ESGR). Founded in 1972, the program promotes cooperation and understanding between service members and employers.
According to the ESGR, the program is supported by over 4,600 volunteers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam-CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
About Troops to Teachers
For many service men and women, teaching might be the rewarding opportunity they've always wanted to pursue. With a little help from the many programs available, that is an achievable goal. Similar to the ESGR's support programs, Troops to Teachers (TTT) is another Department of Defense resource that helps eligible military personnel get started on a new career path: teaching at public schools across the country.
The Troops to Teachers program was established in 1994 as a Department of Defense initiative. It’s a national organization with support for eligible veterans in public schools across all 50 states, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools, Guam, Puerto Rick, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands.
The program, which receives educational funding annually, assists those who have returned to civilian life kick-start new careers in the public school system.
In addition, all of those eligible who complete the program have the option to teach grades from preschool level to secondary education through grade 12.
Is Teaching the Right Choice for You?
The veterans to teachers career path may seem like the perfect choice for you. Teaching may be something you’ve always wanted to pursue. For others, the idea might seem very far removed from the challenges they faced while in the armed services. A career in teaching may have been a consideration early in life, or it may be a completely new path you’re considering.
Soldiers advancing their careers in education can benefit both themselves and the youth they serve. For those who have the dedication, self-discipline and desire to share the world experiences they've gained while in the service of the U.S. military, teaching and mentoring others can provide many similar rewards, as well as new challenges.
To determine if teaching is the right career path for you, consider volunteering your time at local schools and educational institutions. You may also want to become a substitute teacher. Substitute teachers do not need to have the same educational and certification requirements of full-time teachers in some states.
By pursuing a role as a substitute teacher, you will have a better understanding of the responsibilities of a full-time teacher. It can help you determine if it is a career you would like to pursue before investing your time into the Troops to Teachers program.
Not only can teaching be the rewarding career you've always wanted, but it also pays a comfortable salary. Depending on your experience and employer, you can earn an average yearly salary of $54,740 if you are a special education, pre-kindergarten, primary or secondary teacher. High school teachers earn more, with an average annual salary of $58,170.
Troops to Teachers Requirements
If you’re a current or former member of the U.S. Armed Forces who has served honorably, you may be eligible to participate in the Troops to Teachers program. However, there are still certain criteria guidelines you will need to meet to receive the financial assistance necessary to transition from life on the battlefield into the classroom.
As of January 2013, new Troops to Teachers eligibility guidelines were established to further advance the program and assist veterans in their new career path.
Financial assistance is awarded to eligible veterans through the program. If you are eligible to receive financial assistance, you will receive monetary stipends. You can use these stipends to pay for essential education and license requirements you need to enter the public school system.
These stipends encourage veterans to enter their new career within their own region and teach in different subjects including language, science, mathematics and foreign languages.
There are restrictions for registration and requirements on how long you have to serve before you can win financial assistance. You may also need to commit to additional years of military service to qualify for the various types of assistance provided.
If you’re in the Reserves, you’ll need to have at least six years of service completed and commit to an additional three years of reserve service. If less than three years is required, you’ll need to complete your service until retirement. As a Reserve member, you can’t count inactive time toward your service requirements.
If you receive financial assistance, you must agree to teach for at least three years, according to the program guidelines. For a comprehensive list eligibility in your state or region, please contact a Troops to Teachers state or regional coordinator. They can review the requirements in detail based on your specific situation.
The Benefits of Participating in the Troops to Teachers Program
Financial assistance for eligible participants is key to helping veterans enter their new career as a teacher, since the field requires various certifications and licenses, which cost money. Unlike private education loans, you won’t need to pay back the stipends and bonuses you receive through the Troops to Teachers program.
The stipends of the program should cover all of the expenses of your certification requirements, which you’ll need to work at public schools. You may also receive a bonus between $5,000 and $10,000 if you meet additional eligibility guidelines. Both are one-time, taxable payments.
Requirements You Need to Meet to Become a Teacher
While certifications and educational requirements vary from state to state, most participants in the Troops to Teachers program will need to meet certain educational requirements to be considered for employment as an educator.
If you want to become a teacher at either a vocational or a technical school, you’ll need an associate degree with a minimum of six years of work experience in an eligible career field. If you want to teach in elementary or secondary education, you may also need a bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited institution in a specific academic topic.
What Is Teacher Certification?
While the guidelines can be different for each state, teachers who are fully certified often possess a bachelor’s degree, are knowledgeable about a specific academic discipline and meet the state-approved testing on the subject they are hired to teach.
In addition, states also require a certain amount of student teaching time to prepare you for the full-time educator position. To be eligible for permanent certification, three to five years of additional teaching experience may be required depending on the state you live in.
What Does Financial Assistance Cover?
- Tuition — Most education positions require both a license and a degree in a specific academic topic. Depending on where you are located, state requirements for education vary. In addition, you may want to check with a regional Troops to Teachers representative to determine whether the institution you are attending is accredited with the state requirements.
- Books and educational materials — Tuition to attend an academic institution can be costly. There are also added expenses that come with coursework, including books and learning materials. The stipends provided by Troops to Teachers also covers the costs of these education-related expenses.
- All certification fees — The stipends provided will also cover the expenses you’ll need for testing, applications, certifications and fingerprinting fees, if it is required by your state. For more information about the requirements in your region, you can contact a Troops to Teachers representative.
- Lodging and transportation costs — The Troops to Teachers program provides transportation costs at a rate of .56 cents per mile, which is subject to change. In addition, lodging expenses for the attendance of seminars, testing and certification procedures is also provided by the financial assistance program.
- Childcare — If you are a parent, finding the time to attend classes may be a difficult challenge. Under the financial assistance guidelines of the program, childcare is an expense that can be reimbursed through the program.
Additional Educational Benefits for Veterans
In addition to the Troops to Teachers program, there are other benefits you can take advantage of as a service member. They may include:
- The GI Bill®¹ — Military service men and women have the option to complete up to 36 months of educational or training services under the Montgomery and Post 911 GI Bills®. However, veterans returning from active duty Post September 11, 2001 can only apply the same 36 months of financial aid toward educational costs, but different restrictions apply.
- Tuition assistance under Top Up Program — Additional funding may be available for those who qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill® through the Top Up Program, but restrictions may apply to some military members.
- Veterans Educational Assistance Program — In addition to the GI Bill® and additional tuition assistance, those who qualify for the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) can receive funding for education and training for up to 36 months if they enlisted between 1977 and 1985. A contribution account must have been opened before 1987. Eligibility also includes a contribution of $25 to $2,700 and honorable discharge from service, if no longer active.
- Military Tutorial Assistance Program — Under this bill, veterans who are not quite prepared for college can use financial services for tutoring costs. The Military Tutorial Assistance Program (TAP) is for eligible service men and women with an allotment of $100 per month for the educational and training expenses. Some other restrictions may apply.
Expenses not covered under the financial aid assistance guidelines include computers, hardware, software, meals and other degrees not related to the Troops to Teachers program. However, the Troops to Teachers program does not conflict with other education programs such as the Pell Grant. It may conflict, however, with Post 911 GI Bill® funding provided to veterans, depending on the circumstances.
With a variety of opportunities available, veterans can still pursue various academic courses while participating in the Troops to Teachers program.
Soldiers to Teachers
In addition to financial assistance provided to eligible participants, Troops to Teachers employs many state and regional managers that will help you get started in the process to become a teacher. Those involved in the program can provide expert advice on requirements, including guidance for teacher certification and the educational requirements you’ll need to meet to become an educator. There are various ways to achieve these goals. By speaking with the right person, you can save time and money in the process.
Also, the program will provide you with ways to obtain financial assistance to meet the requirements, as well as referrals for employment opportunities in your area.
How Do I Register for Troops to Teachers?
If you have decided the Troops to Teachers program is the right step for you and would like to find out more information about the services available, visit proudtoserveagain.com. The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) can help you determine if you are eligible. You can contact them online, or you can call the national office at 1-800-231-6242. You can also register online.
¹GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.