Guide to Skilled Trade Work for Returning Service Members


Transitioning back to civilian life from the structure of the military can be difficult. Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles and yet necessary steps is to find a new job. Luckily, returning servicemen leave the military with a slew of specific and technical skills, many of which transition well into the skilled trade industries. 

Skilled Trade Workforce Information for Transitioning Veterans

One of the difficulties for military workers is understanding how their skills can be used in civilian life. Beyond high-level skills learned in the military which include discipline, multitasking, leadership, and time management, veterans often also leave the military having obtained a high level of technical skills. 

All of those skills can be applied in the real world and are directly applicable to civilian work. However, “144 – RL” will mean nothing to a civilian hiring manager. So knowing how to explain your skills is the first step. Not only is transitioning to a civilian occupation a huge leap but following the proper steps to propel your career in the right direction can be like navigating unknown waters. 

Research Specialized Trade Careers Matching Your Military Jobs and Skills

Luckily, many military jobs easily translate into what is commonly known as a tradesman, skilled tradesman, skilled trades person, or trade. This refers to those who specialize in a particular occupation that requires work experience, on-the-job training, and often a limited amount of formal vocational education, but not a bachelor’s degree. 

To learn more about what kind of trades jobs might be a good fit for you here are some links that can help you better understand the skilled trades, translate the skills you’ve gained, and help you consider what jobs are available for you. 

Skilled Trade 101 

  • Do You Want A Career? That’s All You Need To Become A Skilled Tradesman — This Popular Mechanics article explores the increasing demand for tradesmen: plumbers, pipefitters, mechanics, welders, and the list goes on
  • 6 Reasons To Consider a Skilled Trade Career — Short and sweet highlights of a few key reasons the skilled trades are hot right now. We like #4 The guarantee to earn a solid living & #6: You get to actually DO what you’re GOOD at. 
  • Rebuilding the Pipeline: Supply and Demand in the Skilled Trades — Expert Workforce Analyst Henry Fields wrote an article that includes one of the most comprehensive lists including a wide range of skilled-apprenticeable trades such as the usual plumber and electrician but also machinist, elevator mechanic, sprinkler fitter and more. Plus, his work includes a helpful table detailing the average (substantial) hourly wages for each trade.
  • Top 3 In-Demand Skilled Trades Jobs — Veterans probably already have the skills for these high-demand trade jobs.
  • You Don’t Need to Go Back to School For These Jobs — Maybe you joined the military because you had enough of school or perhaps you don’t have the time, money, or resources to go back now. If that’s the case, this list of jobs offers a wide selection for you to consider as you transition back to civilian life (most of which fall into the skilled trades category).
  • Myths of the Skilled Trades — The skilled trades often get a bad rap, this high-level series of myths vs. truth sets the record straight.  For example, this Myth: “I don’t have the skills to enter the trades.” The truth? Trades offer on-the-job apprenticeship training for anyone willing to learn!
  • A fun quiz to figure out which trade is right for you — If you just aren’t sure where to start when it comes to the skilled trades, this simple, entertaining quiz can help set you off in the right direction. 

Skilled Trades for Transitioning Veterans 

More Reasons to Consider the Skilled Trades: ranks skilled trade #1 in this list of the best businesses to start in 2020 From the Marines to HVAC to teaching → How learning and teaching a skilled trade changed my life article Addressing the Skilled Labor Shortage in America: “Rewarding career? Yes. Hard work? Yes. Good pay? Yes. Long term opportunity? Absolutely. Sounds like the American dream to me.” The Future of Manufacturing Depends on Skilled Trade (Infographic): Vocational skills – skilled trades are in demand as boomers retire

Skilled Trade Jobs That Align with Common Veteran Skills


There is something for everyone in the construction industry. It’s an industry with a shortage of qualified workers, which means the demand is high and the job outlook only growing.

For both those with or without direct experience and no necessary additional education or training for many positions, the construction industry offers a wide range of opportunities for veterans.

Types of Construction Jobs Available

Occupations such as roofers, carpenters, or general laborers generally require no formal education. For more specialized positions such as machinists, heavy truck operators, and installation technicians, you often need a certification or short training. As for more managers and engineers, these higher-grade jobs will require bachelor degrees as part of the qualifications.

Construction Job Boards:

More Construction Resources:


A longtime respected career, everyone with a car needs a mechanic they can depend on and the job market is only looking to expand. 

This type of career combines mechanic skills with leadership to direct teams on mechanical repair or fleet management. It’s a great fit for transitioning veterans as most are required to obtain at least minimal training on operating and maintaining wheeled vehicles. 

Types of Mechanic Jobs Available

While not mandatory, obtaining or demonstrating certification can level up your value to potential employers. There are a number of types of certifications and trainings available for mechanics to obtain. One of the most universal is the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. 

Mechanic Job Boards

More Mechanic Resources


Can you ensure electrical systems are properly installed and conduct upgrades or repairs when needed? From businesses to hospitals and all the way up to industrial-type electrical jobs electricians are always needed to protect and safeguard our homes and buildings.

Types of Electrician Jobs Available

Electricians follow a step-by-step process from apprentice to Journeyman and finally Master Electrician. This means there is initial on the job training (as an apprentice), then individuals can apply for a Journeyman License (requires passing an exam), and the top tier involves passing the Master Electrician Exam. 

Another option is to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree in Electrical Technology or Electrical Engineering. 

Electrician Job Boards

More Electrician Resources

HVAC Technician

These tradesmen maintain and install heating, ventilating, and air conditioning/refrigeration systems (HVAC/R) in homes, schools, hospitals, factories, warehouses, and more.

Types of HVAC Jobs Available

HVAC job positions often require postsecondary education or an apprenticeship as the technology becomes more and more advanced. 

HVAC Job Boards

More HVAC Resources


Plumbers work in homes and businesses on pipes moving liquids or gases to and from sinks, drains, toilets, and appliances. They do more than fix leaky faucets, they also install, maintain, and repair appliances, pipe systems, and so much more. 

Jobs Available

First thing first is to have your GED or high school diploma. After that, much like electricians, the process to become a plumber involves a series of steps from apprentice, to Journeyman Plumber to finally become a Master Plumber. Many states also require plumbers to have a license, check with your state requirements to see what you need to obtain. 

Plumbing Job Boards

More Resources

Aircraft Technician

A natural transition for soldiers who worked on military aircraft, an aircraft technician is expected to work on engines, propellers, airframe mechanics, and more. Having proper training is essential so make sure to verify you have the proper qualifications.

Jobs Available

Most aviation jobs require a mechanic certification or appropriate vocational training. Formal training proving an FAA rating is important.

Aviation Technician Job Boards 

More Resources

Printing Technician

Printing Machine Technician, Machine Operator, and Press Operators all essentially describe the same job. These experts are needed to create print runs for small to large scale projects. (The job has an incredible number of names and may be defined as 1st Pressman, 2nd Pressman, Flexographic Press Operator, Offset Pressman, Press Leader, Pressman, Printing Pressman, etc.)

Jobs Available

If interested in working as a print operator, the important thing is to have an affinity for practical, hands-on problem-solving. The job involves procedures, routines, and details. Usually, a high school degree or GED is the minimum education requirement.

For those looking to go the extra mile, 3-D printing is on the rise. This job generally requires obtaining a bachelor’s degree as the high level of precision, engineering, and rapidly advancing field requires technicians to be up to speed on the latest technology and innovations. 

Printing Technician Job Boards 

More Resources


Training and Job Resources for Veterans Seeking a Career in the Skilled Trades 

Skilled Trade Training and Certification Programs for Veterans 

Organizations to Support Veterans Transitioning into the Skilled Trades

NextOp NextOp is an organization offering veterans mentorship, educational opportunities (industry certifications, vocational trade schools, and more) in the Energy and Construction industries. 

Workshops® for Warriors  Workshops for Warriors of WFW provides STEM training to transitioning service members. Students receive accredited training and subsequent credentials to propel them towards their chosen advanced manufacturing career field. Trades include welding, machining. 

Troops to Trades For those interested in plumbing, heating/cooling, and electrical residential services industries this program helps veterans achieve necessary training and help veterans find their next job. 

Helmets to Hardhats This reputable program connects National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active-duty military service members with both skilled training and quality career opportunities in the construction industry.

FLIR TradeForce The FLIR TradeForce program assists U.S. veterans who want to start or expand a career in the skilled trades; electricians, HVAC professionals, plumbers, building inspectors, and more.

United Association Veterans in Piping The United Association established the UA Veterans in Piping (VIP) Program to ease the transition into civilian life. The program prepares exiting service members with skills that lead to lifelong careers in the pipe trades such as HVAC-R, Welding, and Sprinkler Fitting skills.

Painters and Allied Trades Veterans Program The Painters and Allied Trades Veterans Program offers specialized training for qualified veterans for free. Earn while you learn the Finishing Trade specialties such as industrial and commercial coating and painting, glazing glass and architectural metal, drywall finishing, and floor covering installation. 

Additional Programs and Paths for Veterans: 

Perfect Technician Academy is committed to preparing our nation’s Veterans for successful careers in the skilled-trades industry. “We take a holistic approach to assisting veterans with their transition to the private sector with programs focused on recruiting, employment assistance, and skills development.”

FSG (Facility Solutions Group) offers a verifiable Veteran Apprentice Training Program. The program allows workers to get paid while receiving on-the-job training to become an apprentice electrician. 

Join the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing (AAM) for an opportunity to learn in-demand manufacturing skills to launch the next step in your career. The program is designed to give veterans the ability to translate their military experience into a role in manufacturing. It works.

The Heavy Construction Academy (HCA) is a heavy equipment training program. The program is approved to administer VA Educational Benefits for eligible students under the GI Bill® and they partner with Completion of this program provides certification to operate 8 pieces of heavy equipment. 

More Resources: 


Find a Job in the Skilled Trades

Check Job Boards for Skilled Trades – The place to start connecting with companies offering Skilled Trade Jobs. Network with job recruiters and HR Managers. – This platform is entirely devoted to the skilled trades industry, connecting businesses to job seekers. Job seekers can set up alerts so they can receive a notification when new jobs are posted to the job board. – This old-school web site is a “Run by workers for workers” kind of spot. They have a “Job Notify” option to receive updates on new job postings and a menu that makes it easy to navigate between different skilled trade specialties. – While this site is dedicated to Oil & Gas Jobs, many of the postings are seeking experts in skilled trades such as those posted on the “Trades & Technicians” category page. 

Check Generic Job Boards for Veterans 

Hire Our Heroes is a Veteran Job Board dedicated to providing a link between Veteran Job Seekers and Employers looking to hire. RecruitMilitary provides a resource for employers to connect with “America’s best talent — its veterans.” They work with ad agencies, educators, franchisors, and government agencies to bring together a network dedicated to supporting transitioning veterans.

Veterans Hire Veterans works to empower veterans who own businesses to give back by hiring fellow military servicemen entering the civilian workforce.

Hire a Veteran offers jobs in a number of fields and industries. Their extensive network under “Veteran Industries, LLC” works hard to support veterans with an extensive job board, directory, job fairs, and even seminars. Even better, they have an entire section dedicated to the skilled trades categorized under: “Maintenance Jobs”.

Veteran Job Listings is a free and open-source platform for veterans to find and apply to jobs without creating an account. They are ad-free and committed to security. It’s their effort to create awareness in how communities can support troops by providing veterans with employment opportunities.

Check National Job Websites for Veterans

Feds Hire Vets -Feds Hire Vets is a federal informational site for veterans, active or transitioning military service members, their families, and federal hiring.

VESO – Veteran Employment Services Office offers a “Featured Jobs” section with a rotating list of positions to work to assist your fellow veterans. – offers a wide variety of services such as jobs and new opportunities for veterans. These opportunities are made to help the vets in their civilian life.

Military Hire – Military Hire is a site run by a team of both military veterans and corporate hiring authorities. Their goal is to create a network where former military personnel can seek careers and utilize their professional skills.

VetJobs – Vet Jobs aims to offer career opportunities for military-affiliated job seekers. They ensure that job seekers connect with the career opportunities they deserve.

G.I Jobs – G.I Jobs is a great place to look for job and career opportunities as a veteran.They offer a wide variety of tips, articles, and online tools to help explore your potential in a different career.

Hire Veterans –  Hire Veterans offers the best and most relevant jobs to veteran job seekers. They offer easy access to resumes and job postings.

More Resources:


Entrepreneurship and Franchise Resources for Veterans

Entrepreneurial Resources and Programs for Veterans 

Patriot Boot Camp – Patriot Boot Camp is an organization that provides veterans, spouses, and active duty service members with access to educational programming, mentors, experts, and services that will help create and improve your businesses.

StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award – According to their website, “The StreetShares Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that exists to inspire, educate and support the military entrepreneurial community.”  The organization was launched on Veterans Day in 2016, built to serve military community entrepreneurs nationwide. The foundation’s programs provide access to educational content, mentors, coaching, networking events, and capital opportunities. 

VetToCEO –  As mentioned on their website, “The VetToCEO core program is a seven-week program. You’ll join a group of fellow qualified veterans and Active, Guard, and Reserve military who are either exploring entrepreneurship as a career path choice or aggressively completing their business plan”.

Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development – This branch of the SBA offers small business programs to military veterans, services such as counseling business training, referrals, and transition services. They created programs designed to help veterans, women vets, reserve and national guard members, and disabled veterans.

Office of Veterans Affairs Veteran Entrepreneur Portal – The VEP Office helps small businesses by giving them easy access to federal services and promptly connects veteran entrepreneurs to relevant information and practices.

Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship – The Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship is a company that helps transition veterans and their families into successful business owners. Their organized system makes your business flow smoothly.

Boots to Business (B2B) – Boots to Business is a free training program offered by the SBA. It helps veterans become entrepreneurs. The starting point is a 2-day event that goes over the basics of business ownership at a military perspective. Multiple courses are available for enrollment after you complete the task.

Veteran’s Business Outreach Center (VBOC) – The Veteran’s Business Outreach Center offers training, mentoring, and counseling to help veterans start their own business. They offer the best training course that fits best for you.

More Tips and Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs:


Franchise Opportunities for Veterans 

Franchises offer the opportunity for leadership and execution of a prepared, fully-formulated plan: a certain recipe for success for transitioning veterans. Providing both purpose and mission, these franchise options are great for veterans interested in the skilled trade industries.

Construction / Carpentry / Home Repair

Mr. Handyman Franchise – Mr. Handyman is a great fit for those who can offer the handy-hand to accomplish basic home repair, installation, and maintenance service. They offer a 15% discount off the initial franchise to qualifying veterans.

Storm Guard Franchise – Storm Guard is a roofing and construction franchise suited for those with the know-how in building productive teams and long-term relationships, a great fit for veterans. Retired or honorably discharged veterans receive a $5,000 discount on the Initial Franchise Fee.

Mechanic/Mechanical Automotive Opportunities: 

Christian Brothers Auto Repair Franchise – For veteran mechanics looking for a franchise, Christian Brothers Franchise offers auto service and repair, something every community needs. They offer 10% off of the franchise fee to veterans. 

Grease Monkey® Franchise – Since 1978, this franchise has provided preventative car maintenance including speedy routine oil changes by certified technicians. US veterans or their spouses can receive a $10,000 discount on Grease Monkey’s standard Initial Franchise Fee.


Mr. Appliance Franchise – An appliance repair franchise (there to help for home appliance problems from “warm refrigerators to clogged dryer vents”) offering 15% off the initial franchise fee for honorably discharged veterans who satisfy the VetFran program guidelines.

Mr. Electric Franchise – This franchising company is a great fit for electricians. The company offers 15% off the minimum franchise fee and will work with you to discuss options for investors with and without industry experience

Mister Sparky® – “is Good for Business” is what they tell us. These franchise owners come from different backgrounds with different levels of experience. Whether just starting your business as an investor or a licensed electrician looking to level-up, this residential electrical service franchise offers Veterans a discount of 10% off the franchise fee.


Aire Serv Franchise – “Established in 1993, Aire Serv provides installation, maintenance and repair of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and indoor air quality systems to both residential and commercial customers at more than 175 locations worldwide.” It is possible for an investor to start a franchise without an HVAC license and veterans receive 15% off the initial franchise 

One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® – This franchise is dedicated to its timely business model and is great for transitioning companies or entrepreneurs looking to start a company. Veterans Discount: 10% off the franchise fee. 


Mr. Rooter Franchise – Even though most Mr. Rooter franchise owners previously ran their own plumbing business, it’s not a requirement. Veterans interested receive 15% off the initial franchise fee. 

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® – This plumbing franchise is best suited to residential services and transitioning companies. Interested Veterans may qualify for a Conversion Incentive Program with a discount of 10% off the franchise fee. 


SpeedPro Franchise – For business professionals and one of the top veteran franchise opportunities, this company provides wide-format printing services in a fast growing industry. SpeedPro offers qualified veterans a 10% discount.

Minuteman Press Franchise – Established 45 years ago, Minuteman Press specializes in meeting the growing needs of today’s business professionals and their print marketing needs. It’s been rated number one in its category by Entrepreneur Magazine 25 times and offers veterans a $10,000 discount off of the licensing fee of a new location.

Other Home Service Trades

Five Star Painting – If you are interested in operating a painting business, this franchise offers discounts of 15% for honorably discharged veterans. 

Additional Franchise Resources for Veterans:


Transition Resources for the Returning Service Men: Moving From Military Back to Civilian Life

Transition Consultation Services & Programs

Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program – The Transition Assistance Program provides transitioning services to service members preparing for their civilian life. From additional education to job seeking in public or private sectors, TAP is there for you.

Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program – Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program provides services and assistance to transitioning soldiers and veterans.

Marine Corps Transition Readiness Program – The Marine Corps Transition Readiness Program offers a complete transition and employment assistance program for marines and their respective families.

Navy Transition Assistance – Navy Transition Assistance is a program dedicated to helping the transition process of veterans and their families. They offer educational programs, proactive outreach, and family support services.

Air Force Transition Assistance Program – One of the main goals of the Air Force Transition Assistance Program is to provide information, training, and tools to dedicated service members and their spouses as they prepare for their civilian life. From additional education to business opportunities, they got you covered.

More Resources:


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