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It seems difficult to get a career, especially government, without a degree. Advice?


Andrew Bridges Washington, DC

Spending four years in the military does not equal to four years at a university. Though school is not for everyone and a reason some go into military, yet when get out it seems like it doesn’t matter for most career fields.

5 December 2018 4 replies Career Advancement



Robert Jurasek Hollywood, FL

Dear Andrew,

There are many Federal positions that do not require a college degree but may ask for experience instead of the degree. The job announcements will typically state something like the following:
GS 5: At least 3 years, 1 year of which was equivalent to at least GS 4 General Experience, OR a 4-year course of study leading to a bachelor's degree, OR a combination of education and general experience.

The GS 5 pay grade is entry level; however, you should look for job announcements that have a range like GS 5-15, for example. That range will show you the promotion potential for the position.

At whatever pay grade you start, you generally will have to be there for one year before you can be promoted to the next higher pay grade. Jobs often have pay grade increases from GS 5 to 7, 9, and 11, before the grade increases in increments of one (GS 11 to 12, 13, 14, and 15.)

Here is one way that you can search: Go to > enter Washington DC as your location (or any other desired location) > on the right column, scroll down to “Pay” > click on “Grade” and select GS 5. On the resulting list, look for the job announcements that have a pay range like GS 5-15 then find a position where you can qualify based on your experience. Perhaps you have enough experience to justify starting at the GS 7 pay grade and you can work your way up from there.

Good luck with your search and thank you for your Service!

Bob Jurasek


Paul Trejo Austin, TX

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your years of service. You're correct that Industry treats all work experience as relevant to industry. I strongly advise you to get a college degree. ANY COLLEGE DEGREE IS BETTER THAN NONE in today's industry marketplace.

The most accessible ones are the AA or AS degrees -- Associate in Arts, or Associate in Science. They can be obtained at Community Colleges, which are inexpensive compared to almost every other facility.

Many Community Colleges offer ONLINE COURSES for some of their classes. This is IDEAL for the working person. Please consider this seriously.

Some colleges will accept credit from other colleges, or grant credit for work experience.


Here are a few rules of thumb for a late college degree:

1. Take courses that you already know a lot about -- that is perfectly legitimate.
2. Take courses that you LIKE the best.
3. Take business courses -- some are easy, and they all look good on a resume.

GET THE DEGREE. You'll be so glad you did.

Best wishes,


Rob Pianka Lancaster, PA

Hello Andrew,

Read your bio. Please accept my appreciation.

Here are some questions: What did you learn in your four years in the military? What parts of that apply to a civilian career? How can you make those parts count in your career?

You may answer those questions differently, but with the little information I have here's a stab at it:

You say you have taken "some college courses and have worked in plumbing, restoration, roofing..."

Military: I learned to fit and function in a system, to always show up on time and prepared, to be lead and to lead, and to know the objective and to contribute to its achievement.

Civilian: I learned what good management is and how to be a good manager...these things are in short supply in the civilian sector.

Career: Focus, perhaps, on Project Management in the construction sector. Put your purposeful discipline into practice. (You will have to learn how to do that with people who don't take orders, i.e. how to herd cats.) Along with practicing this, take the right series of courses. Note: You can grow from Project Management to Program Management (managing multiple Project Managers and projects) and, perhaps, eventually become a Chief Operating Officer (for that level you'll need to learn Financial Management).

Courses: Off the top of my head... Steadily over years get credit for studying/knowing Management, Project Management, and relevant parts of Financial Management: budgeting, cost analysis.

Here are some resources: CLEP allows you to study intro courses and to "place out of them" so you can take higher level courses

your local Community College... Take a good look here. You may want to only work for a company that is involved with ABC. AMA courses cost a bit but they count on a resume. The AMA also has organized their courses towards career achievement. You may not want to always pay for their courses but take a good look at their career tracks.

Like I said, you may answer these questions differently but your answers should clarify the lessons you learned in the military that are valuable in the civilian world, how you need to adapt yourself and those lessons to the civilian world, and what resources are available to you.



(717) 725-4305


Derek Nielsen Hudson, NH

Build your skills up to what field you are looking to enter. If there is an ability to start as a temp or contractor, that can start building you valuable experience. Most good companies will value actual experience over a degree with no experience.

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