Steffon Fisher thought he had his post-military life all figured out.
After leaving the Marine Corps in 2018, he went to school for marketing. He made plans to start his own business, and had even created a website and begun acquiring clients, when COVID-19 came along and turned the whole world upside down.
“All of the clients that I had been working with were like, ‘I can’t go through with this. I’ve gotta save as much money as possible,’” Steffon recalls. “I was like, ‘Well, this is just perfect timing.’ So it kind of just fell apart. But everything happens for a reason, I think.”
What makes Steffon, 26, say that now? Using his GI Bill to attain full funding, he enrolled at the ACI (formerly LeaderQuest) Denver Tech Center Learning Hub for IT training. Just three weeks after finishing classes — and with an ITIL certification in hand — he received an offer for a job in IT.
The role: An entry-level service desk position with a Colorado company called Astonish. It was the first step to a brand-new IT career.
“They told me it was going to take about 90 days for me to get my first job offer after classes. So three weeks was definitely not expected,” Steffon says.
“I’ve always been good with computers. That’s just something that kind of comes natural to me.”
Steffon still remembers the call he got from ACI Learning. He had just moved from San Jose to Colorado with his wife and son. One day the phone rang, and the word “cybersecurity” caught his attention.
“Since I have the GI bill from the military, it wasn’t really a tough decision on whether or not I was going to do it or not,” Steffon says. “So I started.”
Once in class, he was immediately impressed with the quality of the IT training.
“The instructors are really awesome, and they’ll work with you,” Steffon says. “I would touch base with them, like, “Hey, yesterday was kind of rough for me. Do you think we could go over what we talked about, on the side?’ They’ll work with you on the weekend. They’ll give you an hour-long call and go over the stuff you’re missing, or what you’re not understanding. So that was really helpful.”
That above-and-beyond level of dedication was key for Steffon. Training online at home because of COVID-19, he caught himself losing focus from time to time. Having a 7-month-old baby will do that.
But wherever he got lost, he knew he could count on the instructors to get him back on track.
“They definitely have a passion for teaching you the knowledge, which is rare,” Steffon says. “These instructors want you to learn — they’re not just doing it because it’s their job.”
Stellar IT Career Help
So that was the learning process. But what about the whole, you know, getting-a-job process?
Here again, Steffon says ACI Learning came through with flying colors.
“Shannon Travis was really helpful,” Steffon says, referring to an Employment Development Manager on the Career Services team. “She did an amazing job getting me the interview with Astonish. Most universities, they don’t even bother with employment.”
With a mere three-week turnaround after completing classes, it’s hard to argue with the results.
And Steffon is loving his new job in IT.
“I’m getting some good experience,” he says. “I get challenged on a daily basis, which is something I need in order to stay interested in a job. And the company itself is awesome. They have a lot of opportunity for growth. It’s pretty much like, if they have a new project and you let it be known that you want to work on that project, regardless of your experience they’ll let you work on it, and they’ll pay you for it.”
Another plus of Astonish: the chance to move into cybersecurity.
It’s all part of what he enjoys about IT and cybersecurity — what he describes as an “act of constantly evolving” and “figuring out solutions.”
“IT definitely wasn’t in my plans,” Steffon says. “But after going through LeaderQuest and having the opportunity to take these certification exams, that’s definitely in my cards now.”
Could This Be for You?
We’ve written before about how IT can be a perfect next step for transitioning veterans, and Steffon is living proof of that. So many of the skills are transferable. Add VET TEC and other sources of funding, including for military spouses, and there’s practically no downside.
A typical course track is ACI Learning’s Computer User Support Specialist program. It can be completed in just five weeks if attending full-time during the day. If you need to take classes at night, that’s an option too. That takes 10 weeks from start to finish. Either way, graduates leave the hands-on instruction with everything they need to know in order to pass the ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications — the basics for most any entry-level IT position.
And, as Steffon mentions above, you don’t have to land that entry-level job on your own. Thanks to people like Shannon Travis on ACI Learning’s Career Services team, students and graduates have a plethora of job-hunt tools at their disposal. From resume edits to interview practice, this team exists to make job candidates as prepared as possible. What’s more, they have professional connections established over years and years in the IT and cybersecurity community. Frequently, they make phone calls to employers that result in jobs for ACI Learning graduates.
Whether you’re a veteran yourself or a civilian looking to start a new career, IT is worth considering. And ACI Learning can get you the IT training you need. Fill out the form below to learn more about the opportunities to be had with IT careers.
Mark Emery is the Social Media and Content Marketing Manager for LeaderQuest and MISTI. He is a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Denver, and his previous work experience includes editorial roles at Men’s Health, the NY Daily News, and MLB.com.
It’s a path so commonplace and accepted, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as the only one.
Go to college after high school. Of course. It’s just what people do. Never mind the four years you give up in time, or the tens of thousands you pay in tuition and room and board. In the long run, these are nothing concerns. Especially when you consider the higher income that a college education all but guarantees.
Actually, maybe not. Four years is a significant period of time to wait before you can start earning money. And the costs? Credit.com puts the average student loan debt at a whopping $31,172. That’s not something you can pay off overnight. If your debt is higher, which is all too possible, it may not be something you can fully pay off ever.
When you also consider that basic employment is far from guaranteed in many fields — let alone that higher income — college starts to look a lot less stable and reliable than we’re led to believe.
Bucking Tradition, Together
Roommates Michael Lim, 23, and Michael-Anthony Shipman, 25, experienced some of these drawbacks firsthand. Both of them tried the traditional college route after high school, and both of them decided it wasn’t for him.
“There’s an overemphasis in my opinion on college degrees,” Lim says. “I don’t want to downplay at all the education you get from college, the social understanding and things you learn outside the classroom. But for the price, it’s a little bloated. A little bit, in my opinion.”
Both of Lim’s parents went to college, as did all five of his siblings. But he didn’t take to his new lifestyle at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He didn’t like the massive classroom sizes, nor was he completely sure of the value of his intended computer science degree.
“It wasn’t really like, ‘Oh, should I go to college and get a degree?’ It was like, ‘When am I going to get it?’” Lim says. “For me personally, just as a life choice, I didn’t want to go to college right after high school — and it kind of showed. Getting out after a year and a half in was my way of saying, ‘Oh, I don’t think the timing is right. I don’t want to be going into this kind of intensity. I just want to figure things out for myself.’”
After Lim left, he wound up in Pittsburgh, where he met Shipman. In addition to his ongoing work with the Army National Guard, Shipman was studying game design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, which eventually shut down as part of a wave of Art Institute closings across the country.
Together with a couple other friends, the group migrated west to Aurora, Colorado. Some enrolled in a new school, but that turned out not to be exactly what they were looking for either. That’s when Shipman came across LeaderQuest’s Denver campus.
“Just from all the options and the outcomes that I could have from LeaderQuest, it was going to be better than getting a degree in college,” Shipman says. “Especially with being already in the military, having the VA benefits and already having a clearance for jobs for getting out of LeaderQuest is a huge bonus.”
Shipman — a tech guy who built his first computer five years ago — decided to give it a go, ultimately convincing Lim and their roommate Ryan Broadwater as well.
“When [Shipman] started looking into it, he was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is a really, really solid place,” says Lim, who was also attracted to the opportunity to earn college credits. “The idea of me and my two roommates going to school together, as well as getting some certifications and whatnot, it was a very enticing proposition. So it was very hard for me to turn it down.”
“When you’re going to college, you’re spending just literally tens of thousands of dollars, every year,” Lim says. “Coming to LeaderQuest, time-wise, it’s less than a semester. And money-wise, it all just kind of made sense, like lucratively. You’re going to be making a fair amount of money coming out and you’re going into an expanding field. It just makes a lot of sense.”
Whereas before he was one of 300 in classes at UNC-Charlotte, with LeaderQuest Lim learned in classroom sizes of 15 or less. He called that “very refreshing” as he completed his LeaderQuest courses and went on to pass the ITIL exam as his first certification.
Military duties related to the coronavirus, meanwhile, have kept Shipman from wrapping up his coursework just yet. But once his training is finished and his certifications are acquired, he’s looking forward to working with the Department of Defense as a civilian contractor — “to not necessarily be in uniform but work with people in uniform.”
Both Lim and Shipman are fully confident in LeaderQuest’s career services team to help them find full-time employment in IT.
“One of the best things is how ready they are to help you out,” Lim says. “When I connect with my teachers they’re like, ‘Hey, even outside of LeaderQuest, when you’re gone as an alumni, you can contact me. If you need a reference, you can contact me. If I leave LeaderQuest, you can still contact me and I’ll help you out.’ I was like, ‘Dang, these guys are just like all for me.’ It was really nice to hear that kind of encouragement from my professors. I just thought it was top tier.”
Though the young men are closer to the beginning of their professional journey in IT than the end, both feel good about the less-than-traditional route they’ve decided to pursue.
“It all worked out really well for me,” Lim says. “This is an amazing decision in my opinion. Me and my roommates, we were just like, ‘Oh, best decision of our lives, hands down.’ It just makes a lot of sense for us.”
Adds Shipman: “I think this was a great decision. I’ve never regretted doing it.”
Ready to Learn More?
As Lim points out, with LeaderQuest you can get the training you need to pass the certifications necessary for IT positions in less than a semester. Going to school at night, as he did, takes 10 weeks; if you’re able to attend classes during the day, you’ll be done in five weeks. The Computer User Support Specialist program is the most common direction for those with no experience. It prepares students for the ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications that will help them successfully break into IT.
Our staff of instructors and mentors are there to help every step of the way, even after the course ends. LeaderQuest prides itself on helping students pass their certification exams, and then helping them get jobs. To that end, our career services team is tireless in their efforts to connect LQ alums to IT positions. They’re well-connected in the community, and can often put in that good word with hiring managers that moves our alumni’s resumes to the top of the pile.
Are you a high school student who feels college might not be the right fit? Could you see yourself joining the expanding field of IT and cybersecurity? Fill out the form below to get in touch with LeaderQuest and start talking options, from potentially finding funding for your training to seeing how IT certifications can build the foundation for a fulfilling career.
Mark Emery is the Social Media and Content Marketing Manager for LeaderQuest and MISTI. He is a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Denver, and his previous work experience includes editorial roles at Men’s Health, the NY Daily News, and MLB.com.
Think about when you first enlisted in the military, the excitement, the nervousness, the fear of the unknown. While these feelings have surely changed since your first deployment, the end of your military career marks the beginning of a new chapter in your life and the renewal of those same feelings. While this may be intimidating, we want you to know that you have a partner in moving forward. Our goal is to help veterans navigate the maze of opportunities ahead of them by means of education and information in order to help them choose a career that will serve them for years to come.
We discussed the advantages of certifications over degrees in Degrees vs. Certifications and in Your Military Transition we discussed how to navigate your transition and assesses your military benefits, but in this blog we would like to explore why exactly entering the IT industry is such a great fit for military veterans and why you should consider a career in IT.
While you were deployed the amount of open IT positions has increased tremendously. From 2014-2018, more than 450,000 IT job openings have been added to the market. The U.S. workforce is desperately trying to keep up with demand, but there are not enough qualified individuals to fill these positions.
The sector that has the hardest time keeping up with demand also happens to be the sector that favors military veterans, cybersecurity. In 2019, the cybersecurity shortage was already at 4.07 million cybersecurity professionals needed worldwide.
What does this mean for you? Entering the IT industry can lead to great opportunities at an accelerated rate. Veteran Christopher Jaskoski was earning $70k just nine months after his separation from the military; read The IT Training Success Story of Christopher Jaskoski to learn more about Chris. At our last check with him in March of 2019, he was earning over $120k. A lot of veterans don’t know this but time in the military can be a significant advantage when seeking a career in IT.
Your Military Experience = Your Advantage
Skills you develop in the military like teamwork, leadership, and problem solving are just a few of the qualities that you can utilize in the IT industry. Exceptional problem-solving skills alone are a great indicator for an entry-level job in IT were troubleshooting and problem-solving are large parts of the job roles. Entry level roles like Computer User Support Specialist are earning on average 53k a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On top of basic skills that can help veterans get a head start in IT careers there are also many MOS’s that have direct correlations to jobs in the civilian workforce.
Networking and communications positions are a great example of this. Have you ever seen Cisco equipment in the field? There is a good chance that this equipment has had a large impact on your military career. Many of their devices are deployed all around the world with the U.S. military and are the exact same devices used on the civilian side of things.
From Cryptologists to Network Defenders and Signal Specialist to Systems Maintainers there are hundreds of positions in the military that can translate directly into civilian IT positions. Want to see if your skills and experience would translate to an IT job? Download our Veteran Skills and Interests Assessment below.
Download the Veteran Skills and Interests Assessment
Having a secret security clearance and being in the field of IT can lead to a 5.8 percent average pay increase over time, and top-secret security clearance can lead to a 12.8 percent pay increase over time according to the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area. Certified individuals with a security clearance are sought out by defense contractors, and generally have a very easy time getting hired.
Are you interested in working for the Department of Defense (DoD)?
Becoming 8570 compliant with single certifications from LeaderQuest can also boost your earning potential as well as make you eligible for a position in the DoD.
What is DoD 8570 Compliance? DoD 8570 establishes the policies and responsibilities of Department of Defense information assurance, including training, certification and workforce management. It is a baseline requirement for employees to access DoD IT systems.
How do you become 8570 compliant with LeaderQuest Certifications?
By combining your Secret Security Clearance with 8570 compliance you can significantly improve your chances of getting hired into an IT position for a defense contractor.
What is the advantage of working in IT for the DoD or a defense contractor?
You get to continue your to serve your country while leveraging your security clearance to make more money, the average base salary for IT specialists in the DoD is around 80k according to glassdoor.com.
How Important are Time and Money to You?
Entering the workforce through a certification path can save you years and help you build the necessary experience to advance your career and make a decent living.
When looking at college degree programs you will find that a bachelor’s degree will typically take around 4 years to complete. This translates to 120 college credits and around about 40 total classes, not to mention the additional time it takes to get hired after completion. After this time you will still be entering the workforce as an entry-level candidate making entry level pay.
In comparison our entry-level certification program, the Computer User Support Specialist program, you are looking at around 3 months from training to hire and a total of 4 certification courses.
The earning potential of these different paths can be illustrated in the table below.
*Salary factored in is based on Robert Half’s technology salary guide. We used Low-End Conservative 50th percentile salaries for years 1-3. Years 4 & 5 are based on the average of 2,250 Cyber Security Analyst salaries from Glassdoor.com.
Training AND Working = +$16,287
(-$12,775 + $29,062)
1st year Tier 1 Helpdesk annual earnings = $38,750
12 months of work – 3 months of training = 8 months of work ($29,062)
Minus Training Costs ($12,775) = +$16,287
Total: +$38,750 (With G.I. Bill Funding)
As in any field, your pay is dependent on your experience and effort to move forward. To make the step from a Help Desk Associate to a Cybersecurity Expert it typically takes 2-4 years of IT experience and can be supported by next level certifications offered by LeaderQuest like the Certified Ethical Hacker certification or the Certified Security Analyst certification.
Why IT Certifications and Why LeaderQuest?
In general, certifications verify that you have specific skills or knowledge. They are a great way to show employers that you have put in the time to learn your craft. While certifications are great, they won’t always land you a job by themselves. Here at LeaderQuest, we have recognized this and have gone to great lengths to bridge the gap from certification to employment.
The LeaderQuest Difference
A large portion of our staff are military veterans, and it has pushed us to go beyond what one might expect from a training facility and inspired us to create a world-class training center that cultivates success for veterans from training to employment.
The LeaderQuest training process includes multiple forms of extra support to ensure the best academic outcomes.
On Campus Instructor Mentors: Each LeaderQuest campus has an Instructor Mentor specifically dedicated to the success of all students. The Instructor Mentors will organize study groups, create personalized study plans, and tutor individual students who need the most help.
Expert Instructors: All of our instructors are required to have industry experience.
Day or Night Courses: We offer day and night courses to fit your schedule. Full time courses run for 5 weekdays at 8hrs/day. Part time courses run for 10 weeknights at 4hrs/night.
Learning Portal: Carefully curated study tools and practice test are included in each course.
The LeaderQuest Learning Guarantee: You may re-sit any course that you have taken at no cost if it’s within 2 years of your course date. (If the certification version has changed you may have to purchase new materials.)
The LeaderQuest Career Services Department offers one-on-one support for students who have completed their courses to help them take the next big step and actually get hired.
Resume/Cover letter writing to help graduates polish their resume to perfection and help them land an interview.
Interview coaching & mock interview practice to help gain confidence and learn the best way to answer common questions.
LinkedIn profile creation and optimization to make sure each graduate’s online presence is working for them.
Application coaching including how, when, and what kind of jobs to apply to.
Meet and greets with industry professionals in the local area to help graduates make valuable connections.
LinkedIn Tech Professionals groups to network and ask questions to LeaderQuest alumni in your area.
Access to LeaderQuest’s job boards curated by the Career Services Employment Development Managers.
Access to LeaderQuest’s employment partners. LeaderQuest has partnered with DoD contractors and other companies across the country to help fill their entry-level to advanced-level positions in a wide array of IT sectors.
Learn more about LeaderQuest’s Employment Services in the video below.
As you can see, LeaderQuest has perfected the formula for a concise education and Career Services support that produces results. That being said, we are continually evolving and are constantly adjusting to the market to ensure a top-level education for anyone who chooses to walk through the doors of LeaderQuest. We listen to our students and support our veterans in and outside of the company.
Is the IT Industry Right For You?
Whether you are looking to continue your service to the country through the DoD or are simply wanting to make money as quickly as possible, the IT industry may be a good fit for you! Your skills from the military combined with LeaderQuest’s proactive approach to training work together to get you employed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A large portion of LeaderQuest employees are military veterans, and we empathize with what you are going through and want to aid you in this process. This life-altering decision does not have to be one that you make alone. Here at LeaderQuest, our goal is to partner with you in making this decision and guide you throughout the whole process.
If you are interested in transitioning into the IT industry please fill out the contact form below and a Career Adviser will contact you about your future. Thank you for your service and good luck!
Lauren had been working as a highschool English teacher for a couple of years and was enjoying her job, especially having the summers off. But we can’t always control what’s in store for ourselves or our spouses, and life had a few surprises in store for her.
Check out her story in the video below, or read on to get all the details.
Moving to Colorado Springs
When Lauren found out her husband was going to be stationed in Colorado and they would have to leave Florida, finding a teaching job in Colorado Springs was her first concern. She had about 5 months warning and took all the right steps: she got her teaching certification for Colorado, got references, and applied to every job she could find. But she wasn’t able to find any open positions for teachers in the area, and started to look for other options.
“There’s not a ton you can do with a literature degree so I was feeling kind of hopeless. And I did not want to go back to college because it’s a lot of extra money, and it’s a lot of extra courses you don’t need that don’t help you in a job. So when LeaderQuest popped up on Facebook, ‘You just need these certifications to be successful in an IT career’ I was like, sign me up!”
“The thing about IT that interested me was the massive amount of opportunities. You can create your own career path. If you’re teaching, you really only have one avenue to go down. And it’s a lucrative career! They pay a lot more than teachers get paid.”
IT Career Training at LeaderQuest
Lauren enrolled in the Computer User Support Specialist program. This program is designed to help those with zero experience gain the skills and certifications needed to get started in the IT industry. It also teaches foundational skills that can be built on to help our students to specialize as they advance in their career, going into areas such as networking, cyber security, or management.
“The teachers were very knowledgeable, very helpful, and the resources they offered were amazing. Coming in with zero IT experience, it was a bit overwhelming at first. But they give you every resource and every opportunity to succeed.”
“When you enroll, you’re with the same group of people throughout all the classes. We got to network with each other and make new friends. Everyone was there to support one another and everyone had different levels of experience with IT, so it was cool for me to talk with the gamers or someone who had been in IT for 5 years and just needed the experience.”
There’s no doubt that the material will be challenging for those with no background in IT, but we make it our mission to help anybody who is interested in IT and committed to training complete the classes and get their start. It’s important to pay attention in class and take good notes. Once the class is completed, most students will spend a few weeks studying the material and using the resources provided to make sure they’re 100% ready for the exam. Lauren took advantage of our expert instructors to make sure she learned everything she needed to pass.
“I worked with Greg Gardner a lot and he was phenomenal. When I was feeling super down and overwhelmed by all of the material, he lit a fire in me because he knows his stuff and he wants everyone to succeed. Not only is he a great IT professional, he’s a great teacher. And coming from a fellow teacher, I think that says a lot.”
“He didn’t just present the lessons and go over slides, he dove into it and gave us things to put our hands on, and told us about real life experiences. He’s an author, and I got to look at his books, which as an English person I liked that a lot. You can email him any time, you can meet with him and go over everything before you take the certification exam.”
“It’s hard coming in and sitting down and listening to an instructor talk about IT when you have no clue what he’s talking about. So they give you these labs to do that simulate a lot of things you’re talking about which was easier for me to learn because I can see it in real life terms, I can actually physically do something. So those were super helpful.“
Getting Hired in Entry Level IT
Lauren passed exams for two certifications: CompTIA Security+ and ITIL Foundation v4. She worked with Shari Carroll, the Employment Development Manager (EDM) at Colorado Springs, to look for work in the IT industry in the area. Our EDMs are experts when it comes to job hunting, and offer each of our graduates one-on-one assistance with perfecting their resumes, brushing up on interview skills, and finding jobs that are the perfect fit for their skills and desired career path.
With help from Shari, Lauren was able to get an entry level IT position at Valdez.
“I work for Valdez and they contract with the Airforce here. I’m in Change Management. It’s entry level, and it’s easy to do, so I have a lot of time to study and a lot of helpful people who are super willing to train me and help me get to different positions.”
Next Steps: After IT Training
At LeaderQuest, our number one goal is to help individuals get the education and certifications they need to start a successful career in the IT industry. Support doesn’t stop when you complete your last class. You can come back and resit a course any time for the next two years if you don’t feel fully prepared for the exam. We also have an Instructor Mentor on each campus who is available for one-on-one meetings about the material to help you master it front to back.
“Even though I’ve completed the program, I’m still in contact with Greg, Ken, and Shari. They contact me all the time to ask how my job is going, what’s your next step, can we do anything to help you. It’s more than just a mentorship, it’s a friendship because they care about where I’m at and where I want to go.”
“I would highly recommend LeaderQuest to anybody who is willing to put in the work to fight for their dreams to succeed. LeaderQuest is not a cake-walk. You can’t just walk in here and expect to pass the certification exams, especially if you have zero experience. But it can be done. If you put in the work, if you rely on the resources that they have, if you lean on the Instructor Mentor teacher. If you put in the work, you can do it and you will be successful.”
Curious about training at LeaderQuest?
If you’re interested in starting an IT career, we can help. We offer training on the most in-demand certifications in the IT, cybersecurity, and networking industries. Our courses will quickly give you the skills and knowledge you need to pass exams and get hired. Instructor Mentors are on hand to help you with any tricky material. We’ll help you get trained, certified, and hired.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, click the link below!
The transition from the military to civilian life is composed of an array of emotions. From the excitement of having control over your life again and being able to dictate what your days consist of, to the fear of the unknown; this can prove to be a true challenge for many veterans. And, although the military does offer several transitional services such as transitional classes and resume writing, it seems that the majority of this burden falls on the veterans themselves.
Everything from securing transportation, to acquiring housing, to finding a job is the responsibility of the veteran. This is a time when each veteran must take responsibility for their livelihood and their future. To understand this fully, and what steps you can take to create a strong foundation for your future, let’s explore the transition process from the military to civilian employment.
Making the Transition
If your MOS doesn’t translate directly into a civilian job, it might seem as if you’re completely starting over. Before we discuss that topic, let’s go through the first steps of the transitional period. This is when you’re still in the military but nearing terminal leave, nearing your release date/separation date, or approaching your return date.
Terminal Leave Start Date – A final leave just prior to separation or discharge from service consisting of any accumulated, unused time off granted to a member of the armed forces. Some transitioning military members use this time to take classes before their official release date.
Release Date or Separation Date – When you officially separate from the military.
Return Date – When you are returning “home” or wherever you are settling after the military.
Work Date – The date that you must begin working before you run out of money.
To help you nail down your timeline, download our Veteran Transition Timeline Worksheet for free by completing the form below!
*Note: When downloading PDF and printing out, make sure to click the printer icon and then “Fit to page” on the print screen.
Download the Veteran Worksheet Now!
During the transitional period, there’s much work to be done to secure a solid future for yourself. So after determining these key dates, it is crucial to begin evaluating your situation.
Below are some serious questions you should consider during the beginning of your transition.
1. Should you take some time off to focus on your mental health?
This aspect of the transition is often overlooked, typically because many veterans feel the pressure to jump into a civilian career immediately. This mistake is as understandable as it is dangerous. Unfortunately, 10%-20% of veterans suffer from PTSD and 20 veterans commit suicide every day. The side effects of PTSD can be mitigated by allocating the proper amount of time to recover physically and mentally during this transition while utilizing the resources available to you.
2. Do you have time for an education, or do you need to work immediately?
Everyone’s transition is different. Some veterans can afford the missed time at work and some veterans need to start working immediately. A good way to evaluate your situation is by creating a budget. Mint is a great free way to put together a budget. By putting together a budget, you will be able to see how much money you have to spend on bills and how much money you have in surplus. This will help you determine how much time you have (if any) to get an education, but this is also contingent on what benefits you have available.
3. What military education benefits do you qualify for?
The educational benefits you qualify for will vary depending on: time served, period served, branch, and discharge status. While you may have already known that, did you know that you can also share your benefits with immediate family members? You can even use part of your benefits and still share the remaining benefits with an immediate family member. To help you learn what benefits you may qualify for and the details each benefit, we put together an informative list below.
What is it? Tuition Assistance is a military benefit that pays the cost of tuition and some fees.
Who is Eligible? Virtually all military service members are eligible. However, the criteria for eligibility is determined by each branch.
Benefit: Tuition Assistance covers up to 100% of tuition and fees not to exceed:
$250/Semester Credit Hour
$166/Quarter Credit Hour
$4500/Fiscal Year (The Navy has a 16 credit hour annual limit.)
Post 9/11 GI Bill®
What is it? The Post 9/11 GI Bill® provides up to 36 months (4 traditional school years) of education benefits to eligible service members and veterans for:
Business Technical or Vocational Courses
Licensing & Testing Programs
Who is Eligible? Service members (Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve) and veterans who have served at least 90 days on active duty since 9/10/2001. Survivors of a military member who died on active duty after 9/10/2011 may be eligible for Fry Scholarship program which pays the same as Post-9/11 GI Bill®.
Benefit: Paid tuition and fees, living (housing) stipend and book stipend.
Benefits are tiered based on the number of days on active duty.
Some limitations apply to those currently on active duty.
Benefits can be transferred to a spouse or family member.
Who is Eligible? Active Duty members who have served at least two years on active duty. Veterans – there are four categories of Veteran eligibility depending on when you enlisted and how long you served on active duty.
Benefit: Up to $1,994 per month for full-time institutional education.
Who is Eligible? Active duty members who have served at least two years on active duty. For veterans, there are four categories of veteran eligibility depending on when you enlisted and how long you served on active duty.
Benefit: Up to $1,994 per month for full-time institutional education.
Loan Repayment (LRP)
What is it? Your service may partially or fully repay college loans.
Who is Eligible? Generally for enlisted members only. Several factors determine your eligibility, including your branch, your MOS, and terms of your contract. Your loans must be in good standing, i.e. not in default.
Benefit: Learn more about repayment programs below.
Who is Eligible? You must be the son, daughter, or spouse of a service member who died, is missing, or was permanently disabled while on duty or as a result of a service-related condition.
Benefit: Up to $1,224 per month for full-time institutional education.
What is it? If you’re a full-time or 3/4-time student in a college degree program or a vocational or professional program, you can “earn while you learn” with a VA work-study allowance through the Work-Study Program.
Who is Eligible? The VA work-study allowance is available to persons training under one of the VA benefits programs:
Benefit: You’ll earn an hourly wage equal to the Federal minimum wage or your State minimum wage, whichever is greater.
Tutorial Assistance Program
What is it? The Tutorial Assistance Program can help you pay for necessary tutoring and is a supplement to your GI Bill® benefit. If you have questions on this program please contact the VA’s toll-free number 888-442-4551.
Who is Eligible? If you are receiving VA benefits at a half-time or more rate, you are eligible
Benefit: VA may provide you with a tutor or with information for finding one.
Choosing a Career & Training Path
Once you have determined if you need to take time off for your health or simply cannot afford to and also what your educational options look like (benefits-wise). You now face the challenge of choosing what career will be best for you and your future
What are you going to do? How are you going to choose? This may seem like a daunting task but luckily we put together a series of questions which can help you determine which career path may be best for you!
1. What kind of experience/skills do you have?
For this question, you should take all of your experience and skills into consideration. Whether they come from hobbies or previous work, you may have experience or skills that will translate into many job roles. For this question, we recommend you write down all the skills and experience you have. Try to identify at least 10-15 things.
2. How do my skills lineup with a career I will enjoy?
Once you have listed out all of your experience, you should pick out your three strongest and the three you enjoy most. Next, pick two things you are passionate about. Now combine your two passions with each skill/experience (strongest & enjoy most) and enter them in the My Next Move search engine. From there you can start to get an idea of what kind of career paths might be suitable for you.
*Note: This is a tool to help you generate ideas. Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t like the options you see, there are many other pathways you can choose!
(Problem Solving, Computer Building)-Enjoyed Most
(Logistics, Communications)- Strongest
(Sports, team building)- Passions
Jobs matched with keywords while also having a positive job demand in the future:
This question depends on multiple factors; timeline, preferred style, benefits, lifestyle, and work position. Contrary to popular belief, your options are not limited to a traditional 4 year degree. You can use your benefits for a wide array of programs; day & night, part & full time, degree & certification, long term & short term. It is vital to know that there are other options available and you can most likely find one that suits your specific situation.
Traditional college degree plan which takes around 4 years full time.
IT certification training that takes around 3 months of night classes after work.
4. How strong is the demand for workers in this field?
When looking into a career this should be one of the main factors you consider. This is because the demand for a particular field can be predicted and will dictate how your career in that field pans out. If the outlook is weak, you will have a tough time not only finding a job but advancing in that field. It the outlook is strong, you will not only have an easier time finding a job in that field but you are more likely to advance and make more money in that field throughout your career.
Information Technology, there is is a predicted 3.5 million job openings in cyber security alone by 2021.
Solar installers demand is set to increase over 105% in the coming years.
Leather and allied product manufacturing is set to decline 37.1% by 2022
5. How much money do you want to make?
This may seem like the most obvious of all the questions, but is it one that you have given real consideration? It comes down to balancing what you enjoy doing and what pays you enough to live the lifestyle that you want. Some people would like to make as much money as possible and work as much as they need to make it happen while others may be looking to lead a more simple life. Understanding what you want from the beginning of your transition can really help how your life turns out in the end.
What kind of guarantees does this institution offer?
What is the success rate or “placement rate” for graduates of this program?
What kind of career assistance does this institution offer beyond the program horizon?
To help you evaluate the institutions that you visit, we developed questions worksheet for you to bring with you to each visit and a decision helper to help you compare your different options. Download the worksheet for free by completing the form below!
*Note: When downloading PDF and printing out, make sure to click the printer icon and then “Fit to page” on the print screen.
Download the Veteran Worksheet Now!
Why is getting into IT worth looking into for any veteran transitioning out of the military?
As an IT practitioner, you’ll have great job security and plenty of room for advancement
IT positions from entry level to advanced are well paying and salaries are only expected to rise.
Most skills can be translated into an IT position (from hands-on positions to technical positions). There are many areas of IT to get into.
Military benefits will most likely cover the cost of the training and most of the time training will only use a fraction of your benefits.
Less time training and more time making money. Compared to traditional education, you will spend significantly less time learning which allows you to spend more time making money and gaining experience.
Good Luck with Your Transition!
We hope that the information provided can help guide you towards a fulfilling and lifelong career whether it be in IT or another field. As a veteran who has made it through their time in the military, we applaud you and thank you for your service. We recommend that that you take each question into account and consider all of your options before making a decision.
Considering that a large portion of our employees is military veterans, we empathize with what you are going through and want to aid ease this process. This life-altering decision does not have to be one that you make alone. Here at LeaderQuest, our goal is to partner with you in making this decision and guide you throughout the whole process.
If you are interested in transitioning into the IT industry please click the button below, fill out a contact form, and a Career Adviser will contact you about your future. Thank you for your service and good luck!
In 2018, we saw many individuals come and go through the doors here at LeaderQuest for IT Training throughout our five campuses in Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, and San Antonio. We are proud of everyone’s success and celebrate the diversity of our hard-working students. We celebrate them not only for passing their exams and overcoming adversity but also for starting careers and contributing to society through the use of their newfound IT skills.
Our students showed the world that no matter your background, race, gender, or income if you are willing to put in the work to change your life then you can make it happen. From homeless veterans to single mothers to those looking to change careers, LeaderQuest has partnered with thousands of individuals throughout the country to help them realize a revitalized American Dream and create futures they can be proud of.
As the IT industry grows, so do the opportunities it presents with a predicted 3.5 million open IT positions by 2021. A couple of reasons preventing people from joining the industry are that they simply don’t know how to do it or they’re afraid to take that next step. There are no words we can write to help people make this life-changing decision, but the words of our graduates can shed light on their experiences at LeaderQuest in order to help others make this important decision.
From Homeless Veteran to a Career in Cyber Security
When the odds are stacked against you it is easy to give up. The key to not giving up is getting a glimpse of a brighter future and the hope that comes with it. One of the individuals who found hope and made their dream into a reality was military veteran Michael Fugett who now is earning over six figures and has become an inspiration to everyone around him.
“Now I go out into a community, I go volunteer, I go help others, and people look at me like a beacon of hope. Look at you making it, look at you striving, but for me, I know none of this happens if I would have never come to LeaderQuest.” – Michael Fugett
Unfortunately, Michael’s story didn’t start off so wonderfully. Military veteran Michael Fugett found himself divorced, homeless, and alone upon returning to civilian life in May of 2017. Michael told us, “Life itself felt like it was kicking me down.”
At this point in his life, Michael had two options: he could give in to the grasp of depression and homelessness and fade into the background, or he could make the arduous journey of moving forward. “It was tough, but it created a drive within me where I knew I was going to succeed,” Michael expressed. This type of drive is not easy to achieve, especially as his struggles in moving forward continued to test his resilience.
Michael had some IT responsibilities throughout his 8 years in the military on top of his transportation, logistics, and finance roles. He knew he wanted to work in IT, but it just wasn’t working out. “I just kept applying, but all of the jobs wanted certifications,” he said. He started to do his research and looked into three separate training companies in his area, one of which was LeaderQuest. “They had understood what I had been through in the past, they got me,” Michael told us.
Struggling alone is hard enough but being a single parent can add even more difficulties to any situation, especially if you are trying to move forward. The great Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” This couldn’t be more true for Jacksonville student Whitney Smith who took advantage of the opportunity to train for the IT industry and turned a difficult situation into her fuel for moving forward. She made a decision that changed her and her son’s lives forever and all it took was a little courage.
Whitney had done everything right to create a bright future for her and her son. In 2013, she was medically discharged from the military and decided to use part of her GI Bill® to get a degree in event management. She was able to land a job in event management at an expo center, but after two years decided that she wanted to move with her son to Jacksonville to be closer to her family. That’s when her life and career started to move in an unexpected direction.
Unable to land a job as an event coordinator in Jacksonville, Whitney ended up taking a job at a call center. “It was definitely not what I wanted to do. I was making less money than people who had way fewer credentials than I had,” she told us. Whitney’s situation is not uncommon, according to the U.S.Bureau of Census, “Just 27 percent of college grads had a job that was closely related to their major.” She had the education and the experience but a lack of jobs in her field left her career crippled, all while having a child to support!
Faced with the looming reality of her situation and few options at the time, she did what she had to do and worked the call center for two long years. Day in and day out, Whitney labored to support herself and her child. Unsatisfied with her life path at the time, she decided to seek other opportunities and that is when LeaderQuest came into view and changed everything.
In between a rock and a hard place is not where anyone wants to find themself, but sometimes that’s exactly where you are and you don’t know how you got there. Gilbert Alvero Jr. had two degrees and yet found himself not utilizing either of them, working a manual labor job.
“I was stuck in a rut, I was stuck in a position where I didn’t know where my life was going.”
Starting over was not an option for him. He needed employment that was not only in demand but also utilized his previous experience. Fortunately that’s exactly our goal here at LeaderQuest: to extract your relevant experience, find an area in IT that will suit you, help you learn the necessary skills for the job, and ultimately help you find employment.
Gilbert accepted the challenge of training with LeaderQuest and was able to achieve something that he didn’t know was possible: he started a new career in six weeks. He’s now working in a new field that pays well and allows him to utilize his many other skills.
Stability is sometimes an illusion. The job landscape is ever shifting and you are at its mercy. Khozema Raja worked in the commercial real estate industry for 15 years, making good money, almost feeling invincible, until the world gave him a wake up call and he found himself jobless with a child on the way.
Khozema was faced with a difficult situation. “I really needed to step up and take care of my family,” he told us. He could either go get a low-paying non-career job or go to the unemployment office and see what options there might be out there for him. He decided to go with the latter and there he was introduced to the idea of joining the IT industry. The best part was that he qualified for funding that would allow him to get his training paid for wherever he decided to go.
“I’ve always liked being around computers and my father worked at IBM, so I was like, why don’t I actually try to make a career out of it?”
He was advised to go to LeaderQuest’s campus and take a tour with a Career Training Consultant whose job it is to help people understand what a career in IT entails and ultimately if it is the right move for them. “It was a no-brainer to enter the IT industry. I didn’t even hesitate when I decided to go with LeaderQuest. They made me feel like family as soon as I walked in.”
Navigating the job market is a daunting task and one a lot of people avoid until it is absolutely necessary. Getting comfortable is something that we’re all susceptible to. It isn’t until you decide to move forward that things will start to improve. Ross Earnhart had always loved technology but his life had never steered him in its direction until he decided that it was time for a change.
“Years ago I remember I bought my first computer and had a problem so I had to call this guy. He replaced my hard drive. He was probably there for twenty minutes and I had to pay him $170! At that point, I realized that I wanted to know computers inside and out, and this is where my passion for IT started.”
After his time in the military, he didn’t immediately seek an IT career. “I got a job through a friend and kind of just fell into the workforce. I didn’t know that resources like this were out there.” It wasn’t until long after that initial job that he finally decided to visit his local unemployment office and see what kinds of options were available. That’s when he was referred to LeaderQuest.
If there is anything that 2018 showed us, it’s that if you put your mind to it you can change your life and it all starts with a decision and a conversation, your decision that a change is necessary and a conversation with a Career Training Consultant here at LeaderQuest to see if our training is right for you. No matter your situation we are here to help you with the right advice and the right plan to assist you in moving forward.
We hope that you are inspired by the stories of our alumni and realize that you to can be part of the LeaderQuest family and the rapidly growing IT industry if you just make the decision to give it a try. If you or anyone you know is interested in a career change or are looking to start a new career, please contact us by clicking the button below, filling out the contact form, and having a conversation with a Career Training Consultant about IT Training. Best of luck and we are looking forward to hearing from you!
When you’re looking to start a new career or enter a new industry, it’s hard to find the right path. While self-study with online resources and textbooks can help, most employers won’t be swayed by that on a resume. Degrees are an excellent path to success, but they can take 2-4 years to complete. That’s where certification training comes in.
Certifications fill an important gap, especially in the IT world. They can open doors, launch careers, and show employers their new hire will have the required skills to get the job done. Of course, there’s no better proof for this than the stories of our students.
We couldn’t be more proud of our graduates who have gone out into the world and found great jobs that let them make use of the IT training they got at LeaderQuest. Today, we’d like to highlight four of these stories and show off some of our most successful grads.
Peter came to LeaderQuest after serving in the U.S. Army for 16 years. He trained military police for the army and pursued a Master of Arts in Security Management at American Military University. Cyber security was a recurring theme in his studies, but Peter didn’t have much of a background in IT. After looking for a training provider, Peter contacted LeaderQuest and signed up for some foundational IT certifications including CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+.
Peter was a quick study and took just three months to acquire all of these certifications. Combined with his extensive education and experience, he was able to find employment quickly.
Today, he’s the Chief Operating Officer of an information system engineering firm that focuses on risk management framework compliance and IT security solutions and loving every minute.
“Immediately upon obtaining my Security+ certification I was offered a position as an Information System Security Engineer, that jumped me up from my previous pay by about $20,000, just shy of making six figures.”
As Marcus was completing his military service, he had an eye toward the future. He didn’t want to be scrambling to find a job after he transitioned out. He noticed that many of the job postings he was interested in listed IT certifications as a requirement. Using his GI Bill® funding, Marcus enrolled at LeaderQuest to take courses for CompTIA Security+, EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and EC-Council Certified Network Defender (CND).
With the help of our Career Services team, Marcus lined up three interviews by the time he’d completed his exams. Marcus got multiple offers and accepted a position with Cyberspace Solutions that came with a $20,000 pay increase. Three months later he got an even better offer from Booz Allen with another $20,000 pay bump, which he accepted.
“Since I’ve been certified, I’ve gotten a job offer for every IT position I’ve applied for.”
Randa had IT experience in Africa but wasn’t able to secure a position here after moving to America in 2014. She took work as an assistant teacher, but she knew she wanted to be working in IT. She just couldn’t figure out how to break into the industry in the United States.
Randa didn’t have funding for her IT training, but we were able to connect her with her local workforce center where she secured funding for her training. She enrolled at LeaderQuest to get her PMP and her CCNA Security certifications; two powerful credentials that made job hunting much easier. After completing her PMP, she got a 6-month contract job with Comcast. At the end of the contract, she applied to work at WebRoot, a company that does business with Comcast. Even though she hadn’t taken the exam for her CCNA Security, the knowledge she got at LeaderQuest helped her to nail the interview and get hired.
She is now making more than $72,000 per year, a pretty big raise from making $12/hour for contract work!
“When the manager from WebRoot interviewed me, all of the information from the class was still in my head, and I got all of the questions right. He said, ‘That’s great!’ I told him that I have no experience, just education through LeaderQuest and through one class in Mumbai. And he laughed and said, ‘We’re going to train you! And we’ll help you to succeed in this role.’ So the training with LeaderQuest got my foot in the door.”
Richard was laid off from his job at Honeywell in 2016. As he was trying to figure out what his next step would be, he went to his local workforce center. They discussed some options with Richard and explained that he needed to secure some key IT certifications to verify his skills so he could potentially qualify for several IT jobs immediately.
Pikes Peak Workforce center connected Richard with LeaderQuest, and he enrolled immediately. Richard started on his Security+ certification and worked with our Career Services team to improve his resume and online presence. One of our star Employment Development Managers (EDMs) here at LeaderQuest reached out to a connection at Raytheon on Richard’s behalf. Richard received a job offer from Raytheon halfway through his training. This was even before he earned his Security+ certification!
After training with LeaderQuest, Richard was making $10,000 more than he was at his previous position, before being laid off!
“Little did I know that I wouldn’t even have time to complete my certification!”
If you’re interested in starting a career in the IT industry, we can help! LeaderQuest offers 5-10 day classes designed to quickly get you trained on everything you need to know to pass the exam and get hired. Our courses are taught by expert instructors with real industry experience. They include hands-on labs. We offer courses in a full-time day format, or in the evenings after work. You can also train online or on campus, whichever works best for you.
When you’re ready to take the next step in your career and secure your future, contact us!
Raziel Toro is a vet, a loving husband of four years, and a father to two boys who, “don’t run out of batteries.” He’s also a proud graduate of LeaderQuest who went on to find a great IT job after getting certified.
This week, we’re proud to bring you his journey to success from his transition out of the U.S. Air Force to landing an IT job that made him $15,000 more a year.
Read on to learn about the IT training success story of Raziel Toro.
Preparing for the Transition to Civilian Life
“While I was enlisted, I did the furthest thing from IT. I was an HVAC technician which means I went to work, received my work orders, and then started laboring away. The closest I got to IT-related stuff was when we needed to repair the AC in the server rooms… I was stuck and unable to really fulfill my potential.”
When Raziel enlisted in the US Air Force in 2012, he wanted to travel. While he did get the chance to see Ireland, Germany, and was deployed to Qatar for six months, he spent most of his time at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. There, he worked on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) where he fulfilled work orders, fixed units, and worked on AC and refrigeration. It wasn’t exactly what he pictured.
“One of the main reasons for me pursuing training and certifications was that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing,” Raziel said, “I joined the USAF to do something amazing but was unable to achieve my goals. I was stuck and unable to really fulfill my potential.”
As his separation date neared, he knew he had to make a change. He’d always had a gift for computers and heard others talk about their work in the cyber security world.
Meeting people working in this career field and talking to them about their lives as well as what a normal day for them would be inspired me to pursue this career… the possibilities are infinite with computers and it is pretty amazing.”
IT Training at LeaderQuest
“Well, my first choice would have been to get some sort of entry-level position, but I quickly found out that that was almost impossible to get without certification. That’s what made me push for certification.”
The idea of jumping into the unknown was difficult for Raziel, but once he was home with his wife and sons, he was excited to start a new chapter of his life.
“In the military, you always have that secure pay so on the way out it’s like, what am I going to do? How am I going to pay? How am I going to survive?” Raziel said, “It was a little scary, but once I moved back home it was a little more exciting. It seemed like there were a lot of opportunities out there I just had to go and get them.”
LeaderQuest first contacted Raziel in January of 2017 after finding his resume online. During the process, Shavonne Lewis, one of our expert Career Training Consultants, discussed Raziel’s career goals with him and how getting certified could help him attain those goals. Raziel decided he was interested in learning more and set up a meeting.
Passing the CompTIA Security+ Exam
“They taught us not only the book way, but the real world way. It wasn’t one dimensional. They said, you need to know this for the exam, but once you go out there, this may not be the way you do it. They were very helpful instructors, I’ll say that.”
With his focus on cyber security, Raziel decided to take the notoriously hard Security+ exam which meant lots of classroom prep, participating in virtual labs, and lots of stress.
“It was a little nerve-racking just because I didn’t have any prior experience,” he said.
However, Raziel found the instructors to be incredibly knowledgeable and helpful not only in preparing to pass the test but in learning how to apply the information to on-the-job-situations. He was pleased to find that the instructor’s understood the struggles of moving from the military to the civilian world.
“The instructor, Michael McLain, was in the service as well before he made the transition about fifteen years ago. He was extremely helpful. He gave us some of his notes to study. We could always Skype with him even after hours. He’d always give us an explanation.”
By the end of March, Raziel had passed his Security+ exam and was ready to jump into his IT career.
Security+ is a great option for those who are new to IT or who want to move into cyber security from the network or systems IT world. One of the most valuable things Security+ helps you develop is a vocabulary to converse with peers and executives alike. As a foundational IT certification, Security+ has breadth with just the right depth.
Hired as a Security Analyst at $15,000 More a Year
“LeaderQuest is the reason that I’m in the position that I am today, you know. I wouldn’t have been able to do this all by myself. Especially not the courses and the help from [LeaderQuest Employment Relations & Career Services Manager] Kimberly, you know, finding a job. She put in that work you don’t really see… If you’re pursuing IT, a certification it’s definitely a great way to get started.”
Once Raziel was able to put his Security+ certification and experience in virtual labs on his resume, the calls came rolling in. With help from LeaderQuest career services, he was able to get a position as a Network Security Analyst by the end of August. And the best part? He’s making $15,000 more a year than his previous position!
What does the future hold for Raziel? He’s currently finishing his degree in cyber security with Colorado Technical University. As for others in his position, he said he would definitely recommend certifications, even if it’s hard in the beginning.
“You’ve got to stick to your guns and take care of business. If you’re pursuing IT, a certification it’s definitely a great way to get started.”
Are You Ready to Start Your IT Career?
If you want to get your IT career started, we can help. When you contact our expert Career Training Consultants, they work with the GI Bill®, WIOA, and other similar organizations so you don’t have to pay much or even any out of pocket and make sure the process is quick and painless.
Most classes have a 5-10 day turnaround which means you can get your degree and be ready for a job in weeks. Whether you need to take courses during the night, day, on campus, or online, we’re willing to work with your schedule and your learning style.
With unfilled cybersecurity jobs expected to rise to 3.5 million by 2021, there’s never been a better time to invest in your education. Find out if IT training is right for you today!