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Human resources challenges of military to civilian employment transitions

John C. Dexter (Sorrell College of Business, HR, MGMT and Law, Troy University, Troy, Alabama, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 6 June 2020

Issue publication date: 10 August 2020




Upon discharge, US service members experience an instantaneous immersion back into civilian life. One of the most challenging aspects of that reimmersion is the reentry/entry into the civilian workforce. As such, it is necessary to study the returning veteran's employment experience when considering the veteran's civilian reintegration. The purpose of this study was to analyze and evaluate the returning veteran's civilian employment experience and to identify challenges faced by the veteran in the civilian onboarding experience.


This study is a qualitative analysis in which 27 military veterans were interviewed about their experience with civilian reemployment. The results of the interviews were compiled, analyzed and grouped by common theme. This study explains some of the major issues confronted by the newly separated veteran and discusses how those challenges may influence job satisfaction and job performance.


The analysis identified the following three main themes that posed challenges to the veteran to civilian employment transition: civilian employer’s military job knowledge deficit, veteran anxiety with civilian employer’s lack of clearly defined new-hire processes and civilian employer misunderstanding of veteran compensation, benefits and family involvement expectations.

Research limitations/implications

This study is beneficial to scholars in as much as it will help to more clearly identify literature gaps, provide direction on emerging research concepts, add to the existing literature on the veteran to civilian transitions and connect research areas that have not yet been adequately studied. Future research would be well served to follow a similar program of research but by employing different research methods in order to address the limitations outlined above and further support the findings of this research. Specifically, future research should sample across a wider set of individuals as study participants (time since discharge, age, military rank at time of separation, reserve status, etc.). By doing this, future researchers may be able to determine how perceptions change over time and with regard to military experience. A second area of future research may be to conduct related research based on civilian employment opportunities and qualifications. Specific areas of study to be considered should be focused primarily on the macro issues such as military leadership and translating military experiences and skill sets to civilian contexts. Unlike other findings in this research, these two areas cannot be affected at the organizational level, and as such require concept exploration and clarity.

Practical implications

This study provides guidance and direction for veterans and employers alike by outlining areas that may be challenging for new-hire military veterans and bringing to light areas where the civilian onboarding experience can improve to better accommodate veterans. Further, this study identifies areas that directly or indirectly contribute to high veteran turnover rates and ultimately high veteran unemployment rates.


This original quantitative study conducted by the author specifically identifies several areas in the veteran to civilian employment transition that pose challenges for the returning veteran. All data for this study were gathered and analyzed using first-hand face-to-face interviews and established data analysis methods by the researcher.



Dexter, J.C. (2020), "Human resources challenges of military to civilian employment transitions", Career Development International, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 481-500.



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