Are you thinking about how to start a fitness career as a combat veteran? One of the first challenges you face as a military or combat veteran is finding opportunities in the civilian workforce after your military service—and more importantly, figuring out what it is that you want to pursue as a career using your military experience and physical readiness.

On average, 65 percent of veterans are unemployed when leaving the military, according to a study from the University of Southern California. Matthew Suber, an active-duty U.S. Air Force veteran explains to the study authors:

“When most military veterans are thinking about transitioning, what they really want to hang their hat on is all of the great things that they did. But most employers say, ‘OK, your military experience is great, but tell me what you can do. What are the skills that you have and how can you turn those into value-adds for me and my company?’ That is where a lot of military members and myself included really struggle at the initial part of the transition.”

Health and fitness is a wise career route to consider after military life as a combat veteran for many reasons. Your basic military training or basic combat training make you uniquely qualified to help others achieve similar physical readiness but for recreational reasons. Learn about why this might be an ideal career path for you and what you can do to start a successful career in fitness, specifically as a personal trainer.

Why Health and Fitness?

While it might not be immediately obvious, there are a number of parallels between service in the military and a career in health and fitness. As a combat veteran, in addition to your initial military training, you have just the right aptitudes to be successful in this industry. Here are a few reasons to consider a career in health and fitness after your enlisted personnel. 

Experience and Leadership

Whether you choose to become a personal trainer, a group exercise instructor, or a nutrition coach, your natural leadership, resilience, physical strength, discipline, and motivation will benefit you. All of these skills are needed to support others in their journey to live a healthier and stronger life.   


More importantly, it’s an opportunity to continue serving in a meaningful way. As Erik Bartell, former Army platoon leader and Executive Director of FitOps explains:

“Veterans want to serve. That’s the reason 90 percent of them signed up. They want to serve others—to have a purpose in life that’s beyond themselves. If veterans can take their skills—the teaching others, the physical fitness, and the service element—and they can make a career out of it, then it’s like they never left the service.” 

Positive Job Outlook

Despite COVID and the uncertainty of the world, the fitness industry is also still growing. It’s projected to rebound with a 15 percent job outlook increase over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Not only is now an ideal time to match your physical training skills and experience but there are many options to consider. You can work at a corporate health club or a community recreation center, or even start your own business. 

As you begin to explore this career path, don’t forget to leverage the many military benefits available to you as well.  

Leverage Your Military Benefits 

Before starting your career, you need to get your education—and that’s where your benefits as a combat veteran become valuable. Military tuition assistance (TA) can be used by service members (or their military spouse) in any branch to help fund higher education in many fields, including exercise science. 

Education Benefits Available

Each military branch has its own eligibility and application requirements. Use the resources to get an understanding of the enrollment criteria you’ll need to meet to use the TA program available to you.

All of these programs will cover 100 percent of tuition costs and enrollment fees, not to exceed $166 per quarter hour or $250 per semester hour. 

Post 9/11 Benefits and Qualifications

In addition, you can finance your educational degree or job certification training courses with the Post-9/11 GI Bill which is offered to many veterans who have been on active duty after September 11, 2001, based on a variety of qualifications, including:

  • You’ve served at least 90 days on active duty on or after September 11, 2001.
  • You received a Purple Heart or were honorably discharged after any amount of service on or after September 11, 2001.
  • You served for at least 30 continuous days—no breaks in service—on or after September 11, 2001.
  • You were honorably discharged with a service-connected disability on or after September 11, 2001.
  • You are the dependent child using benefits transferred from a qualifying veteran.  

If you qualify for this GI Bill, you can use it for 36 months with the following benefits:

  • Tuition and Fees: full coverage for in-state public schools
  • Housing: monthly allowance if you are more than a half-time student
  • Textbooks and supplies: not to exceed $1,000 per academic year
  • Moving Fees: $500 one-time payment to help you relocate from a rural location to attend school if you live in an area with less than six residents per square mile and you are moving at least 500 miles away.  

Choose Lionel University to Earn a Degree in Fitness

Choosing where you get your education is a big decision. Lionel University is proud to be recognized as a Military-Friendly School, which means that our courses are flexible enough to be finished in concurrence with your service duties. 

Lionel’s program accepts tuition assistance, so you can earn a fitness certification or degree without financial hardship, and all the curriculum is online, so you can complete it anywhere at whatever pace is best for you.  

Whether you earn a Master Trainer Certificate, or choose to pursue an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, Lionel University is fully accredited to help turn your expertise as a combat veteran into a successful fitness career. 

Go From Combat Veteran to Health and Fitness Professional

There are many avenues you can take within this industry depending on what you love to do most, making it a wise choice when you’re ready to transition into civilian life. No matter what route you take, this career path will allow you to serve others, challenge yourself, and use the many skills you’ve gained during basic training and as a combat veteran to help others and build a career you can be proud of. 

Helping others achieve a better quality of life is a rewarding career. This is regardless of whether you choose to become an exercise physiologist or enter one of the other careers. When you choose one of these jobs you’ll get some (if not all) of these perks:

  • The ability to take your own fitness to the next level
  • Learn about something you love
  • Help others lose weight and make major life changes
  • Increase someone’s lifespan
  • Help athletes perform their best
  • Choose your own hours
  • Make six figures
  • Run your own business

As you can see, it’s pretty enticing to learn more about this type of study. Lionel University provides exercise science degree programs that can help you land a job as an exercise physiologist. You can earn an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree at Lionel. What’s even better is, included in your program, you’ll earn a personal training certification and other fitness certifications and specializations early on. This makes it easy for you to earn a living in the fitness space and test the waters. You’ll be able to figure out exactly what your long-term career goals are. 

Find out why other students choose Lionel and love it. You can get financial aid to make it an easier transition. And, the courses are all online. This means you can earn your degree from home, and on your own time. It’s the best way to learn when you get to choose. Furthermore, the reputation of Lionel is elite. The founders of Lionel are pioneers in the fitness space and have prestigious backgrounds. This means you’ll be learning from the best and most respected program available.