Juggling the demands of school, work, and life can take a toll. At VA, learning is central to delivering top-notch care to veterans. That's why, with a VA career, it's easier for you to advance your education and skills without burning out.
If you plan to work while you pursue a degree or credential, here are five ways to earn and learn through a VA career:
1. Apply for a scholarship
If costs threaten to derail your dreams of a degree, a VA scholarship can help put things back on track. We offer several scholarships — like the Employee Incentive Scholarship (EISP) Program and the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI) — that can help you continue your healthcare education without piling up debt.
The VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) even pays your full salary and up to $40,117 toward the cost of higher education.
"This generous scholarship paid a majority share of my tuition," says Isaac Womack, a Registered Nurse at the VA Portland Healthcare System in Oregon. "It also matched my regular income, allowing me to focus on school, work and other professional pursuits."
2. Explore repayment and reimbursement options
Student loans make it difficult to get ahead. Through VA's Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP), providers hired for mission-critical positions can receive up to $200,000 over a five-year period in reimbursements for tuition, books, supplies and lab costs.
"I still have a very large amount of medical school debt to service," says Dr. Stephen Gau, a board-certified emergency medicine physician at VA Loma Linda Healthcare System in California. "The EDRP program helps to accelerate the pay off dramatically."
Because VA is a federal government entity, you can also tackle school debt with the national Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
3. Gain valuable experience through a residency program
If you're looking to gain real-world experience while pursuing your education, the VA Learning Opportunities Residency program offers nursing, pharmacy and medical technology students the chance to work alongside VA professionals at a local facility. If you've completed your junior year in an accredited clinical program, you can earn up to 800 hours of salary dollars while applying your skills to help veterans.
4. Ask about a flexible schedule or remote work
Not every job comes with flex time and telework options. But many VA careers offer options other than the traditional 9-to-5 workweek and can accommodate your school schedule. Options might include varying arrival and departure times, working longer but fewer days or even teleworking on a regular or ad-hoc basis with a formal agreement.
5. Enroll in continuing education
VA employees can check to see if your VA medical center pays for courses from nearby colleges and universities. And be sure to advance your skills through the VA Talent Management System, which provides access to thousands of online courses, learning activities and VA-required training through a web-based portal. Track your progress through the system's official training record.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.