Date of Award

Winter 2002

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Robert H. MacDonald

Committee Member

Dana Burnett

Committee Member

Esther H. Condon


This descriptive phenomenology examines the lived experiences of veterans who attempted a mid-career transition into teaching. The study identifies and describes experiences that led to the outcome decisions of 22 men who enrolled in a Military Career Transition Program (MCTP), completed a Master's Degree in Education, but did not become public school teachers. Self-descriptions of their experience were collected in multiple, open-ended interviews and analyzed using Moustakas's (1994) protocols.

Participants described a transition in four stages (a) preliminary conditions for change, (b) socialization and adjustment, (c) refocusing career goals, and (d) reflective assessment. Planning for career change began with ideal images of work, goal definition, and self-assessment. Better quality of life, options for enjoyable work, and more time with family were universal goals. Positive experiences with education in the military and the certainty of employment as a teacher reinforced entry decisions.

The MCTP design aided recruitment and reinforced retention. Ease of entry, tuition assistance, convenient classes, a practitioner-oriented curriculum, instructors who were teachers or administrators in public schools, and classes with other transitioning veterans resonated with participants. The master's degree was a strong incentive for completion.

Each participant experienced problematic moments that led to decisions not to teach. Lack of credit for DANTES, CLEP, ACE, and life experiences were problematic for participants with non-traditional degrees. Other participants felt vulnerable when working with students and parents, became dissatisfied with education policy and practice, experienced problems with classroom management and lesson planning, or had unsatisfactory experiences with cooperating teachers. Well-paying job offers in military-related work, unanticipated financial demands, time required for program completion, and unsatisfactory experiences with local market forces were other unexpected challenges

Most participants found well-paying work congruent with their military occupation after deciding not to teach. All value their experience in the MCTP and feel their quality of life is better than when they were on active duty. None have immediate plans to seek work as a teacher.


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