Date of Award

Fall 12-8-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Heather M. Annulis

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. H. Quincy Brown

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. John J. Kmiec

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 4 School



The veteran human capital remains integral to the U.S. workforce and sustainment of its competitive advantage (Carter, Schafer, et al., 2017). Women constitute 17% of 1.4 million servicemembers and 10% of 18.4 million veterans, with a projected population growth of 18% by 2040 (Defense Manpower Data Center [DMDC], 2021; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020a). Each year, an estimated 30,000 ex-servicewomen enter the national labor force (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2019; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020a). Most of these ex-servicemembers turned veterans must navigate the military-civilian divide and negotiate their economic worth in highly divergent and comparatively unstructured workforce systems (Carter, Kidder, et al., 2017; Carter, Schafer, et al., 2017). Empirical evidence reveals that veterans, specifically the women cohort, consistently struggle with civilian reintegration (Grogan et al., 2021; Office of Transition and Economic Development [OTED], 2020).

The military-to-civilian career transition characterizes as a tripartite (physical, socio-cultural, and psychological) process involving multiple life domains concurrently (Castro & Kintzle, 2017; Elnitsky et al., 2017; Veteran Affairs Center for Innovations, 2017; Whitworth et al., 2020)). Personal resources prove essential in transitions to cope with inherent stress (Fernandez et al., 2008; Heppner, 1998; Latack, 1984; Schlossberg, 1981). Research reliably demonstrates that veterans underestimate the psychological and emotional dimensions of the military-to-civilian career transition relative to adjustment and adaptation (OTED, 2020; Veteran Affairs Center for Innovation, 2017). Extant literature on women veterans, specifically, focuses predominantly on health (physical and mental), sexual trauma, poverty, homelessness, and suicide (Eichler, 2017; Exec. Order No. 13822, 2018; Mulcahy et al., 2021; Reppert et al., 2014; Thom & Bassuk, 2012). Contrarily, less remains known about the cohort’s post-military career transition experiences (Bush & Craven, 2017).

As such, this qualitative study explores 14 women veterans’ lived military-to-civilian career transition experiences and the influence of psychological capital and perceived employability. Through an interpretative phenomenological analysis lens, data elucidated the salience of the subjective side of the military-to-civilian career transition underscoring the role of intrapersonal resources. Findings corroborated that transition struggles are normative in the complex, multidimensional military-to-civilian career transition—pointing to the criticality of transition preparedness and coping competence. Furthermore, findings reaffirmed that human capital acquisition and employability support bolster perceived employability and employability confidence. Moreover, findings concluded that adopting the protean career attitude is critical in effectively managing military-to-civilian career transitions, establishing value-based career pathways, and traversing the military-civilian divide. The study may prove useful to veteran-serving organizations (governmental and nongovernmental) relative to policy, programming, and service delivery. More proximally, servicemembers and veterans may benefit from understanding the criticality of personal strengths and adaptive coping in mitigating transition stress.