FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Without a doubt we live in a competitive society. There are generally more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available.

A major factor that determines success in the job market is higher education or training. As a matter of fact, having at least a high school diploma is now not only necessary to join the Army, but to secure jobs in many companies. Employers want well-trained employees to make products or provide services that are competitive in today's marketplace.

For a person with little education and training, the number of available jobs are limited, so looking for a job can be frustrating. If an employer has two people who apply for the same job, and the two applicants are equal in every other way, the employer will select the applicant with the most advanced training, even if it is not a job requirement.

Employers think that better-educated applicants will have more highly developed learning skills and will do better work. In addition, those workers with more education will generally be given first opportunities for advancement and promotions.

Why is further education and training so important? Computers and other advanced technology have made many job requirements more demanding and complex. Employers want motivated and trainable employees who have the proven ability to learn and develop, based on the situation.

According to the most recent demographics by the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000, 84 percent of American adults ages 25 and over had at least completed high school; 26 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. Historically, education has paid off and over the past 25 years, earnings differences have grown among workers with different levels of educational attainment.

As education increases, so does income. In addition to increased earnings, higher education also gives one more freedom in the job market. Generally, when one gets promoted, they move up in the same career. With the right training, employees can move laterally to other career paths as the jobs open. For example, someone in purchasing can move into distribution management or possibly even marketing with the right education.

What does all of this have to do with you? While you are still in the military, take advantage of all the training opportunities that are available to you. The Army offers excellent technical training in many job-related subjects. In addition, for those who perform well, there are management and leadership training opportunities through numerous professional military education courses. Army training is recognized for being top-quality, especially in highly technical areas.

In addition, when you can, take additional college classes. Start working on -- or finish up -- your degree. Take some computer courses. Most military posts allow colleges to offer courses on post and at times when it is easy to attend. Take advantage of the classes available on computer at the education center's learning lab. There are courses that you can use to brush up on neglected skills and courses where you tackle entirely new areas. These are free to military personnel.

When it's time to transition, remember to contact the Soldier for Life Center at 255-2558. We offer the training that will make you successful in the job search process.