Employers need skilled workers who can meet the challenges of today’s work environment and are increasingly turning to military veterans to make it happen. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for veterans fell to 4.4 percent in 2021. Clearly, more companies are recognizing the unique traits that U.S. veterans can bring to the civilian workforce.
What Do Civilian Employers Look for in Veteran Applicants?
Employers are looking for the problem-solving ability, strong work ethic, leadership, and self-confidence that veterans bring to the workplace, says Casey Heaslet, a military admissions officer at Northeastern University. Furthermore, she says, veterans are highly adaptable. For servicemembers, their ability to adapt—to translate military prowess into a civilian career—means that their post-military career options are varied and plentiful. Veterans can use the expertise gained during active duty to transition into a civilian occupation that values their unique skill set.
Heaslet notes, however, that veterans aren’t necessarily looking to match their military specialty code with an equivalent civilian career. While she’s witnessed veterans who worked in healthcare while on active duty pursue a health professions degree, she’s also seen other veterans with similar backgrounds pursue a degree in information technology. Civilian career options aren’t limited by prior military training. Veterans can build upon their technical skills gained in the military or start a new career based on their passions to compete for the most in-demand jobs for former servicemembers.
While the career options are vast, you may be wondering what the most common—and lucrative—positions are for veterans. Below we’ve put together the top ten jobs for servicemembers transitioning from military to civilian life.
Top Civilian Jobs for Veterans
Below are ten of the top civilian careers for veterans. Each of the following positions values the skills and experience that former servicemembers can bring to the civilian workforce from their time in the military:
- Financial advisor
- Information security analyst
- Management consultant
- Nurse practitioner
- Operations research analyst
- Sales manager
- Software developer
- Mental health counselor or psychologist
- General and operations manager
Continue reading to learn why you might be equipped for these positions, and how much you can expect to make.
2021 Median Pay: $94,170
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 15 percent
Many servicemembers work in finance following military service. The BLS reports that approximately 20 percent of veterans work in management, business, or financial operations, and 5 percent work in the financial activities industry.
These advisors help individuals, families, and even businesses or large organizations with a wide range of financial planning. The main responsibilities of financial advisors are focused on understanding their clients’ financial objectives and devising plans to help them reach their goals. This might include activities from creating college savings plans, retirement planning, and estate planning to devising investment and tax strategies for clients. This level of planning is well suited for servicemembers.
Depending on their skills and interests, financial advisors may choose to handle a wide variety of clients and tasks or they may take a specialized focus such as debt repayment or investment planning. Generally speaking, however, the skills needed for this profession include knowledge of finance, accounting, and related areas of study.
Related Degree Program: BS in Finance and Accounting Management
2021 Median Pay: $102,600
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 35 percent
An information security analyst is hired to create and support information technology-related security measures to protect against cyberattacks and other threats to the infrastructure of an organization.
In addition to technical skills like cryptography and ethical hacking, skills like risk management and crisis response capabilities, which many servicemembers are exposed to in the military, are valuable in this field.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or other related field is typically required to become an information security analyst; however, more senior roles may prefer a graduate degree such as a master’s in cybersecurity.
Related Degree Programs: BS in Information Technology
2021 Median Pay: $93,000
Projected Job Growth though 2031: 11 percent
Sometimes referred to as management analysts, these professionals help organizations reach their goals by identifying strategies to reduce costs, increase revenue, and improve efficiencies.
Former officers or servicemembers who have experience managing people and resources are often well suited for this career path. Drawing from their experiences in the service, they can apply their managerial know-how to identify areas of improvement across civilian organizations.
2021 Median Pay: $123,780
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 40 percent
Nurse practitioners work with other healthcare professionals to provide primary or specialty healthcare services, although exact duties vary by state law and licensing requirements. The related role of a registered nurse provides a vast range of services to patients. These might include direct healthcare services, patient education, and coordination of care with other healthcare professionals.
Nurses provide healthcare services in various settings such as hospitals, clinics, and physician’s offices. Due to the constant demand for healthcare professionals, those who transition into this career can expect relative job security and competitive compensation.
While it’s not uncommon for veterans who held a health-related position in the military to pursue a civilian nursing career, many who have unrelated backgrounds follow this trajectory as well. In fact, there are many transferable military skills that can apply to this career, regardless of your background. Leadership and communication skills, for example, are important in this line of work.
2021 Median Pay: $82,360
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 23 percent
An operations research analyst uses data analytics to help organizations solve problems. Many (but not all) professionals in this field have a STEM-related degree in areas such as engineering or computer science.
Similar to a management analyst, an operations research analyst evaluates an organization’s operations, identifies problems or inefficiencies, and recommends solutions. Rather than focusing only on managerial processes, these professionals analyze all aspects of an organization.
Using complex software and data analysis techniques to find issues and opportunities, they may propose improvements to resource allocation, logistics, and more. Due to the complexity of the role, operations research analysts often hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a technical or qualitative field.
2021 Median Pay: $127,490
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 5 percent
Sales managers lead other sales professionals in meeting organizational goals. This might include training personnel, developing training programs, and monitoring sales growth over time.
Sales managers need strong communication skills in order to collaborate with team members as well as other departments in their organizations, like marketing. As the manager of the sales department, these professionals also need strong leadership skills. For this reason, employers often value the leadership experience that veterans have gained during their service.
Sales managers can come from a wide range of functional backgrounds, but those with a bachelor’s degree that demonstrates their skillsets are often preferred by employers.
2021 Median Pay: $109,020
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 25 percent
Software developers create and modify computer systems for clients or organizations to perform customized tasks. These professionals oversee the development of software programs from identifying the user’s needs to designing and creating the system, as well as providing continuous maintenance and fixes.
Depending on the organization they work for, software developers may work closely with programmers to build systems and applications, or they may be charged with programming themselves. In either case, coding skills are often necessary for success in this field.
Related Degree Programs: BS in Information Technology
2021 Median Pay: $81,040
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 6 percent
Many veterans face unique challenges when returning home and transitioning back to civilian life. Mental health counselors and psychologists play an integral role in their patients’ lives, working closely with veterans and their families to help them with problems related to readjusting to civilian life after the military.
Due to their experiences, veterans often make for empathic counselors and psychologists, especially when working with other servicemembers. Many who transition to this career also see it as a way to remain connected to the service while giving back to those in need.
Related Degree Program: BS in Psychology
2021 Median Pay: $77,030
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 28 percent
Logisticians have fast-paced jobs focused on managing an organization’s supply chain. These professionals often oversee activities such as purchasing, transportation, and warehousing. They also use software systems to identify inefficiencies in the supply chain and recommend strategies that are both cost and time effective.
Military skills are often valued in this line of work, especially in servicemembers who have experience coordinating the movement of supplies and personnel. Logisticians typically hold a bachelor’s degree in business, supply chain management, or related field of study.
Related Degree Program: BS in Management
2021 Median Pay: $97,970
Projected Job Growth through 2031: 7 percent
General managers, sometimes called operations managers, are responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating the operations of an organization. This typically includes a wide range of work activities from preparing staff schedules and assigning work responsibilities, to coordinating activities across departments and allocating resources.
General managers must be strong leaders in order to guide and motivate their employees, and military leadership experience is valuable for such roles. A bachelor’s degree in business, management, or other related field is usually required for employment.
Related Degree Program: BS in Management
Finding Fulfilling Civilian Work After Leaving the Military
Northeastern understands that for U.S. veterans, finding a job as a civilian can be one of the greatest challenges you’ll face after service. So for veterans coming directly from the military without any prior civilian work experience–don’t worry. More than half of these top occupations do not report requiring prior work experience and the ones that do require less than five years’ experience in a related profession. From an educational perspective, however, many of these high-growth careers typically require a bachelor’s degree.
Should you get your bachelor’s degree?
Many military-friendly universities have support staff for veterans with program selection and tuition assistance. Northeastern University staff is available to help active duty servicemembers and veterans with career selection through its sponsorship with Patriots Path. Support services include career assessment, career transition workshops, and marketing and networking opportunities. Additional resources to help transition military students to civilian life are also available through the institution’s Dolce Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers (CAVS).
If you’re worried about funding your education, there are many resources for veterans. The Post-9/11 GI Bill® and other VA educational benefits, as well as institution-specific military benefits, can be used to pay for educational expenses related to your bachelor’s degree completion. Student eligibility and programs vary, but financial assistance may also include a textbook stipend and housing allowance. Northeastern University’s Student Financial Services office can show you how to use your educational benefits so you can complete your degree without taking on debt.
Colleges and universities provide resources that can help you begin a new career in a leading civilian occupation, too. Whether you decide to pursue a job in healthcare, financial services or technology, a bachelor’s degree may be key to your transition to employment that values your military training. Speak with a veteran’s representative at your school of choice to discuss your available options.
There are also resources available to help you balance classes with active duty life so that you can make the transition more easily. Preparing yourself for the change while you’re still in the military can ensure that you’re ready for your new role and limit any roadblocks you might face along the way. In fact, you might be eligible to earn college credit for your military experience.
Choosing A Career Path
If you’re unsure of how to select a degree program that will compliment your personality and aptitudes, start by reviewing your prior performance evaluations, commendations, and other feedback received during your military service. Recall examples of your demonstrated ability to perform specific tasks well. Don’t forget to consider classes you may have already taken to develop a particular skill, too. Did you enjoy learning more about that specific area?
Create your own list of skills, and identify any common themes. A sample list might include:
- Creative problem solving
- Operating software
- Project execution
Based on what you’ve written, which industries or job types pique your interest?
If you’re still unclear about which career path might be the best fit, review the job postings for positions in the field to identify the types of tasks and responsibilities required. Can you picture yourself in the role? Note the degree and major listed in the education requirements section of the posting to help you decide which college major can help you get there.
Andy McCarty, air force veteran and director of Northeastern’s Dolce Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers, also suggests assessing the job market for your chosen career. Consider not only what you want to do, he says, but the status of the job market for that profession in the locations you’d like to live. For instance, if you’re interested in working in agriculture, you’re not likely to live in a city in the near future. Or, if you want to work in biotechnology, you should consider that you’ll likely have to move to an area with a major biotechnology industry presence.
Helpful Job Search Tools for Veterans
To make it easier to navigate your options, CareerBuilder recently announced its partnership with Google to assist servicemembers in their search for civilian jobs. Instead of entering a job title into the search bar of CareerBuilder, enter your military occupational specialty code (MOSC) or military rank to locate jobs that might be a good fit.
Another option is O*Net Online’s Military Crosswalk Search. Select the branch of service from a drop-down menu, then enter your AFSC, MOS, or Rating and a list of civilian occupations that require comparable skills will appear. From there, you can view a summary report that details the following information for each related civilian occupation result:
- Tasks and general work duties commonly performed
- Technology skills required
- Knowledge and formal education needed
- Abilities needed (e.g. deductive reasoning, oral expressions, etc.)
- Work context (e.g. indoors, email communication, telephone, etc.)
To ensure a successful transition into the civilian workforce, you must be able to express your relevant experiences and skills in civilian terms. Fortunately, assistance is available to help you not just find a job, but a fulfilling career.
For more information about how Northeastern can help you take the next step in your career, contact Casey Heaslet, military admissions officer at Northeastern, for personalized enrollment advice.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
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