Anyone who has been in the military will understand how challenging, character-building and life-changing your experience can be. Those who have gone through military training gain many technical skills, while also learning how to be self-disciplined, motivated, deal with stressful situations, think on their feet, work well in a team, lead by example, stay organized, and countless more skills and characteristics that are important for innumerable jobs and career paths.
However, despite these huge benefits, many still struggle to find a decent career once they have decided to step away from the military and enter the civilian job market. For many ex-military and even veteran soldiers, the thought of embarking on this next stage in their career can be a worrying prospect. In this article, we will delve into some of the most popular and suitable careers for ex-military job seekers and provide some insightful tips to help your military past work to your advantage in resumes, applications, and interviews.
- Finding your new career path after the military
- Healthcare: #1 career path for veterans
- Government Admin: Popular choice, 1/4 veterans go for
- Defense Contracting: A popular choice for younger veterans
- Information Technology: Often utilizing skills gained in the military
- Financial Services: Exciting, lucrative work for 1/10 younger veterans
- Education: A rewarding and important career path
- Law Enforcement: For a comparable career to the military
- Security: A natural next step for those with combat experience
- Retail: Easy-to-find work with flexible hours
- Manufacturing: For hands-on work with plenty of career potential
- Logistics and Warehousing: Physical work in a field with increasing demand
- Charity: Your chance to help others in your situation
- 8 Application and interview tips for ex-military job seekers
- Get a civilian friend to look over your resume/applications
- Leave out the details of any experience in active combat
- Focus on general skills and characteristics you developed
- Flaunt your military experience and achievements
- Tailor your resume to the work you are applying for
- Write a resume that addresses employers’ needs
- Be confident, calm, and humble
- Arrange some mock interviews
Finding your new career path after the military
Being part of the military can consume every part of your life and, when the time comes to rejoin civilian society, it is natural to feel out-of-place and somewhat institutionalized. But, the Navy Federal has reported that over 250,000 military workers successfully enter the workforce every year, proving that there are many opportunities for ex-military job seekers. You may be surprised how many of the skills you gained in the military are transferable for a wide range of civilian jobs, many of which can see you earning more than $60,000 a year. Of course, the job you are most suitable for will depend on your role in the military, personality, preferences and skill set. But, to give you an idea of the most popular career paths for those leaving the military, here is a list of jobs for your consideration.
Healthcare: #1 career path for veterans
Working in healthcare will allow you to leverage many of the skills you may have gained in the military. The healthcare sector can provide a lucrative, rewarding, mission-based career with opportunities to be thrown into exciting situations that will keep you on your toes and stop you from becoming bored in your new civilian life. Some examples of careers for ex-military service people in healthcare include:
- Hospital operations and logistics
- Medical research
- Medical or hospital assistant
- Hospital admin roles
The average annual salary you could take home in roles like the above is around $66,000.
Government Admin: Popular choice, 1/4 veterans go for
There are plenty of opportunities available in government and public administration, especially for those military service members who have experience in leadership as many do. With plenty of perks, from flexible hours to great government pensions and financial benefits, these roles can vary massively. Some job types you could start looking into include:
- Record keeping
- Program analytics
- Public relations and affairs
- City management
- Elected official (mayor, governor, etc.)
The average annual salary per year for roles like this is around $63,000.
Defense Contracting: A popular choice for younger veterans
Defense contracting is a great way to stay in a military-like field by switching your focus to national defense. This can mean a diverse range of roles, most of which are very suited to ex-military service people and extremely lucrative career choices. Some defense contracting roles include:
- Building and developing weapons and vehicles
- Research and development
- Arms trading
- Intelligence specialists and analysts
- Contract management
- Quality assurance
The average annual salary will differ greatly depending on the role, but you can usually expect around $58,000.
Information Technology: Often utilizing skills gained in the military
Working in an IT office job may seem a long way from working in the military. However, with so many miltary jobs requiring you to learn complex IT systems, many service people are well suited to learning other civilian systems. Plus, many of the available IT roles come with great wages and it is a growing industry. Some of these roles include:
- IT project management
- IT systems engineering
- IT infrastructure
- Cybersecurity and security analysis
- Data analysis
Roles like these will usually come with a salary of around $56,500 per year.
Financial Services: Exciting, lucrative work for 1/10 younger veterans
There are plenty of diverse opportunities in financial services, many of which are high-pressure, fast-paced, and exciting with great remuneration and benefits too. With so many postives, it's easy to see why so many people consider this field once they leave th military. Some of the most popular careers in this field include:
- Finance management
- Financial advisor
- Investment management
- Wealth management and financial planning
- Corporate finance
- Commercial finance
The average annual salary you can expect will be around $59,000, but many roles are commission-based and pay much higher.
Education: A rewarding and important career path
Jobs in education allow you to develop young minds and utilize many of the motivation, discipline, and technical skills you may have gained in your military role. With such good characteristics developed during military service, it is easy to see why many veterans make excellent teachers and why around 13% of ex-military service people start careers in education. Many teaching roles are available online, making them the perfect choice for people looking to experience living or traveling in another country. This is a fantastic way to work less and enjoy more free time with a relaxed, varied lifestyle which so many ex-military personnel crave. Below are some of the most common education roles, it is important to note that you can follow your interests with the subject you teach, be it high school gym or a high-level science specialism:
- Primary or secondary teacher
- College or university professor
- Education administrator
- SEN specialist
- Teaching assistant or support staff
- English language teacher
With such adverse roles available in teaching and education, salaries vary massively. But you can usually expect to make around $41,000 per year.
Law Enforcement: For a comparable career to the military
If you are looking to work in a similar field to the military and enjoy the sense of responsibility and honor that a challenging and exciting, yet dangerous career can bring, then working in law enforcement could be the perfect fit for you. The skills you learned in the military will put you in good stead for becoming a police officer. Some of the roles in law enforcement you could look into include:
- Police officer
- Secret Service or FBI agent
- Federal air marshal
- Cririvate investigator
- Border patrol agent or immigration officer
- Intelligence analyst or criminal analyst
- Crime scene investigator
- Forensic science
- Emergency dispatcher
- Corrections officer
- Prison guard
Most law enforcement roles will see you earning at least $56,000 a year.
Security: A natural next step for those with combat experience
Work at a private security company, or any type of security guard role, is easy for a military-trained job seeker to step into. Plus you should have the opportunity to use some of your military training, skills, and experience. These roles can range from public to private, armed to unarmed, and from guarding corporate offices to working with the rich and famous as a private security guard. Some of the security roles you could look into as a starting point include:
- Security specialist
- Security consultant
- Security guard
- Personal security guard
- Private security guard
- Nightclub security
With such diverse roles in security available, wages will vary but you can expect to make around $47,000 annually.
Retail: Easy-to-find work with flexible hours
After a challenging career in the military, it is natural to want a less stressful job with more downtime - especially if you are craving more time with your family - and this is exactly what retail roles can offer. With so many retail positions available, it is easy to find work in this field. Keep in mind that retail doesn’t necessarily have to be working with customers on the shop floor, there are plenty of office-based roles too as mentioned in the list below.
- Sales associate
- Customer service
- Visual merchandiser
- Buying or procurement
- Store Management
- Inventory control specialist
- Retailer marketing
With varying amounts of responsibility on offer, wages in retail can vary drastically, but you can usually expect to make $25,000 a year or more.
Manufacturing: For hands-on work with plenty of career potential
If you don’t feel suited to an office environment and want some hands-on work, then there are tonnes of opportunities in manufacturing. From maintenance to factory operations, there are plenty of jobs available that do not require too much formal education. Plus, these roles can quickly turn into lucrative careers for those capable ex-veterans with discipline, a strong work ethic, and great attention to detail. The following are a some good job types to start researching:
- Maintenance technicians
- Manufacturing supervisors
- Quality control inspector
- Factory line worker
- Factory managing
- Manufacturing technician
- Welding and metalwork
For roles in manufacturing you can expect annual salaries to start at around $27,000, but they can quickly increase to $50,000 or higher.
Logistics and Warehousing: Physical work in a field with increasing demand
If you are well organized, physically strong, or enjoy hitting the open road then logistics, transportation, and warehousing are easy roles to find. Especially at the moment, as the quarantine has meant demand for new workers in this field is still increasing. Often offering great exercise and a varied schedule, you can join huge multinational businesses many of which provide great benefits, pensions, and flexible work schedules. Plus, without the need for formal education, you can start earning straight away. Here are some types of jobs in this field that are a good place to start:
- Shipping and receiving
- General laborer
- Warehouse associate
- Warehouse manager
- Material handler
- Forklift operators
On average, you can expect to make around $27,000 in this line of work. However, you will often have the opportunity to put in more hours and take on more responsibility to increase your wage.
Charity: Your chance to help others in your situation
If you have been struggling to find work after the military, you may be interested in applying for work at a military-focused charity. Alternatively, you could apply for international aid charities in countries that many would consider too dangerous to work in. This rewarding work, where military experience is extremely useful, is the perfect way to stay active, motivated, and engaged with the world. Some organizations you might want to check out include...
- Hire Heroes USA
- AMVETS National Service Foundation
- Navy Federal
- The Fisher House Foundation
- Operation Homefront
- The American Legion
- Hope for the Warrior
- International Aid Trust
- International Aid Charity (IAC)
6 Application and interview tips for ex-military job seekers
Although many of the experiences you may have had in the military will not relate to most aspects of the roles we discussed above, or any other career path you decide on, this does not mean you are at a disadvantage. A military career is impressive and demonstrates your ability to keep cool in a crisis and take calculated risks. Plus, your experiences are likely to have helped you develop characteristics like loyalty, self-discipline and quick-thinking that will impress any potential employer. However, it is still wise to carefully consider what you mention in your applications and interviews when the conversation turns to your military background, below are some tips on how to approach this.
Get a civilian friend to look over your resume/applications
If you were in the military for a long time, it is easy to forget how little non-military people know about your experiences and the way of life while in military service. This means it is good practice to assume your recipients have no prior knowledge of the military, so please don’t use acronyms or technical language when discussing your experience. It is always a good idea to get a civilian friend to look over your resume and first few applications. This way you can ensure you are not including words regular people may not understand or writing in a way that does not suit the work you are applying for.
Leave out the details of any experience in active combat
Although defending your country in battle is an impressive and honorable pursuit, there is a time and a place for discussing combat. It is important to consider the setting and relevance when discussing your military experience. No civilian job is going to relate closely to combat experience and mentioning any violent situations that might make an employer feel uneasy should be avoided at all costs.
Focus on general skills and characteristics you developed
We have already said it is better to focus on non-violent aspects of your military experience, so following on from this you should also focus on the more relatable skills and characteristics you developed. Keep things general and consider bringing up the following, also make sure to prepare some non-violent examples to prove you have these skills and characteristics.
- Strong work ethic
- Organizational skills
- Stress management and keeping calm
- People management and leadership
- Motivating others
- Disciplining others
- Technical IT skills
- Physical and mental health
- Attention to detail
- Learning complex systems and processes
- Planning and reporting
Flaunt your military experience and achievements
Although we have already mentioned you need to be careful about going into too much detail when it comes to combat experience, this does not mean you should shy away from discussing your military experience altogether. Make sure to mention any medals and promotions you achieved during your time in the military on your resume. Also, if you were leading other people during your service be sure to mention this too. If you find the conversation moving towards the more squeamish parts of your career, feel free to tell your interviewer you don’t feel comfortable discussing these elements which, after all, will most likely not relate in any way to the role you are applying for.
Tailor your resume to the work you are applying for
Regardless of your experience in the military, there will be elements of your work that will be transferable to your new role, so make sure to highlight these in your applications. Once you have an idea of the field you want to start applying for, do your research and learn all you can about the specifics of the role. Then, when you start applying, make sure to mention your related experiences. Here are some examples of experiences you may have had in the military that can also apply to most of the jobs mentioned above:
- Planning, setting objectives, and completing goals to strict deadlines
- Reporting and analysis
- Leading a team and motivating others
- Working independently and staying self-motivated
- Working with complex IT programs and systems
- Efficiently learning and developing skills
- Training other coworkers
Write a resume that addresses employers’ needs
When the time comes to apply for your first job in a new field, make sure to carefully read the job ad and ensure you fully understand what the employer is looking for in a new employee. Then, make sure you tailor your application and resume to the specific role by highlighting anything that you feel is especially important for the role, gels well with the wider company ethos, and is likely to impress a hiring manager or your future boss.
At the same time, avoid emphasizing anything that is not related to the role or highlights less transferable skills. If you are applying for a factory floor manager role, for example, talking too much about a medal you earned for marksmanship is not appropriate. However, giving examples of how you succeeded in managing and motivating a team of young men will show you are a good leader which is, of course, vital for any management role.
Be confident, calm, and humble
For many ex-military service people, it can be hard to get used to the way corporate organizations operate. In the military shouting orders is the norm, but you are unlikely to impress a future employer if you behave aggressively in your interview. After serving your country, you may feel you deserve more respect and better job offers, but everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you end up accepting a job that you feel is beneath you, you can quickly work your way up. So, with that in mind, it is always a good idea to ask potential employers about future opportunities for career progression and accepting more responsibility.
Arrange some mock interviews
If the military was your first real job, it is likely that you are unfamiliar with the style of corporate interviews. Luckily, you probably know plenty of people with ample experience being interviewed and maybe even interviewing others. If you don’t then reach out to a recruitment company that specializes in the field you are interested in and ask them to stage a practice interview with you and offer you some advice. Plus, there are plenty of resources for interview advice and we also have several articles on the topic.
Regardless of your background and previous experience, the job hunt can be cruel and disheartening. Maintaining enthusiasm is difficult, especially after a few too many unsuccessful applications. However, in every interview it is important to keep positive and professional at all times and avoid complaining about your struggle to find work to any potential employers. When you are unsuccessful and confused about why you did not get the job offer, it is often a good idea to ask the hiring manager or recruiter you worked with for some honest feedback on why you didn’t get the job that you can use to improve your approach in your next interview. Keep in mind that all types of job seekers should expect to receive plenty of rejections before landing a role they are suited to. But, with persistence and carefully considered applications, you will be able to land a decent job.
As a recruiter, I have been helping candidates find a new job for over ten years. On this website I share my knowledge to help you make a good resume.