By Carol Tice
Getting out of the military can be a disorienting time for many who've been overseas for long stretches. Often, the end of military service means it's time to find a job, fast.
The good news? Today's veterans often acquire valuable job skills in the service that are in demand in the private sector and at government agencies, says Louise Kursmark, author of "Expert Resumes for Military-to-Civilian Career Transitions." Here's a look at some of the best-paying jobs frequently chosen by military personnel for their first jobs upon discharge:
1. Program manager, aviation ($91,300) – Military members come out of all branches of the service with aviation experience, notes Kursmark. If you've managed aircraft maintenance or aircraft construction in the military, you can do it for a private aircraft company, too.
2. IT program manager ($81,100) – "The military is an excellent training organization for technology," says Kursmark. "People exiting the military who were in for even three to eight years have had significant training in state-of-the-art systems, which they can translate into corporate positions."
3. Business process/management consultant ($78,900) – The U.S. military is one of the world's biggest organizations, and their logistical requirements are positively daunting. If you've overseen military operations, Kursmark says, you have valuable knowledge of how to manage the movement of people and goods. "This is high-level expertise corporations love to get," she says.
4. Government program manager ($70,600) – This is a natural segue, Kursmark says, as managing military programs essentially is government program management. These days, many program managers work as civilian contractors for major corporations that are fulfilling program-management roles for the military and other government agencies.
"Government contractors really value the inside experience many military personnel have," Kursmark says. "If they have knowledge of technical systems or weapons systems, they should emphasize that on their resume."
5. Intelligence analyst ($69,200) – A tour of duty overseas monitoring enemy movements up-close and personal can easily translate into a stateside, civilian role as an intelligence analyst. Intelligence jobs abound at federal agencies including the CIA and Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Some of the work is also done for corporations working on military contracts, Lee says.
6. Project manager, construction ($68,300) – The military builds a lot of things – bridges, buildings, roads. Civilian construction companies have similar needs for experienced construction managers who can keep building projects running on time and on budget, notes PayScale director of quantitative analysis Al Lee.
7. Pilot, corporate jet ($63,600) – Pilots commonly have military backgrounds, notes Kursmark. "Training a pilot is very expensive, sophisticated training," she says. Currently, piloting a private jet pays better than entry-level positions with major commercial airlines, notes Lee.
8. Registered nurse ($57,900) – With its own network of hospitals, the military is a major training ground for healthcare personnel of all kinds, says Kursmark. "They receive excellent training, experience a huge diversity of care situation, and probably have the certifications or licensing a private hospital requires," she says.
9. Human resources manager ($57,700) – With its constant reassignments and deployments, the military trains HR managers on how to manage transitions and comply with all relevant regulations. It's a fairly logical segue to serving as a corporate HR manager. "They've got good training for dealing with racial tension, for someone who's at risk of 'going postal,' says Lee. "There are very similar issues at a trucking company, or a big restaurant chain."
10. Police or sheriff's patrol officer ($46,800) – This job is the one former military personnel are most likely to choose after they get out of the service, Lee notes. "It's closest to being in the military in terms of the activities," he says. "You know how to deal with people, and you have the ability to apply deadly force."
Business writer Carol Tice is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times and other major publications. Contact her at caroltice.com.
Source: All salary data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.