How can you make your transition from military work to a civilian job as easy as possible? Earning a healthy paycheck might help.
Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at online salary database PayScale.com, recommends that military folks in search of good pay take advantage of three special areas of knowledge they likely have: security, machinery operation and, the less well-known but highly lucrative, logistics.
"Everyone knows there is a tank mechanic, but not everyone thinks, 'Hey, somebody made sure that this tank got to the desert from Hawaii or someplace in the Philippines," says Lee. He points out that the global marketplace involves complex, international logistical challenges that military folks are experienced in handling: "A lot of companies' needs look like what was required in Desert Storm or the war in Iraq."
Are you in transition out of the military? Here is a list of the top 10 most highly-paid civilian jobs that former military commonly choose, according to PayScale.
1. Program Manager, Aviation / Aerospace - $89,300
To Lee's point, this job does not require flying or fixing an airplane, it requires the ability to plan, schedule, resource and manage operations that have to do with planes. "A program manager makes the list of the parts that need to come together," Lee says. The job usually requires a bachelor's degree, and an master's can increase pay and job opportunities.
2. Management Consultant - $87,600
Here's another gig that is logistical. Management consultants are brought in to help companies operate more efficiently. They serve as guides and outside experts on everything from manufacturing efficiency and employee scheduling, to finances and supply-chain management. It's a job for someone who is analytical and can think strategically. Management consultants typically have bachelor's degrees in engineering, mathematics, finance or business.
3. Senior Systems Engineer - $86,100
Here's where the more technical skills picked up in the military can really pay off, with the logistical know-how helping, too. Systems engineers set up and support computer networks. An engineer must understand and recommend needed hardware and software for whichever group they are serving. According to PayScale, systems engineers often go on to work as IT directors, earning six figures.
Former military understand the importance of protecting valuable information, and they have the technical skills to do so. A security consultant is so skilled at protecting digital information that they are brought into companies and organizations to design and implement specified security systems. A bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field is essential. Job opportunities are expected to grow rapidly in this field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
5. Intelligence Analyst - $69,000
Outside of the military, an intelligence analyst can help with solving crimes. They may have the task of gathering up suspect profiles, maps of criminal activity, histories of illegal behavior and other information to guide law enforcement in solving mysteries. A knack for research and good decision-making are key for this career, as some evidence may be false or misleading. A bachelor's degree in criminology is common for intelligence
6. Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Manager - $66,700
Here is another big picture, logistics job. A safety manager in a company must know the environmental health and safety standards required by the law and then figure out how to efficiently train, manage and follow up with the employees at a company so they follow them. The job involves improving efficiency and performance. A bachelor's degree in environmental studies or a related field is typical.
7. Project Manager, Manufacturing - $64,700
Do you have a knack for keeping the work flow ... flowing? Try project management in manufacturing. From figuring out the staff needed and scheduling them, to designing a budget, the project manager has a lot of pieces to organize. Even environmental health and safety considerations are on the manager's list. Once again, a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related science or business field is needed.
8. Power Plant Operator - $60,400
Here is a job for the fix-it types out there. A power plant operator must understand all of the equipment involved in generating power at the plant and then be prepared to make smart decisions the moment any part of process goes wrong. A lot of time is spent monitoring, maintaining and repairing equipment, then reporting on the status of the plant. Unlike the other jobs on the list, this one does not necessarily require a bachelor's degree for entry.
9. Contract Specialist - $59,600
A contract specialist is in charge of negotiating contracts on behalf of companies. They send out requests for bids to contractors, evaluate and amend the contracts, check the financial viability of any plan, double check that the proposed work fits within all government regulations and ensure the delivery of what is listed in the contract. If you're a smart business person who pays attention to the details, this is a valuable and lucrative gig with a bright future.
10. Logistics Manager - $59,500
This job has logistics written all over it. A logistics manager makes sure that any process, particularly getting items or people to a destination, is done efficiently. They must be able to problem solve, make smart decisions, manage a team and improve efficiency. According to PayScale's website, Target is one of the most common employers of logistics managers outside of the military. While the job does not necessarily require a college degree, a bachelor's in business logistics or transportation is helpful.
Other top-paid gigs not listed here are FBI agent ($77,300), aircraft pilot, corporate jet ($64,000), medical equipment repairer ($58,100) and air traffic controller ($55,700).
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Source: Salary data is provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Salaries listed are annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.