8 Best Professions for Veterans

Oct 21st, 2011

As tens of thousands of American troops return from Iraq by New Year’s, they are going to face the challenges that many veterans find themselves up against after serving abroad. Not only will they have to figure out how to fit back into their family lives and rediscover clothes that don’t involve camouflage, but many of them are also going to have to find relevant civilian jobs in a tough economy. President Barack Obama has started focusing on the importance of providing jobs for the selfless men and women who have served our country, announcing recently that he has lined up more than 250 companies that will hire 25,000 veterans and their spouses in the next two years. As veterans try to market themselves in the civilian world, they should capitalize on the marketable skills they’ve learned during their service and look for careers that use everything they have to offer. If you know (or are) a veteran trying to get back in the work force, these eight professions are a good starting place for a successful job hunt.

  1. Engineer

    If you’ve had any engineering training in the military or before joining, you might be able to land a job with a manufacturer in the defense industry. Several companies throughout the U.S. have defense contracts, like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics, and make parts for weapons and military vehicles. Depending on your area of specialization and your level of education, you’re looking to make between $50,000 and $60,000 when you begin your career and can reach salaries in the six-figure range. The benefit of having military service in your background when applying for defense industry jobs is that potential employers already know that you’re responsible, have knowledge of the field, and won’t have any problems with security clearance.

  2. Contractor

    Any job that involves working under pressure is well suited for most veterans. Contractors and other construction managers use the skills taught by the military in their daily routines as they see a building project through from start to finish. They face tight deadlines, organize workers, and have to think on their feet when problems arise. Plus, there’s always the danger of falling through a roof or getting shot with a nail gun, which is nothing compared to the threats veterans have encountered. About half of all contractors work for themselves — great news for anyone who wants the freedom of choosing his own jobs and leading a team of people — and there are expected to be more positions available in the next few years than there are qualified candidates.

  3. Logistics coordinator

    Many veterans have the valuable ability to understand the big picture of a project and visualize each step that is necessary to reach the end goal. Logistics coordinators are professional multi-taskers, keeping track of each part of an assignment down to the smallest detail. Depending on what kind of company you work for, you might be managing the handling and distribution of raw goods or finalizing plans for an event. It’s this broad range of possibilities, however, that makes the profession so attractive. You will likely be able to find a position in any state and your skills will transfer to other company’s logistics departments when it’s time for a job change. Servicemen and women who were tasked with procuring equipment and keeping track of inventory will transition to this career without any problems.

  4. Police officer

    What better profession to take on after serving your country than to serve your community? Police officers work in much the same way as those in the military: there’s a hierarchy with room for promotion, your main duty is to protect your fellow citizens, and you get to wear a slick uniform and carry a gun. The discipline learned in the military makes veterans extremely marketable to police forces and many units build the same kind of camaraderie veterans are used to. Cops normally earn between $35,000 and $60,000 a year, but that doesn’t include the respect you’ll get from the people in your city. If you decide you need to go back to school to land the law enforcement job of your dreams, you could even qualify for discounted or free tuition under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

  5. Data communications analyst

    Becoming a data communications analyst is one of the most highly recommended career paths for retired military members. Not only does it use skills that directly translate from military positions like information security technician, but jobs in the field are expected to increase more than 50% by 2018. Add in the fact that the average salary is somewhere around $90,000 and you probably don’t even care what the job description is. Data communications analysts work in the information technology field and help maintain communications systems by testing and analyzing them, helping clients troubleshoot problems, and designing software and hardware. Computer knowledge and solid communication skills are a must for this position, but at least you can play around on the Internet all day.

  6. Training manager

    Teamwork and leadership skills are some of the most important tools gleaned from a person’s military service, but many veterans often downplay them and focus only on their technical training. The marketplace is full of jobs that veterans are likely to land just by highlighting their experience managing people, especially if they ever helped train new recruits in the military. Training managers are responsible for educating new employees on company policies and procedures and organizing on-the-job training for them. There is also room to be creative and teach classes for all employees on new technologies or provide one-on-one training to bring a worker up to speed. The mark of a good trainer is building loyalty to the company and enthusiasm in the workplace, which is a trait trainers in all branches of the military seem to possess.

  7. Railroad conductor

    Admit it: you just pictured a guy in a striped hat and overalls or imagined someone yelling "All aboard." Railroad conductors don’t get enough credit for all they actually do. Working as a railroad conductor means coordinating all the activity on your train, including the crew, inspection of equipment, and schedule. Communication skills, like the kind used in military operations, are also essential to prevent disasters with other trains that we hope to only see in movies and math problems. Yard masters perform the same function but on the ground rather than on the train, making sure yard workers are safe and hard at work and handling the unloading and rearranging of train cars. Railroad companies are some of the most veteran-friendly employers in the U.S. so they are known for making the transition back to civilian life as easy as possible.

  8. Field service technician

    Becoming a field service technician or engineer is ideal for the person who doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day (or maybe ever). You can work in a variety of industries, from oil and gas to mobile communications, so the job opportunities are widespread, and you’re never stuck in one place as you travel from site to site installing and maintaining complicated equipment. The job carries a lot of responsibility since you often work with little supervision and are expected to be an expert on the machines, which normally requires a strong interest in mechanics or electronics. Veterans who like to build and fix things would fit this hands-on position like a glove.