Every year, more than 200,000 military members transition out of the service. The degree of change can range from relocation to financial shifts and everything in between. To ease these shifts and support our Veteran community, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 careers after service. In partnership with Hire Heroes USA® and Sperling’s Best Places, here’s how things shaped up in 2023.
Working with our partners, we surveyed 1,059 Veterans who are employed full-time or part-time, self-employed, working as independent contractors or actively seeking work. We asked them about the characteristics they most value in a job, which we matched with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The results? The industries with the most overlap rose to the top.
“Over the last few years, the career drivers for Veterans have shifted as they place an increased emphasis on personal satisfaction and happiness at work,” said Clay Stackhouse, a retired Marine Corps colonel and regional outreach manager at Navy Federal Credit Union. “We’re also seeing that serving a purpose and work-life balance weigh nearly the same as good compensation when Veterans are asked about what makes an ideal, meaningful job for them. Through this research and partnership with Hire Heroes USA, we’re able to offer transitioning servicemembers and Veterans a highly valuable resource to further help them with career changes once they leave the military.”
We also asked Veterans about how prepared they felt for the transition to civilian life, particularly around financial guidance. Most felt they received sufficient financial information to support their transition, though acknowledged that some gaps existed. They shared they’d have liked to have more details around investing, retirement savings, credit scores and budgeting.
“Service in the military is so much more than a job; it's an all encompassing mission, with each team member aligned to a common purpose. Transition from that military culture to civilian life is a significant change, which is why it's inspiring to see Veterans seeking out and obtaining purposeful work that uses their individual skills,” said Ross Dickman, chief operating officer at Hire Heroes USA.
“Our partnership with Navy Federal Credit Union and Sperling's Best Places provides amazing insights into what Veterans value in their post-military careers. We’re dedicated to providing Veterans and military spouses the resources and support they need to find meaningful work after the military.”
Top 10 Careers
- Business and Financial Operations. Veterans value jobs with easily transferable skills and opportunities for career advancement. Careers in business and financial operations often have a higher likelihood of special programs for Veterans and military personnel. In fact, 58% of Veterans say military training helped them transition into a career in business and financial operations, and 66% believe they have a path for career advancement. Additionally, 73% noted that they make enough money to comfortably contribute to their savings account(s) each month.
- Community and Social Service. A career dedicated to service is something Veterans understand well. This is partially why so many transitioning servicemembers seek out jobs in the community and social service industry. More than half (60%) of Veterans say they enjoy their roles because of the opportunity to positively contribute to the greater good. While some of these jobs require licensing and certifications, many Veterans appreciate that they’re less likely to need previous experience in the field to find a fulfilling job.
- Management. The military is the ultimate team environment, so it’s only natural that Veterans gravitate towards teamwork-focused roles. Nearly two thirds (62%) say a team-oriented environment is a key characteristic of their ideal job, and many find management roles to fulfill that requirement. Veterans also appreciate the meaningful work (72%), opportunities for advancement (71%), and ability to save money each month (69%) with their salary.
- Healthcare Practitioners and Technical. Doing important, meaningful work is an integral part of military service. Many Veterans find rewarding careers in healthcare after their transition, such as nurses, nurse practitioners, therapists, physicians and dentists. Nearly three quarters (73%) of Veterans say their healthcare job is meaningful, and 66% say their role involves directly helping people. Additionally, servicemembers value the job security the healthcare industry provides, with 75% noting their time in the military led to a stable career in healthcare. Of note, healthcare roles are more likely to be a choice for female Veterans.
- Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports and Media. Nearly three quarters (72%) of Veterans are passionate about their career in this industry, and 40% say the ideal role involves creative or strategic opportunities. Almost two thirds (63%) value the flexible schedule many jobs in the field can provide, too. Examples of the most popular roles for Veterans in these fields include designers, public relations specialists, athletes and coaches, and broadcast, sound and lighting technicians, among others.
- Architecture and Engineering. Careers in architecture and engineering are sought-after by Veterans because of the opportunities for advancement and comfortable salary. 42% of Veterans also feel the ideal job in this field involves working for a mission-driven organization. Nearly two thirds (62%) of Veterans working in architecture and engineering are able to save money each month, while nearly the same percentage (60%) say they have opportunities for advancement and professional growth. The leading industries include professional, scientific and technical services, manufacturing, federal, state and local government, and construction.
- Computer and Mathematical. With the military’s sizable investments in STEM education, it’s understandable that many Veterans find rewarding careers in mathematics and working with computers. More than two thirds (67%) said their military training was valued by their employers in this field, further emphasizing the easily transferable skills between the military and jobs in this industry.
- Office and Administrative Support. For transitioning servicemembers looking to put down permanent roots in one location, office and administrative jobs are a highly sought-after option. Of the top 10 industries, this field is among the likeliest to involve a consistent work location. Veterans clearly appreciate this, as more than two thirds (67%) say they plan to keep their office and administrative support job until they retire.
- Educational Instruction and Library Occupations. Education and library roles are sought out by Veterans because of the opportunities to continue serving their community. Specifically, Veterans appreciate the meaningful work (75%), opportunities to help people (65%) and ability to contribute to the greater good (63%) that careers in this industry provide.
- Legal. For Veterans who prize job security and the ability to leverage their military experience, roles in the legal industry are a top choice. The overwhelming majority (90%) of Veterans in this field say their military service helped them find a stable career. Veterans also value the meaningful work (79%) and the opportunities to help people (70%) that the legal profession provides. 47% also identify a self-governed work environment as a key element of an ideal job in the legal field.
The survey results show that the ideal job has changed for Veterans over the past 3 to 4 years. Veterans express an increased desire for a flexible work environment and an interest in changing career fields. They also express an increased desire to find personal satisfaction and happiness at work.
Navy Federal has presented its “Best Of” lists every year since 2018. In 2018, the first iteration of the Best Cities After Service list launched, with updated lists in 2020 and 2022. In 2019, Best Careers After Service was originally published, followed by Best Careers for Military Spouses in 2021.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.