Best Careers for Women Veterans

How to Transition to a Civilian Job After a Military Career

Women veterans can transition to civilian careers
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About 1.6 million U.S. veterans are women, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs (Profile of American Veterans: 2016. National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. 2017). Female vets are different from civilian women and from their male counterparts who have also left the military. As compared to other women, female veterans attain higher levels of education. Both male and female veterans find long-term opportunities in certain sectors and they leave the military with skills that make them well-suited for particular occupations.

Female Vets Are Highly Educated

Women veterans are typically better educated than their civilian counterparts. A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for military enlistees, but most go beyond that either before serving or after completing their service (Women Veteran’s Report. Department of Veterans Affairs: National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. February 2017).

Twenty-one percent of female veterans have a bachelor's degree vs. 18 percent of non-veteran women, and 14 percent have an advanced degree while only 10 percent of non-veteran women do. Not every female vet completes her college education—44 percent of women veterans had some college as their highest level of education compared with 32 percent of non-veteran women—but it is possible that many women veterans took advantage of tuition assistance offered during their service but did not finish their degrees.

Female veterans typically wait a bit longer to earn their degrees than those who do not serve. Seventy-one percent attain their bachelor's or advanced degrees between 35 and 64 years of age.

Women Veterans and Career Choice

Female veterans make different career choices than other women. More than twice as many choose to work in government jobs—34 percent of veterans vs. 16 percent of non-veterans. Included in this sector are local, state, and government employment. At least some of this may be attributed to initiatives in place that actively recruit veterans for government jobs (Women Veteran’s Report. Department of Veterans Affairs: National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. February 2017).

The government has instituted initiatives like the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in 2011. This law requires Federal agencies to treat active service members as veterans, giving them preference when making hiring decisions. It allows active service members to begin their job searches in anticipation of leaving the armed forces. It can smooth the transition to civilian life. Companies in the private sector also have programs that increase their hiring of veterans.

There are some differences in the types of work women veterans choose. Forty-nine percent work in management and professional occupations, while only 40 percent of other women do. But more non-veterans than veterans work in service fields (22 vs. 15 percent) or office and sales (30 vs. 29 percent) occupations.

When choosing an occupation after serving in the armed forces, veterans should consider the unique qualities they bring to the civilian workforce, in particular, leadership, discipline, and teamwork ("Great Jobs for Military Veterans in 2017" CareerCastVeterans Network).

Among the soft skills that allow them to do their jobs, vets develop, through their service, excellent relationship-building and problem solving skills. These make them particularly well-suited for operations research analysis and sales careers.

Depending on their specific military jobs, vets also bring specific hard skills to their civilian careers. Training that emphasizes technological skills directly translates to jobs in the IT field. Vets with nursing experience can apply that to civilian certification requirements. A background in mathematics and finance, along with personal knowledge of military life, can make a veteran particularly well-suited for jobs that involve helping military families protect their investments and savings.

The 8 Best Careers for Women Veterans

CareerCast.com’s 2017 Jobs Rated Report lists the top eight careers for Veterans. They are:

Financial advisors help people plan for their short and long-term financial goals.

Minimum Educational Requirements: Bachelor's Degree (Suggested Majors: finance, business, accounting)

Median Annual Salary (2017): $90,640

Number of People Employed (2016): 271,900

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 15 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 40,400

Information security analysts develop and implement plans to safeguard an organization's computer networks and systems.

Minimum Educational Requirements: Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science, Information Assurance, and Programming

Median Annual Salary (2017): $95,510

Number of People Employed (2016): 100,000

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 28 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 28,500

Management consultants work with organizations to help them become more efficient or profitable.

Minimum Educational Requirements: Bachelor's Degree

Median Annual Salary (2017): $82,450

Number of People Employed (2016): 806,400

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 14 percent (faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 115,200

Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty care to patients, consulting with doctors and other healthcare professionals as needed.

Minimum Educational Requirements: Nurse Practitioner Master's Degree and Registered Nurse (RN) License

Median Annual Salary (2017): $103,880

Number of People Employed (2016): 155,500

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 36 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 56,100

Operations research analysts use mathematical expertise to help businesses and other organizations solve problems.

Minimum Educational Requirements: Bachelor's Degree in Operations Research, Engineering, Math, Computer Science, or Analytics

Median Annual Salary (2017): $81,390

Number of People Employed (2016): 114,000

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 27 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 31,300

Registered Nurses (RNs) treat patients and advise them and their families.

Minimum Educational Requirements: Bachelor of Science (Preferred) or Associate in Nursing or Diploma From an Approved Nursing Program

Median Annual Salary (2017): $70,000

Number of People Employed (2016): 2,955,200

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 15 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 438,100

Sales managers oversee companies' sales teams including hiring and training employees, assigning territories, setting sales goals, and analyzing statistics.

Minimum Educational Requirements: Bachelor's Degree

Median Annual Salary (2017): $121,060

Number of People Employed (2016): 385,500

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 7 percent (as fast as the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 28,900

Software Engineer

Software engineers develop software, applying engineering principles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports information about this occupation under the occupational title of Software Developer, and, therefore, that is the data laid out below. However, according to some sources, these jobs are related but not the same. Software developers are not necessarily engineers (“Software Development Vs. Software Engineering.” Software Engineer Insider).

Minimum Educational Requirements: Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

Median Annual Salary (2017): $101,790

Number of People Employed (2016): 1,256,200

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 24 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 302,500

(Education and Statistical data from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online)

Resources for Women Veterans