Job Opportunities in the Armed Forces Career Information
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Significant Points· Opportunities should be good in all branches of
the Armed Forces for applicants who meet designated standards.
· Most enlisted personnel need at least a high school diploma, while officers need a bachelor's or advanced degree.
· Hours and working conditions can be arduous and vary substantially.
· Some training and duty assignments are hazardous, even in peacetime.
Nature of the WorkMaintaining a strong national
defense encompasses such diverse activities as running a hospital, commanding
a tank, programming computers, operating a nuclear reactor, or repairing and
maintaining a helicopter. The military provides training and work experience
in these fields and many others for more than 1.5 million people who serve in
the active Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, their Reserve
components, and the Air and Army National Guard.
The military distinguishes between enlisted and officer careers. Enlisted personnel, who make up about 85 percent of the Armed Forces, carry out the fundamental operations of the military in areas such as combat, administration, construction, engineering, healthcare, and human services. Officers, who make up the remaining 15 percent of the Armed Forces, are the leaders of the military. They supervise and manage activities in every occupational specialty in the military.
The following sections discuss the major occupational groups for enlisted personnel and officers.
Enlisted occupational groups:
Administrative careers include a wide variety of positions. The military must keep accurate information for planning and managing its operations. Paper and electronic records are kept on personnel and on equipment, funds, supplies, and other property of the military. Enlisted administrative personnel record information, type reports, maintain files, and review information to assist military offices. Personnel may work in a specialized area such as finance, accounting, legal, maintenance, supply, or transportation. Some examples of administrative specialists are recruiting specialists, who recruit and place qualified personnel and provide information about military careers to young people, parents, schools, and local communities; training specialists and instructors, who provide the training programs necessary to help people perform their jobs effectively; and personnel specialists, who collect and store information about individuals in the military, including training, job assignment, promotion, and health information.
Combat specialty occupations refer to enlisted specialties, such as infantry, artillery, and special forces, whose members operate weapons or execute special missions during combat situations. Persons in these occupations normally specialize by the type of weapon system or combat operation. These personnel maneuver against enemy forces, and position and fire artillery, guns, and missiles to destroy enemy positions. They also may operate tanks and amphibious assault vehicles in combat or scouting missions. When the military has difficult and dangerous missions to perform, they call upon special operations teams. These elite combat forces stay in a constant state of readiness to strike anywhere in the world on a moment's notice. Special operations forces team members conduct offensive raids, demolitions, intelligence, search and rescue, and other missions from aboard aircraft, helicopters, ships, or submarines.
Construction occupations in the military include personnel who build or repair buildings, airfields, bridges, foundations, dams, bunkers, and the electrical and plumbing components of these structures. Enlisted personnel in construction occupations operate bulldozers, cranes, graders, and other heavy equipment. Construction specialists also may work with engineers and other building specialists as part of military construction teams. Some personnel specialize in areas such as plumbing or electrical wiring. Plumbers and pipefitters install and repair the plumbing and pipe systems needed in buildings and on aircraft and ships. Building electricians install and repair electrical wiring systems in offices, airplane hangars, and other buildings on military bases.
Electronic and electrical equipment repair personnel repair and maintain electronic and electrical equipment used in the military. Repairers normally specialize by type of equipment, such as avionics, computer, optical, communications, or weapons systems. For example, electronic instrument repairers install, test, maintain, and repair a wide variety of electronic systems, including navigational controls and biomedical instruments. Weapons maintenance technicians maintain and repair weapons used by combat forces, most of which have electronic components and systems that assist in locating targets and in aiming and firing weapons.
The military has many engineering, science, and technical occupations, whose members require specific knowledge to operate technical equipment, solve complex problems, or provide and interpret information. Enlisted personnel normally specialize in one area, such as space operations, emergency management, environmental health and safety, or intelligence. Space operations specialists use and repair spacecraft ground control command equipment, including electronic systems that track spacecraft location and operation. Emergency management specialists prepare emergency procedures for all types of disasters, such as floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Environmental health and safety specialists inspect military facilities and food supplies for the presence of disease, germs, or other conditions hazardous to health and the environment. Intelligence specialists gather and study information using aerial photographs and various types of radar and surveillance systems.
Healthcare personnel assist medical professionals in treating and providing services for men and women in the military. They may work as part of a patient service team in close contact with doctors, dentists, nurses, and physical therapists to provide the necessary support functions within a hospital or clinic. Healthcare specialists normally specialize in a particular area. They may provide emergency medical treatment, operate diagnostic equipment such as x-ray and ultrasound equipment, conduct laboratory tests on tissue and blood samples, maintain pharmacy supplies, or maintain patient records.
Human services specialists help military personnel and their families with social or personal problems, or assist chaplains. For example, caseworkers and counselors work with personnel who may be experiencing social problems, such as drug or alcohol dependence or depression. Religious program specialists assist chaplains with religious services, religious education programs, and administrative duties.
Machine operator and production occupations operate industrial equipment, machinery, and tools to fabricate and repair parts for a variety of items and structures. They may operate engines, turbines, nuclear reactors, and water pumps. Personnel often specialize by type of work performed. Welders and metal workers, for instance, work with various types of metals to repair or form the structural parts of ships, submarines, buildings, or other equipment. Survival equipment specialists inspect, maintain, and repair survival equipment such as parachutes and aircraft life support equipment. Dental and optical laboratory technicians construct and repair dental equipment and eyeglasses for military personnel.
Media and public affairs occupations are involved in the public presentation and interpretation of military information and events. Enlisted media and public affairs personnel take and develop photographs; film, record, and edit audio and video programs; present news and music programs; and produce graphic artwork, drawings, and other visual displays. Other public affairs specialists act as interpreters and translators to convert written or spoken foreign languages into English or other languages.
Service personnel include those who enforce military laws and regulations, provide emergency response to natural and manmade disasters, and maintain food standards. Personnel normally specialize by function. Military police control traffic, prevent crime, and respond to emergencies. Other law enforcement and security specialists investigate crimes committed on military property and guard inmates in military correctional facilities. Firefighters put out, control, and help prevent fires in buildings, on aircraft, and aboard ships. Food service specialists prepare all types of food in dining halls, hospitals, and ships.
Transportation and material handling specialists ensure the safe transport of people and cargo. Most personnel within this occupational group are classified according to mode of transportation, such as aircraft, motor vehicle, or ship. Aircrew members operate equipment on board aircraft during operations. Vehicle drivers operate all types of heavy military vehicles including fuel or water tank trucks, semi-tractor trailers, heavy troop transports, and passenger buses. Quartermasters and boat operators navigate and pilot many types of small watercraft, including tugboats, gunboats, and barges. Cargo specialists load and unload military supplies and material using equipment such as forklifts and cranes.
Vehicle and machinery mechanics conduct preventive and corrective maintenance on aircraft, ships, automotive and heavy equipment, heating and cooling systems, marine engines, and powerhouse station equipment. They typically specialize by the type of equipment that they maintain. For example, aircraft mechanics inspect, service, and repair helicopters and airplanes. Automotive and heavy equipment mechanics maintain and repair vehicles such as jeeps, cars, trucks, tanks, self-propelled missile launchers, and other combat vehicles. They also repair bulldozers, power shovels, and other construction equipment. Heating and cooling mechanics install and repair air-conditioning, refrigeration, and heating equipment. Marine engine mechanics repair and maintain gasoline and diesel engines on ships, boats, and other watercraft. They also repair shipboard mechanical and electrical equipment. Powerhouse mechanics install, maintain, and repair electrical and mechanical equipment in power-generating stations.
Officer occupational groups:
Combat specialty officers plan and direct military operations, oversee combat activities, and serve as combat leaders. This category includes officers in charge of tanks and other armored assault vehicles, artillery systems, special operations forces, and infantry. They normally specialize by type of unit that they lead. Within the unit, they may specialize by the type of weapon system. Artillery and missile system officers, for example, direct personnel as they target, launch, test, and maintain various types of missiles and artillery. Special-operations officers lead their units in offensive raids, demolitions, intelligence gathering, and search and rescue missions.
Engineering, science, and technical officers have a wide range of responsibilities based on their area of expertise. They lead or perform activities in areas such as space operations, environmental health and safety, and engineering. These officers may direct the operations of communications centers or the development of complex computer systems. Environmental health and safety officers study the air, ground, and water to identify and analyze sources of pollution and its effects. They also direct programs to control safety and health hazards in the workplace. Other personnel work as aerospace engineers to design and direct the development of military aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft.
Executive, administrative, and managerial officers oversee and direct military activities in key functional areas such as finance, accounting, health administration, international relations, and supply. Health services administrators, for instance, are responsible for the overall quality of care provided at the hospitals and clinics they operate. They must ensure that each department works together to provide the highest quality of care. Purchasing and contracting managers are another example: they negotiate and monitor contracts for the purchase of the billions of dollars worth of equipment, supplies, and services that the military buys from private industry each year.
Healthcare officers provide health services at military facilities, based on their area of specialization. Officers who assist in examining, diagnosing, and treating patients with illness, injury, or disease include physician assistants and registered nurses. Other healthcare officers provide therapy, rehabilitative treatment, and other services for patients. Physical and occupational therapists plan and administer therapy to help patients adjust to disabilities, regain independence, and return to work. Speech therapists evaluate and treat patients with hearing and speech problems. Dietitians manage food service facilities, and plan meals for hospital patients and for outpatients who need special diets. Pharmacists manage the purchasing, storing, and dispensing of drugs and medicines.
Health diagnosing and treating practitioner officers examine, diagnose, and provide treatment for illnesses, injuries, and disorders. For example, physicians and surgeons in this occupational group provide the majority of medical services to the military and their families. Dentists treat diseases and disorders of the mouth. Optometrists treat vision problems by prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses. Psychologists provide mental healthcare, and also conduct research on behavior and emotions.
Human services officers perform services in support of the morale and well-being of military personnel and their families. Social workers focus on improving conditions that cause social problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, racism, and sexism. Chaplains conduct worship services for military personnel and perform other spiritual duties covering beliefs and practices of all religious faiths.
Media and public affairs officers oversee the development, production, and presentation of information or events for the public. These officers may produce and direct motion pictures, videotapes, and television and radio broadcasts that are used for training, news, and entertainment. Some plan, develop, and direct the activities of military bands. Public information officers respond to inquiries about military activities and prepare news releases and reports to keep the public informed.
Officers in transportation occupations manage and perform activities related to the safe transport of military personnel and material by air and water. Officers normally specialize by mode of transportation or area of expertise because, in many cases, they must meet licensing and certification requirements. Pilots in the military fly various types of specialized airplanes and helicopters to carry troops and equipment and execute combat missions. Navigators use radar, radio, and other navigation equipment to determine their position and plan their route of travel. Officers on ships and submarines work as a team to manage the various departments aboard their vessels. Ship engineers direct engineering departments aboard ships and submarines, including engine operations, maintenance, repair, heating, and power generation.
EmploymentIn 2009, more than 1.5 million individuals were on active duty in the Armed Forces—about 530,500 in the Army, 400,000 in the Navy, 385,000 in the Air Force, 174,000 in the Marine Corps, and 37,000 in the Coast Guard. Table 1 shows the occupational composition of enlisted personnel in 2009, while table 2 presents similar information for officers.
Table 1. Military enlisted personnel by broad occupational category and branch of military service, April 2009
Occupational Group - Enlisted Army Air Force Coast Guard Marine Corps Navy Total, all services
Administrative occupations 19,862 23,124 2,211 11,560 16,760 73,517
Combat specialty occupations 102,844 1,092 33,127 4,242 141,305
Construction occupations 15,815 6,130 881 5,503 5,897 34,226
Electronic and electrical repair occupations 29,628 47,485 1,725 15,828 62,269 156,935
Engineering, science, and technical occupations 43,368 42,018 2,153 25,098 44,979 157,616
Health care occupations 26,443 19,140 664 24,559 70,806
Human resource development occupations 13,287 12,514 654 5,097 4,557 36,109
Machine operator and precision work occupations 2,881 9,729 4,410 2,275 6,870 26,165
Media and public affairs occupations 7,740 6,683 114 1,974 3,578 20,089
Protective service occupations 21,731 31,123 1,913 5,801 14,780 75,348
Support services occupations 12,651 7,029 1,173 3,062 9,254 33,169
Transportation and material handling occupations 54,555 36,534 10,355 25,911 65,825 193,180
Vehicle machinery mechanic occupations 45,921 37,477 1,626 17,536 48,174 150,734
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center East
Table 2. Military officer personnel by broad occupational category and branch of military service, April 2009
Occupational Group - Officer Army Air Force Coast Guard Marine Corps Navy Total, all services
Combat specialty occupations 18,714 5,260 38 4,741 4,068 32,821
Engineering, science, and technical occupations 16,095 17,257 1,315 3,027 10,431 48,125
Executive, administrative, and managerial occupations 10,619 8,613 578 2,220 7,163 29,193
Health care occupations 10,829 10,383 16 --- 8,327 29,555
Human resource development occupations 1,828 2,471 275 659 3,658 8,891
Media and public affairs occupations 601 468 20 152 370 1,611
Protective service occupations 2,063 1,207 981 350 917 5,518
Support services occupations 1,578 1,214 --- 44 1,164 4,000
Transportation occupations 12,749 20,846 3,645 6,916 16,774 60,930
Total, by service 75,076 67,719 6,868 18,109 52,872 220,644
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center East
Military personnel are stationed throughout the United States and in many countries around the world. More than half of all military jobs are located in California, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Georgia. About 258,000 individuals were stationed outside the United States in 2009, including those assigned to ships at sea. More than 117,000 of these were stationed in Europe, mainly in Germany, and another 101,000 were assigned to East Asia and the Pacific area, mostly in Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.Enlisted personnel. In order to join the services, enlisted personnel
must sign a legal agreement called an enlistment contract, which usually involves
a commitment to 8 years of service. Depending on the terms of the contract,
2 to 6 years are spent on active duty and the balance is spent in the reserves.
The enlistment contract obligates the service to provide the agreed-upon job,
rating, pay, cash bonuses for enlistment in certain occupations, medical and
other benefits, occupational training, and continuing education. In return,
enlisted personnel must serve satisfactorily for the period specified.
Requirements for each service vary, but certain qualifications for enlistment are common to all branches. In order to enlist, one must be between 17 and 35 years old, be a U.S. citizen or immigrant alien holding permanent resident status, not have a felony record, and possess a birth certificate. Applicants who are aged 17 must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian before entering the service. Coast Guard enlisted personnel must enter active duty before their 28th birthday, while Marine Corps enlisted personnel must not be over the age of 29. Applicants must both pass a written examination—the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery—and meet certain minimum physical standards such as height, weight, vision, and overall health. All branches of the Armed Forces require high school graduation or its equivalent for certain enlistment options. In 2000, more than 9 out of 10 recruits were high school graduates.
People thinking about enlisting in the military should learn as much as they can about military life before making a decision. This is especially important if you are thinking about making the military a career. Speaking to friends and relatives with military experience is a good idea. Determine what the military can offer you and what it will expect in return. Then, talk to a recruiter, who can determine if you qualify for enlistment, explain the various enlistment options, and tell you which military occupational specialties currently have openings. Bear in mind that the recruiter's job is to recruit promising applicants into his or her branch of military service, so the information that the recruiter gives you is likely to stress the positive aspects of military life in the branch in which he or she serves.
Ask the recruiter for the branch you have chosen to assess your chances of being accepted for training in the occupation of your choice, or, better still, take the aptitude exam to see how well you score. The military uses the aptitude exam as a placement exam, and test scores largely determine an individual's chances of being accepted into a particular training program. Selection for a particular type of training depends on the needs of the service, your general and technical aptitudes, and your personal preference. Because all prospective recruits are required to take the exam, those who do so before committing themselves to enlist have the advantage of knowing in advance whether they stand a good chance of being accepted for training in a particular specialty. The recruiter can schedule you for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery without any obligation. Many high schools offer the exam as an easy way for students to explore the possibility of a military career, and the test also provides insight into career areas in which the student has demonstrated aptitudes and interests.
If you decide to join the military, the next step is to pass the physical examination and sign an enlistment contract. Negotiating the contract involves choosing, qualifying, and agreeing on a number of enlistment options such as length of active duty time, which may vary according to the enlistment option. Most active duty programs have first-term enlistments of 4 years, although there are some 2-, 3-, and 6-year programs. The contract also will state the date of enlistment and other options, such as bonuses and types of training to be received. If the service is unable to fulfill its part of the contract, such as providing a certain kind of training, the contract may become null and void.
All services offer a "delayed entry program" by which an individual can delay entry into active duty for up to 1 year after enlisting. High school students can enlist during their senior year and enter a service after graduation. Others choose this program because the job training they desire is not currently available but will be within the coming year, or because they need time to arrange personal affairs.
Women are eligible to enter most military specialties—for example, mechanics, missile maintenance technicians, heavy equipment operators, and fighter pilots, as well as medical care, administrative support, and intelligence specialties. Generally, only occupations involving direct exposure to combat are excluded.
People planning to apply the skills gained through military training to a civilian career should first determine how good the prospects are for civilian employment in jobs related to the military specialty that interests them. Second, they should know the prerequisites for the related civilian job. Because many civilian occupations require a license, certification, or minimum level of education, it is important to determine whether military training is sufficient to enter the civilian equivalent or, if not, what additional training will be required. Other Handbook statements discuss the job outlook, training requirements, and other aspects of civilian occupations for which military training and experience are helpful. Additional information often can be obtained from school counselors.
Following enlistment, new members of the Armed Forces undergo recruit training, which is better known as "basic" training. Recruit training provides a 6- to 12-week introduction to military life with courses in military skills and protocol. Days and nights are carefully structured, and include rigorous physical exercise designed to improve strength and endurance and build unit cohesion.
Following basic training, most recruits take additional training at technical schools that prepare them for a particular military occupational specialty. The formal training period generally lasts from 10 to 20 weeks, although training for certain occupations—nuclear power plant operator, for example—may take as long as a year. Recruits not assigned to classroom instruction receive on-the-job training at their first duty assignment.
Many service people get college credit for the technical training they receive on duty, which, combined with off-duty courses, can lead to an associate degree through community college programs such as the Community College of the Air Force. In addition to on-duty training, military personnel may choose from a variety of educational programs. Most military installations have tuition assistance programs for people wishing to take courses during off-duty hours. These may be correspondence courses or degree programs offered by local colleges or universities. Tuition assistance pays up to 75 percent of college costs. Also available are courses designed to help service personnel earn high school equivalency diplomas. Each service branch provides opportunities for full-time study to a limited number of exceptional applicants. Military personnel accepted into these highly competitive programs—in law or medicine, for example—receive full pay, allowances, tuition, and related fees. In return, they must agree to serve an additional amount of time in the service. Other very selective programs enable enlisted personnel to qualify as commissioned officers through additional military training.
Warrant officers. Warrant officers are technical and tactical leaders who specialize in a specific technical area; for example, Army aviators make up one group of warrant officers. The Army Warrant Officer Corps constitutes less than 5 percent of the total Army. Although the Corps is small in size, its level of responsibility is high. Its members receive extended career opportunities, worldwide leadership assignments, and increased pay and retirement benefits. Selection to attend the Warrant Officer Candidate School is highly competitive and restricted to those with the rank of E5 or higher. (See table 3.)
Officers. Officer training in the Armed Forces is provided through the Federal service academies (Military, Naval, Air Force, and Coast Guard); the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program offered at many colleges and universities; Officer Candidate School (OCS) or Officer Training School (OTS); the National Guard (State Officer Candidate School programs); the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences; and other programs. All are very selective and are good options for those wishing to make the military a career. Persons interested in obtaining training through the Federal service academies must be single to enter and graduate, while those seeking training through OCS, OTS, or ROTC need not be single. Single parents with one or more minor dependents are not eligible for officer commissioning.
Federal service academies provide a 4-year college program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree. Midshipmen or cadets are provided free room and board, tuition, medical and dental care, and a monthly allowance. Graduates receive regular or reserve commissions and have a 5-year active duty obligation, or more if they are entering flight training.
To become a candidate for appointment as a cadet or midshipman in one of the service academies, applicants are required to obtain a nomination from an authorized source, usually a member of Congress. Candidates do not need to know a member of Congress personally to request a nomination. Nominees must have an academic record of the requisite quality, college aptitude test scores above an established minimum, and recommendations from teachers or school officials; they also must pass a medical examination. Appointments are made from the list of eligible nominees. Appointments to the Coast Guard Academy, however, are based strictly on merit and do not require a nomination.
ROTC programs train students in about 950 Army, 67 Navy and Marine Corps, and 1,000 Air Force units at participating colleges and universities. Trainees take 2 to 5 hours of military instruction a week, in addition to regular college courses. After graduation, they may serve as officers on active duty for a stipulated period. Some may serve their obligation in the Reserves or National Guard. In the last 2 years of a ROTC program, students receive a monthly allowance while attending school, and additional pay for summer training. ROTC scholarships for 2, 3, and 4 years are available on a competitive basis. All scholarships pay for tuition and have allowances for subsistence, textbooks, supplies, and other costs.
College graduates can earn a commission in the Armed Forces through OCS or OTS programs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard. These officers generally must serve their obligation on active duty. Those with training in certain health professions may qualify for direct appointment as officers. In the case of persons studying for the health professions, financial assistance and internship opportunities are available from the military in return for specified periods of military service. Prospective medical students can apply to the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, which offers free tuition in a program leading to a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. In return, graduates must serve for 7 years in either the military or the U.S. Public Health Service. Direct appointments also are available for those qualified to serve in other specialty areas, such as the judge advocate general (legal) or chaplain corps. Flight training is available to commissioned officers in each branch of the Armed Forces. In addition, the Army has a direct enlistment option to become a warrant officer aviator.
Each service has different criteria for promoting personnel. Generally, the first few promotions for both enlisted and officer personnel come easily; subsequent promotions are much more competitive. Criteria for promotion may include time in service and grade, job performance, a fitness report (supervisor's recommendation), and written examinations. People who are passed over for promotion several times generally must leave the military. Table 3 shows the officer, warrant officer, and enlisted ranks by service.
Table 3. Military rank and employment for active duty personnel, April 2001
Grade Rank and Title
Army Navy and Coast Guard Air Force Marine Corps Total DOD Employment
O-10 General Admiral General General 34
O-9 Lieutenant General Vice Admiral Lieutenant General Lieutenant General 118
O-8 Major General Rear Admiral Upper Major General Major General 282
O-7 Brigadier General Rear Admiral Lower Brigadier General Brigadier General 441
O-6 Colonel Captain Colonel Colonel 11,302
O-5 Lieutenant Colonel Commander Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel 27,543
O-4 Major Lieutenant Commander Major Major 43,151
O-3 Captain Lieutenant Captain Captain 65,917
O-2 1st Lieutenant Lieutenant (JG) 1st Lieutenant 1st Lieutenant 24,759
O-1 2nd Lieutenant Ensign 2nd Lieutenant 2nd Lieutenant 25,303
W-5 Chief Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer --- Chief Warrant Officer 476
W-4 Chief Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer --- Chief Warrant Officer 1,958
W-3 Chief Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer --- Chief Warrant Officer 3,837
W-2 Chief Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer --- Chief Warrant Officer 6,350
W-1 Warrant Officer Warrant Officer --- Warrant Officer 2,302
E-9 Sergeant Major Master Chief Chief Master Sergeant Sergeant Major 10,197
--- --- Petty Officer --- ---
E-8 1st Sergeant/Master Sergeant Sr. Chief Petty Officer Senior Master Sergeant Master Sergeant/1st Sergeant 25,399
E-7 Sergeant First Class Chief Petty Officer Master Sergeant Gunnery Sergeant 97,052
E-6 Staff Sergeant Petty Officer 1st Class Technical Sergeant Staff Sergeant 165,130
E-5 Sergeant Petty Officer 2nd Class Staff Sergeant Sergeant 231,750
E-4 Corporal/Specialist Petty Officer 3rd Class Senior Airman Corporal 247,691
E-3 Private First Class Seaman Airman 1st Class Lance Corporal 207,432
E-2 Private Seaman Apprentice Airman Private 1st Class 96,420
E-1 Private Seaman Recruit Airman Basic Private 60,228
Source: U.S. Department of Defense
Job OutlookOpportunities should be
good for qualified individuals in all branches of the Armed Forces through 2010.
Many military personnel retire with
a pension after 20 years of service, while they still are young enough to start
a new career. More than 365,000 enlisted personnel and officers must be recruited
each year to replace those who complete their commitment or retire. Since the
end of the draft in 1973, the military has met its personnel requirements with
volunteers. When the economy is good, it is more difficult for all the services
to meet their recruitment quotas, while it is much easier to do so during a
America's strategic position is stronger than it has been in decades. Despite reductions in personnel due to the decreasing threat from Eastern Europe and Russia, the number of active duty personnel is expected to remain roughly constant through 2010. The Armed Forces' current goal is to maintain a sufficient force to fight and win two major regional conflicts occurring at the same time. Political events, however, could cause these plans to change.
Educational requirements will continue to rise as military jobs become more technical and complex. High school graduates and applicants with a college background will be sought to fill the ranks of enlisted personnel, while virtually all officers will need at least a bachelor's degree and, in some cases, an advanced degree as well.
EarningsThe earnings structure for military personnel is shown in table 4. Most enlisted personnel started as recruits at Grade E-1 in 2009; however, those with special skills or above-average education started as high as Grade E-4. Most warrant officers started at Grade W-1 or W-2, depending upon their occupational and academic qualifications and the branch of service, but warrant officer is not an entry-level occupation and, consequently, these individuals all had previous military service. Most commissioned officers started at Grade O-1, while some with advanced education started as Grade O-2 and some highly trained officers—for example, physicians and Dentists—started as high as Grade O-3. Pay varies by total years of service as well as rank. Because it usually takes many years to reach the higher ranks, most personnel in higher ranks receive the higher pay rates awarded to those with many years of service.
Table 4. Military basic monthly pay by grade for active duty personnel, July 1, 2009
Years of service
Grade Less than 2 Over 4 Over 8 Over 12 Over 16 Over 20
O-10 $8,518.80 --- $9,156.90 $9,664.20 $10,356.00 $11,049.30
O-9 7,550.10 --- 8,114.10 8,451.60 9,156.90 9,664.20
O-8 6,838.20 $7,252.20 7,747.80 8,114.10 8,451.60 9,156.90
O-7 5,682.30 6,112.50 6,514.50 6,915.90 7,747.80 ---
O-6 4,211.40 --- 5,160.90 --- 6,005.40 6,617.40
O-5 3,368.70 4,280.40 --- 4,831.80 5,481.60 5,790.30
O-4 2,839.20 3,739.50 4,127.70 4,629.30 4,935.00 ---
O-3 2,638.20 3,489.30 3,839.70 4,189.80 --- ---
O-2 2,301.00 3,120.30 --- --- --- ---
O-1 1,997.70 --- --- --- --- ---
W-5 --- --- --- --- --- 4,640.70
W-4 2,688.00 3,056.70 3,336.30 3,614.10 3,892.50 4,168.20
W-3 2,443.20 2,684.10 2,919.00 3,184.80 3,420.30 3,669.90
W-2 2,139.60 2,391.00 2,649.90 2,851.50 3,058.20 3,280.80
W-1 1,782.60 2,214.60 2,419.20 2,626.80 2,835.90 3,018.60
E-9 --- --- --- 3,197.40 3,392.40 3,601.80
E-8 --- --- 2,622.00 2,768.40 2,945.10 3,138.00
E-7 1,831.20 2,149.80 2,362.20 2,512.80 2,666.10 2,817.90
E-6 1,575.00 1,891.80 2,097.30 2,248.80 2,379.60 ---
E-5 1,381.80 1,701.00 1,888.50 1,811.10 2,040.30 ---
E-4 1,288.80 1,576.20 --- --- --- ---
E-3 1,214.70 1,385.40 --- --- --- ---
E-2 1,169.10 --- --- --- --- ---
E-1 4mos+ 1,042.80 --- --- --- --- ---
E-1 <4mos 964.80 --- --- --- --- ---
In addition to basic pay, military personnel receive free room and board (or a tax-free housing and subsistence allowance), medical and dental care, a military clothing allowance, military supermarket and department store shopping privileges, 30 days of paid vacation a year (referred to as leave), and travel opportunities. In many duty stations, military personnel may receive a housing allowance that can be used for off-base housing. This allowance can be substantial, but varies greatly by rank and duty station. For example, in July 2009, the housing allowance for an E-4 with dependents was $562.90 per month; for a comparable individual without dependents, it was $523.40. The allowance for an O-4 with dependents was $881.70 per month; for a person without dependents, it was $866.50. Other allowances are paid for foreign duty, hazardous duty, submarine and flight duty, and employment as a medical officer. Athletic and other facilities— such as gymnasiums, tennis courts, golf courses, bowling centers, libraries, and movie theaters—are available on many military installations. Military personnel are eligible for retirement benefits after 20 years of service.
The Veterans Administration (VA) provides numerous benefits to those who have served at least 2 years in the Armed Forces. Veterans are eligible for free care in VA hospitals for all service-related disabilities, regardless of time served; those with other medical problems are eligible for free VA care if they are unable to pay the cost of hospitalization elsewhere. Admission to a VA medical center depends on the availability of beds, however. Veterans also are eligible for certain loans, including home loans. Veterans, regardless of health, can convert a military life insurance policy to an individual policy with any participating company in the veteran's State of residence. In addition, job counseling, testing, and placement services are available.
Veterans who participate in the New Montgomery GI Bill Program receive educational benefits. Under this program, Armed Forces personnel may elect to deduct up to $100 a month from their pay during the first 12 months of active duty, putting this money toward their future education. Veterans who serve on active duty for more than 2 years, or 2 years active duty plus 4 years in the Selected Reserve, will receive $728 a month in basic benefits for 36 months. Those who enlist and serve for 2 years will receive $629 a month for 36 months. In addition, each service provides its own additional contributions for future education. This sum becomes the service member's educational fund. Upon separation from active duty, the fund can be used to finance educational costs at any VA-approved institution. VA-approved schools include many vocational, correspondence, certification, business, technical, and flight training schools; community and junior colleges; and colleges and universities.
Related OccupationsContact the U.S. DoD for additional job opportunities.
Each of the military services publishes handbooks, fact sheets, and pamphlets describing entrance requirements, training and advancement opportunities, and other aspects of military careers. These publications are widely available at all recruiting stations, at most State employment service offices, and in high schools, colleges, and public libraries. Information on educational and other veterans’ benefits is available from VA offices located throughout the country. In addition, the Defense Manpower Data Center, an agency of the Department of Defense, publishes Military Career Guide Online, a compendium of military occupational, training, and career information designed for use by students and jobseekers. This information is available on the Internet: http://www.todaysmilitary.com.
Sources of Additional Information
Each of the military services publishes handbooks, fact sheets, and pamphlets describing entrance requirements, training and advancement opportunities, and other aspects of military careers. These publications are widely available at all recruiting stations, at most State employment service offices, and in high schools, colleges, and public libraries. Information on educational and other veterans’ benefits is available from VA offices located throughout the country.
In addition, the Defense Manpower Data Center, an agency of the Department of Defense, publishes Military Career Guide Online, a compendium of military occupational, training, and career information designed for use by students and jobseekers. This information is available on the Internet: http://www.todaysmilitary.com.