Military Careers

What They Do About this section

military careers image
Some members of the military are deployed to other countries or regions to defend U.S. national interests.

Members of the U.S. military service train for and perform a variety of tasks in order to maintain the U.S. national defense. Servicemembers work in occupations specific to the military, such as fighter pilots or infantrymen. Many other members work in occupations that are equivalent to civilian occupations, such as nurses, doctors, and lawyers. Members serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or in the Reserve components of these branches, and in the Air National Guard and Army National Guard. (The Coast Guard, which is included in this profile, is part of the Department of Homeland Security.)

Duties

The military distinguishes between enlisted and officer careers. Enlisted personnel make up about 83 percent of the Armed Forces and carry out military operations. The remaining 17 percent are officers—leaders of the military who manage both activities and enlisted personnel.

Enlisted personnel typically do the following:

  • Participate in, or support, combat and other military operations, such as humanitarian or disaster relief
  • Operate, maintain, and repair equipment
  • Perform technical and support activities
  • Supervise junior enlisted personnel

Officers typically do the following:

  • Plan, organize, and lead troops and activities in military operations
  • Manage enlisted personnel
  • Operate and command aircraft, ships, or armored vehicles
  • Provide military personnel with professional services in medical, legal, engineering, and other fields

Types of Enlisted Personnel

The following are examples of types of occupations for enlisted personnel:

Administrative personnel maintain data and files on personnel, equipment, funds, and other military-related activities. They work in a support area, such as finance, accounting, legal affairs, maintenance, supply, or transportation.

Combat specialty personnel train and work as members of combat units, such as the infantry, artillery, or Special Forces. For example, infantry specialists conduct ground combat operations; armored vehicle specialists operate battle tanks; and seamanship specialists maintain ships. Combat specialty personnel may maneuver against enemy forces and positions and fire artillery, guns, mortars, or missiles to destroy those positions. They may also operate various types of combat vehicles, such as amphibious assault vehicles, tanks, or small boats. Members of elite Special Operations teams are trained to perform specialized missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.

Construction personnel in the military build or repair buildings, airfields, bridges, and other structures. They also may operate heavy equipment, such as bulldozers or cranes. They work with engineers and other building specialists as part of military construction teams. Some construction personnel specialize in areas such as plumbing, electrical wiring, or water purification.

Electronic and electrical equipment repair personnel maintain and repair electronic equipment used by the military. Repairers specialize in an area, such as aircraft electrical systems, computers, optical equipment, communications, or weapons systems. For example, weapons electronic maintenance technicians maintain and repair electronic components and systems that help locate targets and help aim and fire weapons.

Engineering, science, and technical personnel perform a variety of tasks, such as operating technical equipment, solving problems, and collecting and interpreting information. They typically perform technical tasks in information technology, environmental health and safety, or intelligence:

  • Environmental health and safety specialists inspect military facilities and food supplies to ensure that they are safe for use.
  • Information technology specialists manage and maintain computer and network systems.
  • Intelligence specialists gather information and prepare reports for military planning and operations.

Healthcare personnel provide medical services to military personnel and their family members. They may work as part of a patient-service team with doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals. Some specialize in providing emergency medical treatment in combat or remote areas. Others specialize in laboratory testing of tissue and blood samples; maintaining pharmacy supplies or patients’ records; assisting with dental procedures; operating diagnostic tools, such as x-ray and ultrasound machines; or other healthcare tasks.

Human resources development personnel recruit qualified people into the military, place them in suitable occupations, and provide training programs: 

  • Personnel specialists maintain information about military personnel and their training, job assignments, promotions, and health.
  • Recruiting specialists provide information about military careers; explain pay, benefits, and service life; and recruit individuals into the military.
  • Training specialists and instructors teach military personnel how to perform their jobs.

Machine operator and production personnel operate industrial equipment and machinery to fabricate and repair parts for a variety of equipment and structures. They may operate engines, nuclear reactors, or water pumps, usually performing a specific job. Welders and metalworkers, for example, work with various types of metals to repair or form the structural parts of ships, buildings, or other equipment. Survival equipment specialists inspect, maintain, and repair survival equipment, such as parachutes and aircraft life support equipment.

Media and public affairs personnel prepare and present information about military activities to the military and the public. They take photographs, make video programs, present news and music programs, or conduct interviews.

Protective service personnel enforce military laws and regulations and provide emergency responses to disasters:

  • Firefighters prevent and extinguish fires in buildings, on aircraft, and aboard ships.
  • Military police responsibilities include controlling traffic, preventing crime, and responding to emergencies.
  • Other law enforcement and security specialists investigate crimes committed on military property and guard inmates in military correctional facilities.

Support service personnel provide services that support the morale and well-being of military personnel and their families:

  • Food service specialists prepare food in dining halls, hospitals, and ships.
  • Religious program specialists assist chaplains with religious services, religious education programs, and related administrative duties.

Transportation and material-handling personnel transport military personnel and cargo. Most personnel within this occupational group are classified according to the mode of transportation, such as aircraft, motor vehicle, or ship:

  • Aircrew members operate equipment on aircraft.
  • Cargo specialists load and unload military supplies, using forklifts and cranes.
  • Quartermasters and boat operators navigate and pilot many types of small watercraft, including tugboats, gunboats, and barges.
  • Vehicle drivers operate various military vehicles, including fuel or water tank trucks.

Vehicle and machinery mechanical personnel conduct preventive and corrective maintenance on aircraft, automotive and heavy equipment, and powerhouse station equipment. These workers typically specialize by the type of equipment that they maintain:

  • Aircraft mechanics inspect and service various types of aircraft.
  • Automotive and heavy equipment mechanics maintain and repair vehicles, such as Humvees, trucks, tanks, and other combat vehicles. They also repair bulldozers and other construction equipment.
  • Heating and cooling mechanics install and repair air-conditioning, refrigeration, and heating equipment.
  • Marine engine mechanics repair and maintain engines on ships, boats, and other watercraft.
  • Powerhouse mechanics install, maintain, and repair electrical and mechanical equipment in power-generating stations.

Table 1. Active Duty Enlisted personnel by broad occupational group and branch of military, and Coast Guard, June 2013

Enlisted

Army

Air Force

Coast Guard

Marine Corps

Navy

Total enlisted personnel in each occupational group

Occupational Group

Administrative occupations

6,042

14,946

1,546

12,268

19,147

53,949

Combat Specialty occupations

122,254

581

636

43,707

8,219

175,397

Construction occupations

18,144

5,647

6,102

4,410

34,303

Electronic and Electrical Equipment Repair occupations

35,203

32,359

4,633

17,561

46,387

136,143

Engineering, Science, and Technical occupations

44,873

49,557

1,272

28,472

38,923

163,097

Health Care occupations

32,199

16,638

730

26,253

75,820

Human Resource Development occupations
 

16,608

8,292

1

2,284

3,956

31,141

Machine Operator and Production occupations

4,615

6,609

1,886

2,711

8,353

24,174

Media and Public Affairs occupations

7,643

6,870

141

2,561

1,882

19,097

Protective Service occupations

25,167

35,695

2,828

6,359

11,378

81,427

Support Service occupations

11,086

5,744

1,239

2,441

7,901

28,411

Transportation and Material Handling occupations

53,833

31,935

10,284

24,396

37,246

157,694

Vehicle and Machinery Mechanic occupations

49,237

44,634

5,641

21,806

46,551

167,869

Non-occupation or unspecified coded personnel

2,984

4,722

1,531

2,100

2,966

14,303

Total enlisted personnel for each military branch and Coast Guard

429,888

264,229

32,368

172,768

263,572

1,162,825

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center

Types of Officers

The following are examples of types of officers:

Combat specialty officers plan and direct military operations, oversee combat activities, and serve as combat leaders. They may be in charge of tanks and other armored assault vehicles, artillery systems, special operations, or infantry units. This group also includes naval surface warfare and submarine warfare officers, combat pilots, and aircrews.

Engineering, science, and technical officers’ responsibilities depend on their area of expertise. They work in scientific and professional occupations, such as atmospheric scientists, meteorologists, physical scientists, biological scientists, social scientists, attorneys, and other types of scientists or professionals. For example, meteorologists in the military may study the weather to assist in planning flight paths for aircraft.

Executive, administrative, and managerial officers manage administrative functions in the Armed Forces, such as human resources management, training, personnel, information, police, or other support services. Officers who oversee military bands are included in this category.

Healthcare officers provide medical services to military personnel in order to maintain or improve their health and physical readiness. Officers such as physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and dentists examine, diagnose, and treat patients. Other healthcare officers provide therapy, rehabilitative treatment, and additional healthcare for patients:

  • Dentists treat diseases, disorders, and injuries of the mouth.
  • Nurses provide and coordinate patient care in military hospitals and clinics.
  • Optometrists treat vision problems and prescribe glasses, contact lenses, or medications.
  • Pharmacists purchase, store, and dispense drugs and medicines.
  • Physical and occupational therapists plan and administer therapy to help patients adjust to injuries, regain independence, and return to work.
  • Physicians, surgeons, and physician assistants furnish the majority of medical services to the military and their families.
  • Psychologists provide mental healthcare and also may conduct research on behavior and emotions.

For more information, see the profiles on dentists, occupational therapists, optometrists, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physical therapists, physician assistants, physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and psychologists.

Human resource development officers manage recruitment, placement, and training programs in the military:

  • Personnel managers direct and oversee military personnel functions, such as job assignments, staff promotions, and career counseling.
  • Recruiting managers direct and oversee recruiting personnel and recruiting activities.
  • Training and education directors identify training needs and develop and manage educational programs.

Media and public affairs officers oversee the development, production, and presentation of information or events for the military and the public. They may produce and direct videos and television and radio broadcasts that are used for training, news, and entertainment. Some plan, develop, and direct the activities of military bands. Public affairs officers respond to public inquiries about military activities and prepare news releases.

Protective service officers are responsible for the safety and protection of individuals and property on military bases and vessels. Emergency management officers plan and prepare for all types of disasters. They develop warning, evacuation, and response procedures in the event of a disaster. Law enforcement and security officers enforce all applicable laws on military bases and oversee investigations of crimes.

Support services officers manage military activities in key functional areas, such as logistics, transportation, and supply. They may oversee the transportation and distribution of materials by ground vehicles, aircraft, or ships. They also direct food service facilities and other support activities. Purchasing and contracting managers negotiate and monitor contracts for the purchase of equipment, supplies, and services that the military buys from private industry.

Transportation officers manage and perform activities related to the safe transport of military personnel and equipment by air and water. They operate and command an aircraft or a ship:

  • Navigators use radar, radio, and other navigation equipment to determine their position and plan their route of travel.
  • Pilots in the military fly various types of military airplanes and helicopters to carry troops and equipment.
  • Ships’ engineers direct engineering departments, including engine operations, maintenance, and power generation, aboard ships.

Table 2. Active Duty Officer personnel by broad occupational group and branch of military, (excluding Coast Guard), June 2013

Officer

Army

Air Force

Coast Guard

Marine Corps

Navy

Total officer personnel in each occupational group

Occupational Group

Combat Specialty occupations

23,312

3,870

4,649

5,845

37,676

Engineering, Science, and Technical occupations

25,343

16,238

4,375

9,720

55,676

Executive, Administrative, and Managerial occupations

14,716

7,275

3,025

6,942

31,958

Health Care occupations

12,192

9,286

 

6,382

27,860

Human Resource Development occupations
 

3,172

1,940

271

3,189

8,572

Media and Public Affairs occupations

388

327

206

256

1,177

Protective Service occupations

3,145

1,146

414

991

5,696

Support Service occupations

1,782

716

41

939

3,478

Transportation occupations

13,055

19,782

6,484

11,025

50,346

Non-occupation or unspecified coded personnel

2,686

4,523

2,575

8,967

18,751

Total officer personnel for each military branch and Coast Guard

99,791

65,103

8,659

22,040

54,256

249,849

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center

 

Work Environment About this section

military careers image
New enlisted members of the Armed Forces undergo initial-entry training, better known as basic training or boot camp.

In June 2013, more than 2.7 million people served in the Armed Forces. More than 1.4 million were on active duty, including about 529,679 in the Army, 329,332 in the Air Force, 317,828 in the Navy, and 194,808 in the Marines. In addition, about 1.3 million people served in the Reserve components of the branches and in the Air National Guard and Army National Guard, and about 41,027 people served in the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The specific work environments and conditions for military occupations depend on occupational specialty, unit, branch of service, and other factors. Most active-duty military personnel live and work on or near military bases and facilities throughout the United States and the world. These bases and facilities usually offer comfortable housing and amenities, such as stores and recreation centers. Service members move regularly for training or job assignments, with most rotations lasting 2 to 4 years. Some are deployed internationally to defend national interests.

Military members must be physically fit, mentally stable, and ready to participate in or support combat missions that may be difficult and dangerous and involve long periods of time away from family; however, some personnel are rarely deployed near combat areas.

Table 3 shows officers, warrant officers, and enlisted ranks by grade and branch of service who served on active duty in June 2013.

Table 3. Military rank and employment for Activity Duty Personnel, June 2013

Grade

Army

Navy

Air Force

Marine Corps

Coast Guard

Active Duty Personnel (including Coast Guard)

Commissioned Officers:

O-10

General

Admiral

General

General

Admiral

36

O-9

Lieutenant General

Vice Admiral

Lieutenant General

Lieutenant General

Vice Admiral

165

O-8

Major General

Rear Admiral (Upper Half)

Major General

Major General

Rear Admiral (Upper Half)

328

O-7

Brigadier General

Rear Admiral (Lower Half)

Brigadier General

Brigadier General

Rear Admiral (Lower Half)

450

O-6

Colonel

Captain

Colonel

Colonel

Captain

12,478

O-5

Lieutenant Colonel

Commander

Lieutenant Colonel

Lieutenant Colonel

Commander

29,939

O-4

Major

Lieutenant Commander

Major

Major

Lieutenant Commander

47,788

O-3

Captain

Lieutenant

Captain

Captain

Lieutenant

80,808

O-2

1st Lieutenant

Lieutenant Junior Grade

1st Lieutenant

1st Lieutenant

Lieutenant Junior Grade

32,238

O-1

2nd Lieutenant

Ensign

2nd Lieutenant

2nd Lieutenant

Ensign

24,439

Warrant Officers:

W-5

Chief Warrant Officer 5

Chief Warrant Officer 5

Chief Warrant Officer 5

 

844

W-4

Chief Warrant Officer 4

Chief Warrant Officer 4

Chief Warrant Officer 4

Chief Warrant Officer 4

3,494

W-3

Chief Warrant Officer 3

Chief Warrant Officer 3

Chief Warrant Officer 3

Chief Warrant Officer 3

5,660

W-2

Chief Warrant Officer 2

Chief Warrant Officer 2

Chief Warrant Officer 2

Chief Warrant Officer 2

8,778

W-1

Warrant Officer 1

 

Warrant Officer 1

 

2,404

Enlisted Personnel:

E-9

Sergeant Major

Master Chief Petty Officer

Chief Master Sergeant

Sergeant Major/Master Gunnery Sergeant

Master Chief Petty Officer

10,780

E-8

First Sergeant/Master Sergeant

Senior Chief Petty Officer

Senior Master Sergeant

First Sergeant/Master Sergeant

Senior Chief Petty Officer

28,417

E-7

Sergeant First Class

Chief Petty Officer

Master Sergeant

Gunnery Sergeant

Chief Petty Officer

99,368

E-6

Staff Sergeant

Petty Officer First Class

Technical Sergeant

Staff Sergeant

Petty Officer First Class

176,817

E-5

Sergeant

Petty Officer Second Class

Staff Sergeant

Sergeant

Petty Officer Second Class

245,938

E-4

Corporal/Specialist

Petty Officer Third Class

Senior Airman

Corporal

Petty Officer Third Class

280,501

E-3

Private First Class

Seaman

Airman First Class

Lance Corporal

Seaman

205,967

E-2

Private

Seaman Apprentice

Airman

Private First Class

Seaman Apprentice

66,987

E-1

Private

Seaman Recruit

Airman Basic

Private

Seaman Recruit

48,050

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center

Injuries

Members of the military are often placed in dangerous situations with the risk of serious injury or death. Members deployed to combat zones or those who work in dangerous areas, such as the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, face a higher rate of injury and death.

Work Schedules

In many circumstances, military personnel work standard full time. However, hours vary significantly, depending on occupational specialty, rank, branch of service, and the needs of the military. In all cases, personnel must be prepared to work long hours to fulfill missions.

How to Become a Member of the Armed Forces About this section

Military careers
Educational requirements will continue to rise as military jobs become more technical and complex.

To join the military, applicants must meet age, education, aptitude, physical, and character requirements. These requirements vary by branch of service and for officers and enlisted members. Members are assigned an occupational specialty based on their aptitude, former training, and the needs of their branch of service. All service members must sign a contract and commit to a minimum term of service.

Those considering joining the military should learn as much as they can about military life before making a decision. Potential applicants should speak to people with military experience and weigh the pros and cons of a career in the military.

Applicants should talk to a recruiter, who can determine whether they qualify for enlistment or as an officer, explain the various enlistment options, and describe the military occupational specialties.

Prospective recruits who wish to enlist must take a placement exam called the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which is used to determine an applicant’s suitability for military occupational specialties.

The recruiter can schedule applicants to take the ASVAB without any obligation to join. Many high schools offer the exam as a way for students to explore the possibility of a military career. Selection for a certain job specialty is based on ASVAB test results, whether the candidate possesses the physical requirements for the job, and the needs of the service.

Applicants who decide to join the military must pass the physical examination before signing an enlistment contract. Negotiating the contract involves choosing, qualifying for, and agreeing on a number of enlistment options, such as the length of active-duty or reserve-duty time, job training, and bonuses. Most active-duty programs have first-term enlistments of 4 years, although there are some 2-, 3-, and 6-year programs.

All branches of the Armed Services offer a delayed-entry program allowing candidates to postpone entry to active duty for up to 14 months after enlisting. High school students can enlist during their senior year and enter service after graduation. Others may select this kind of program because the job training they desire will be available within the coming year or because they need time to arrange their personal affairs.

To become an officer, candidates typically need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, be a U.S. citizen, pass a background check, and meet physical and age requirements. Candidates for officer positions do not need to take the ASVAB. Some enter officer candidacy by completing a degree and training through the federal service academies (Military, Naval, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine) or the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs offered at many colleges and universities.

Education

All branches of the Armed Forces require their members to be high school graduates or have equivalent credentials, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. Officers usually need a bachelor’s degree. Some officers entering the service may need to have education beyond the bachelor’s degree. For example, officers entering as military lawyers need a law degree.

Those who want to become an officer have several routes, including the aforementioned federal service academies, (Military, Naval, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine); the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs, Officer Candidate School (OCS), and other programs.

Important Qualities

Mental preparedness. Members of the Armed Forces must be mentally stable and able to handle stressful situations that can occur during military operations.

Physical fitness. Military members must be physically fit to participate in or support combat missions that may be difficult or dangerous.

Readiness. Members of the Armed Forces must be ready and able to report for military assignments on short notice.

Entry requirements for each service vary, but certain qualifications for enlistment are common to all branches. The following are typical enlistment requirements:

  • Minimum of 17 years of age
  • U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status
  • Pass a background investigation
  • Never convicted of a felony
  • Able to pass a drug test

Applicants who are 17 years old must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian before entering the military. To enter service in the Army, the maximum age is 41; for the Navy, 34; for the Marine Corps, 29; and for the Air Force and Coast Guard, 27. Each branch may have different maximum age requirements for entry into active-duty service. All applicants must meet certain minimum physical standards for height, weight, vision, and overall health. Officers must be U.S. citizens. Officers and some enlisted members must be able to pass a security clearance.

Women are eligible to enter most military specialties; for example, they may become mechanics, missile maintenance technicians, heavy-equipment operators, and fighter pilots, or they may enter into medical care, administrative support, and intelligence specialties. Generally, women are excluded only from occupations involving direct exposure to combat. However, all services have plans to integrate and open these occupations to women in the near future.

Training

Training for enlisted personnel. Newly enlisted members of the Armed Forces undergo initial-entry training, better known as basic training or boot camp. Basic training includes courses in military skills and protocols and typically lasts 8 to 13 weeks, including a week of orientation and introduction to military life. Basic training also includes weapons training, team building, and rigorous physical exercise designed to improve strength and endurance.

Following basic training, military members attend additional training at technical schools that prepare them for a particular military occupational specialty. This formal training period generally lasts from 10 to 20 weeks. Training for certain occupations—nuclear power plant operator, for example—may take as long as a year. In addition to getting classroom instructions, military members receive on-the-job training at their first duty assignment.

Training for warrant officers. Warrant officers are technical and tactical experts in a specific area; for example, Army aviators make up one group of warrant officers. About 1 percent of all military personnel are warrant officers. All services except the U.S. Air Force have warrant officer programs. Selection to attend Warrant Officer Candidate School is highly competitive and is restricted to those who meet rank and length-of-service requirements. Courses typically include additional leadership and management training. Depending on the branch of service, training may last several weeks. The only exception is the selection process for Army aviator warrant officer, which has no requirement of previous military service.

Training for officers. Officer training in the Armed Forces is provided through the federal service academies (Military, Naval, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine); the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program; Officer Candidate School (OCS) or Officer Training School (OTS); the National Guard (State Officer Candidate School programs); and the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.

Candidates interested in the federal service academies must be unmarried and without dependents, while those seeking training through OCS, OTS, or ROTC may be married.

The federal service academies provide a 4-year academic program leading to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Midshipmen and cadets receive free room and board, free tuition, free medical and dental care, and a monthly allowance. Graduates receive regular or reserve commissions and have a 5-year active-duty obligation, which may be longer if they are entering flight training.

Candidates for appointment as a cadet or midshipman in one of the service academies must be nominated by an authorized source, usually a member of Congress. However, they do not need to know the member of Congress personally in order to request a nomination. In addition, nominees must submit their academic record, college aptitude test scores, and recommendations from teachers or other school officials. They also must pass a medical examination. Academies make appointments from the list of eligible nominees. Appointments to the Coast Guard Academy, however, are based on merit and do not require a nomination.

Participants in ROTC programs take regular college courses along with 3 to 5 hours of military instruction per week. After graduation, they may serve as officers on active duty for a specific period. Some may serve their obligation in the Reserves or National Guard. In the last 2 years of an ROTC program, students typically receive a monthly allowance while attending school, as well as additional pay for summer training. ROTC scholarships for 2, 3, and 4 years of school are available on a competitive basis. All scholarships pay for tuition and have allowances for textbooks, supplies, and other costs.

College graduates can earn a commission in the Armed Forces through OCS or OTS training programs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard. These programs consist of several weeks of intensive academic, physical, and leadership training. Those who complete the programs as officers generally must serve their obligation on active duty.

Personnel with training in certain health occupations may qualify for direct appointment as officers. For those studying 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 a salary and 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’s Corps for those in the legal field or the Chaplain Corps for those in religious ministry. Flight training is available to commissioned officers in each branch of the Armed Forces. In addition, the Army has a direct enlistment option for those who wish to become a warrant officer aviator. All prospective officers who enter the service through a direct appointment attend several weeks of military-related training that typically includes military orientation, academic, and officer leadership and tactics courses. Depending on the branch of service, this program usually lasts a few months.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Depending on the occupational specialty, members of the military may need to have and maintain civilian licenses or certifications. For example, officers serving as lawyers, also known as Judge Advocates, may need to have and maintain their state bar licenses to enter and remain in the U.S. military. Air traffic controllers, dental assistants, medical laboratory technicians, and many others also need to have civilian occupation equivalent licenses or certifications.

Advancement

Each branch of the military has different criteria for determining the promotion of personnel. Criteria for promotion may include time in service and in grade, job performance, a fitness report, and passing scores on written exams. Enlisted personnel can be promoted to higher ranks, which may include serving in a supervisory position and being in charge of junior enlisted members.

Each military service may have other advancement opportunities for its enlisted personnel. For example, enlisted personnel may become warrant officers if they complete a bachelor’s degree, have several years of experience in higher enlisted positions, and meet age and physical requirements. The Army offers a direct enlistment option to become a warrant officer aviator.

Pay About this section

Basic pay is based on rank and time in service. The pay structure for military personnel is shown in Table 4. Pay bands are the same for all branches of service. Members of the Armed Forces may receive additional pay based on their job assignment or qualifications. For example, they receive additional pay for foreign, hazardous, submarine, or flight duty, or for being medical or dental officers. Retirement pay is generally available after 20 years of service.

Table 4. Monthly Pay by Military Rank, January 2013

Pay Grade

2 or less

Over 2

Over 3

Over 4

Over 6

Over 8

Over 10

Over 12

Over 14

Over 16

Over 20

O-10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$15,913.20

O-9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13,917.60

O-8

$9,847.80

$10,170.30

$10,384.50

$10,444.20

$10,711.50

$11,157.60

$11,261.40

$11,685.00

$11,806.50

$12,171.60

13,187.10

O-7

8,182.50

8,562.90

8,738.70

8,878.50

9,131.70

9,381.90

9,671.10

9,959.40

10,248.60

11,157.60

11,924.70

O-6

6,064.80

6,663.00

7,100.10

7,100.10

7,127.10

7,432.80

7,473.00

7,473.00

7,897.80

8,648.70

9,529.80

O-5

5,055.90

5,695.50

6,089.70

6,164.10

6,410.10

6,557.10

6,880.80

7,118.40

7,425.30

7,895.10

8,338.80

O-4

4,362.30

5,049.90

5,386.80

5,461.80

5,774.70

6,109.80

6,527.70

6,852.90

7,078.80

7,208.70

7,283.70

O-3

3,835.50

4,347.90

4,692.90

5,116.50

5,361.60

5,630.70

5,804.70

6,090.60

6,240.00

6,240.00

6,240.00

O-2

3,314.10

3,774.30

4,347.00

4,493.70

4,586.40

4,586.40

4,586.40

4,586.40

4,586.40

4,586.40

4,586.40

O-1

2,876.40

2,994.00

3,619.20

3,619.20

3,619.20

3,619.20

3,619.20

3,619.20

3,619.20

3,619.20

3,619.20

W-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7,047.90

W-4

3,963.90

4,263.90

4,386.00

4,506.60

4,713.90

4,919.10

5,126.70

5,439.60

5,713.50

5,974.20

6,395.40

W-3

3,619.50

3,770.40

3,925.20

3,975.90

4,138.20

4,457.10

4,789.20

4,945.50

5,126.40

5,313.00

5,874.30

W-2

3,202.80

3,505.80

3,599.40

3,663.30

3,871.20

4,194.00

4,353.90

4,511.40

4,704.00

4,854.30

5,153.70

W-1

2,811.60

3,114.00

3,195.30

3,367.50

3,570.90

3,870.60

4,010.40

4,205.70

4,398.30

4,549.80

4,858.20

E-9

 

 

 

 

 

 

4,788.90

4,897.50

5,034.30

5,194.80

5,617.50

E-8

 

 

 

 

 

3,920.10

4,093.50

4,200.90

4,329.60

4,469.10

4,847.70

E-7

2,725.20

2,974.50

3,088.20

3,239.10

3,357.00

3,559.20

3,673.20

3,875.70

4,043.70

4,158.60

4,328.40

E-6

2,357.10

2,593.80

2,708.10

2,819.40

2,935.50

3,196.50

3,298.50

3,495.30

3,555.60

3,599.70

3,650.70

E-5

2,159.40

2,304.30

2,415.90

2,529.90

2,707.50

2,893.50

3,045.60

3,064.20

3,064.20

3,064.20

3,064.20

E-4

1,979.70

2,081.10

2,193.90

2,304.90

2,403.30

2,403.30

2,403.30

2,403.30

2,403.30

2,403.30

2,403.30

E-3

1,787.40

1,899.90

2,014.80

2,014.80

2,014.80

2,014.80

2,014.80

2,014.80

2,014.80

2,014.80

2,014.80

E-2

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

1,699.80

E-1

1,516.20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Finance and Accounting Services

In addition to receiving basic pay, members of the military are housed free of charge on base or receive a housing allowance.

Members who serve for a certain number of years may receive additional benefits. These benefits may include educational benefits through the Montgomery GI Bill, which pays for a portion of educational costs at accredited institutions; medical care at military or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals; and guaranteed home loans.

Job Outlook About this section

The United States spends a significant amount of its overall budget on national defense. The total number of active-duty and reserve personnel serving in the Armed Forces is expected to remain roughly the same through 2022. The drawdown from recent conflicts is expected to result in some reductions of active-duty personnel.

In addition, the current goal of the Armed Forces is to maintain a force sufficient to deter, fight, and overcome various threats or conflicts in multiple regions at the same time. Emerging conflicts and threatening global events, however, could lead to a significant restructuring and a demand for an increase in force, resulting in the need for military personnel. In response to this contingency, the nation is expected to maintain adequate personnel in the Reserve, National Guard, and Air National Guard.

Job Prospects

Opportunities should be good for qualified individuals in all branches of the Armed Forces through 2022. All services have needs to fill entry-level and professional positions as members of the Armed Forces move up through the ranks, leave the service, or retire.

About 155,000 personnel 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 thriving and civilian employment opportunities generally are more favorable, it is more difficult for the military to meet its recruitment quotas. It is also more difficult to meet these goals during times of war, when recruitment goals typically rise. During economic downturns, candidates for military service may face competition.

Similar Occupations About this section

The military employs people in numerous occupational specialties, many of which are similar to civilian occupations. To match military occupations with similar civilian occupations, O*Net OnLine offers the Military Crosswalk Search tool.

Contacts for More Information About this section

Each of the military services publishes handbooks, fact sheets, and pamphlets describing its entrance requirements, its training opportunities, and other aspects of military careers. These publications are available at all recruiting stations; at most state employment service offices; and in high schools, colleges, and public libraries. 

For more information on the individual services, visit

U.S. Air Force

Air National Guard

U.S. Army

Army National Guard

U.S. Coast Guard

U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Navy

In addition, the Defense Manpower Data Center, an agency of the Department of Defense, maintains the website providing information and resource for parents, educators, and young adults curious about joining military service. To see the information, visit

Today’s Military

For more information about military testing, visit

ASVAB

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Military Careers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/military/military-careers.htm (visited October 30, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014