Air Force Careers That Transfer to Civilian Life

Aug 11, 2017

There are a number of careers in the Air Force in a variety of different industries that would prepare an individual for a very similar career in the civilian world. Explore a few options in fields like automotive service, engineering and information security.

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Individuals in the Air Force have over 200 different jobs to choose from. While a lifelong career in the Air Force is certainly a possibility, some individuals may want to take the skills they learned as military members and find a job in the civilian world after their discharge. Luckily, having experience in the Air Force is helpful when job-seeking, since many Air Force jobs have a pretty similar civilian equivalent. We will look at a few of these jobs below.

Career Comparison

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)* Applicable Military Skills/Traits
Automotive Service Technician and Mechanic $38,470 5% Mechanical skills, physical strength, dexterity, troubleshooting skills
Emergency Management Director $70,500 6% Critical-thinking skills, leadership, decision making skills
Civil Engineer $83,540 8% Problem-solving skills, math skills, decision making skills, design skills
Information Security Analyst $92,600 18% Computer skills, analytical skills, detail-oriented nature
Financial Manager $121,750 7% Math skills, organizational skills, financial skills
Pilot $105,720 5% Quick reaction time, problem solving, communication

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Relevance to Military Background

Regardless of the job held in the Air Force, veterans likely will have developed a set of skills in the military that would be valuable in any civilian career, like leadership, collaboration, and problem-solving. Beyond that, because many Air Force careers are in specific industries, like engineering or business or computing, the relevance of the career depends on the nature of the industry. We will look at the six careers in the table in greater detail below to see how a career in the military can be relevant to joining the civilian workforce.

Automotive Service Technician and Mechanic

The Air Force has a large number of different types of motor vehicles, making it necessary to have a staff of trained automotive technicians and mechanics on hand. These professionals learn how to repair and maintain all sorts of vehicles, from dump trucks to cranes to typical cars. After a career in the Air Force, an individual could apply these skills to a job as an automotive service technician and mechanic. These technicians generally need to complete some sort of training program to find a job, and the training received in the Air Force may suffice.

Emergency Management Director

When a natural disaster strikes or there is a man-made chemical, nuclear, or biological disaster, the Air Force sends its Emergency Management Specialists as first responders. They develop plans for how to deal with all types of disasters and try to minimize casualties. After retiring from the Air Force, these professionals could likely seek employment as emergency management directors in the civilian world, who perform many of the same duties as specialists. Because most emergency management directors have a bachelor's degree, veterans may want to consider going back to school to obtain a degree if they didn't enter the Air Force after completing college. However, some management positions may be possible if you have extensive field experience, which many Air Force veterans will have.

Civil Engineer

Individuals who have obtained a bachelor's degree in a type of engineering can join the Air Force as officers and work as civil engineers. These professionals are responsible for making sure all the structures and buildings used by the Air Force are maintained and ready for possible combat. They also may draft and design new structures. Air Force veterans may seek a job as a civil engineer in the civilian world and perform many of the same duties they did in the Air Force. They may design bridges, buildings, and parking garages and can apply the skills and techniques they learned in the Air Force to their new career.

Information Security Analyst

Like any branch in the military, many Air Force operations and communications rely on computer software and systems. Because some of the information transmitted may be sensitive or secret, it is of utmost importance that these systems remain secure. Cyber Systems Operations Specialists make sure that computer systems are maintained, remain secure, and are protected against outside threats. An individual could take the skills they learned as a Cyber Systems Operations Specialist and become an information security analyst in the civilian world for a company or organization. They would perform many of the same tasks and duties, since private companies also want to ensure that their information remains secure. Information security analysts typically have a bachelor's degree, so it may be necessary to return to school, though having previous experience in related occupations is also highly valued.

Financial Manager

Like any large organization, money management is required in order for the Air Force to run properly and efficiently. Financial Management Officers are responsible for making sure the Air Force is in good financial health, has enough money to fund its expenses, and is being efficient in their use of money. This position requires a bachelor's degree in a finance or accounting-related field. After serving in the Air Force, an individual could take their degree and skills and apply them to a job as a financial manager for a public or private company or organization. They would be responsible for many of the same tasks, such as reviewing expenses, making sure the organization has enough money, and is being financially responsible. To secure a job as a financial manager, at least 5 years of work experience is generally necessary, which could be satisfied by the time spent in the Air Force.

Pilot

Not surprisingly, many Air Force members work with aircraft, and a good number of them are pilots. Pilots complete Air Force missions, both at home in the United States and all around the world. After a career as an Air Force pilot, a veteran could transition into a career as an airline pilot. To become an airline pilot, one typically must complete thousands of hours of flight time, so most pilots generally begin their careers as commercial pilots to obtain the required experience. However, pilots who have experience in the military are usually able to begin a career as an airline pilot immediately. Airline pilots fly large planes that carry passengers from one airport to another, both domestically and abroad.

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