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7 extreme civilian jobs custom-made for vets

Transitioning to a civilian career doesn't have to be boring. Here are 7 ways to join the civilian workforce while preserving the adrenaline rush that made the military rewarding (and, dare we say, fun):


1. Wilderness guides

Photo: Wikipedia/Josh Lewis

Wilderness guides help campers, hunters, and adventurers navigate the backcountry safely while teaching them survival techniques. Vets who excelled in survival training and loved patrolling through the woods will excel here. Most guides hold a certificate or degree that can be paid for with the G.I. Bill, but a degree isn't required. Avg. Salary: $42,000

2. Firefighting

Photo: US Department of Agriculture Lance Cheung

Vets who want to keep working in small teams under challenging conditions might enjoy firefighting. Candidates need to maintain their fitness and can get a toehold by volunteering for a fire company, getting a fire science degree, or preferably both. And you can really ramp up the energy as a smoke jumper. These elite firefighters parachute ahead of  the path of a wildfire, laying down the first line of defense against it spreading. Avg. Salary: $39,000

3. Diver

Diving demands attention to detail and the ability to work under pressure, especially when something goes wrong. All diving work includes the inherent danger of working underwater, of course, but those who want to up the ante can work in shark tanks, underwater caves, or even nuclear reactors. Avg. Salary: $41,000

4. Law enforcement

Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation – SWAT Team

There are many parallels between the military and law enforcement. Both require teamwork.  Both wear uniforms.  Both demand comfort around weapons. And both require a lot of discipline. Many police departments (like Oakland PD, for instance) have programs to recruit veterans. Also, vets can collect the G.I. Bill at many police academies on top of their academy pay from the police department. Avg. Salary: $41,000

5. Pilot

Photo: Wikipedia/FreebirdBiker

It may not be as exciting as carrier operations, but civilian pilots are needed to fly everything from jetliners to air ambulances to news choppers. Military pilots with lots of flight hours and a good safety record can easily transition to a civilian career. Those without any experience will need to stop off at a civilian flight school first -- an expensive and time-consuming proposition, but ultimately worth the effort for those who want to take to the skies.  Avg. Salary: $61,000

6. Helicopter lineman

Vets who loved hanging out of helicopters while on active duty might be interested in working for utility repair companies that need people to work on remote high-voltage power lines. Aerial lineman walk along the wires or ride in a hovering helicopter. Many companies require that applicants have lineman experience before working in the air, so vets entering the field will likely start in a ground position before moving up to helo ops. Avg. Salary: $56,000

7. Videographer or photographer

Photo: flickr/Christian Frei Switzerland

Media agencies need footage and pictures from extreme weather events, war zones, and disaster areas. Media specialists and combat camera vets are ready-on-arrival for these sorts of assignments. And like the military, the job requires a lot of travel and can be dangerous. Avg. Salary: $52,000