Veterans in the Labor Market

Published on Nov 11, 2021

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Clare Coffey

Veterans in the Labor Market

Veteran’s Day: it’s a time to honor the courage, dedication, and sacrifice of those who have served our country in the armed forces. Here at Emsi Burning Glass, it’s also a time to look at the status of veterans in the labor market. We pulled data from our social profiles in order to understand what types of work veterans tend to do, what specific occupations they tend to gravitate towards, what skills they utilize, and which companies they work for.  


How We Studied Veterans’ Outcomes

Before we dive into the findings, let’s spend a little time on the data itself. Around 7% of all Americans are veterans. In the Emsi Burning Glass dataset of 70.8 million career profiles, 3% (2 million) list a military job. We treat a listed military job as a proxy for veteran status, although it shouldn’t be considered as a one to one correspondence. The Department of Veteran Affairs defines “veteran” as a member of the armed forces who saw active duty and whose discharge was other than dishonorable

Some 588,000 profiles listed both a military job and a subsequent non-military job. It’s these profiles that can give us insight into veteran outcomes after they leave the military. 


Veterans Enter Both Technical and Management Roles

So, when veterans leave the military, where exactly do they end up?

Given the range of experience military service confers, it’s not surprising that we see veterans in career areas defined by both technical and human skills. Career areas are broad domains of expertise that can encompass several different occupations. For veterans in a post-military job, the most common career area is Business Management and Operations, with 160,000 profiles, followed by information technology, with 150,000 profiles. But Sales, third at 130,000 profiles, is perhaps no more surprising than Operations or IT: it’s a role that requires both tolerance for pressure and a keen eye for sizing up situations and people.

Within these career areas, the skills veterans are putting to work are similarly diverse. Project Management, Crisis Management, Business Analysis, and Sales are all among the top skills for different career areas. And it’s worth noting that several in-demand digital skills appear: Java, SQL, Python, and Software Engineering.


A Bachelor’s Degree Makes a Big Difference for Veterans

Looking at career areas gives us a broad picture of the fields veterans tend to gravitate towards. But as we discussed above, a career area can include a wide range of occupations with quite disparate pay and working conditions. To get a sharper picture of the status quo for veterans, we need to dig into occupations. 

When we do, it becomes apparent that a bachelor’s degree makes a world of difference in outcomes. 

Veterans who graduated from college tend to land high-paying roles. The top occupation is Software Developer, with 5% of all college-educated veterans’ profiles. Business Analyst and Project Manager come in second and third place respectively.

Veterans without a college degree, on the other end, end up in lower-paying occupations. Retail store manager appears in 5% of the all sub-bachelor’s degree veteran profiles, as does Computer Support Specialist and Security Officer.

While veterans with degrees are analyzing and managing entire companies, those without are managing individual stores. The distinction appears equally sharp when we look at top employers. 

While veterans with bachelor’s degrees are utilizing their military experience into jobs at major aerospace and defense firms like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, those without are working at Walmart, the VA, and Home Depot. 

Insofar as the GI bill has enabled many veterans to pursue higher education, the labor market outcomes of veterans with degrees is a testament to the continuing role of the military as a driver of social mobility and stability. Veterans’ benefits have long been established as a ladder for those who might not otherwise be able to attend a four-year college.


Happy Veteran’s Day from Emsi Burning Glass, and thank you for your service.