30 jobs in the military you may not know about
About 1.3 million Americans serve active duty in the United States Armed Forces, with another 800,000 serving in the Reserves.
The five branches of the military—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard—are massive, sprawling, global, and not known for taking kindly to loafing. With almost no exceptions, everyone in the service is expected to have a job. Many jobs, such as helicopter pilots and soldiers in the infantry, involve combat operations. A lot of other jobs, however, look just like the careers you find in the civilian world. In order to function, the military needs ultrasound technicians, mail clerks, barbers, IT professionals, construction workers, health inspectors, and truck drivers.
Some jobs are available only to officers, who tend to have four-year degrees and serve in managerial positions, while others are open to enlisted personnel, who can join with just a high-school diploma, performing hands-on work. One thing all military jobs have in common, however, is that they're all essential to the mission of the military, and can all transfer to careers in the civilian world.
Officers from the Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force can pursue careers as biological scientists. These professionals work with living organisms, sometimes to develop medicines or treatments. What's military about that? These specialists develop biological weapons or antidotes to biological weapons that hostile nations or organizations might employ in an attack.
Music plays an important role in military life and history. Talented musicians don't have to give up their passion just because they enter the service. In fact, every branch except the Navy counts on military musicians to perform at concerts, parades, funerals, and official ceremonies.
Air traffic controller
Hundreds, if not thousands of military planes, helicopters, and other aircraft take off, fly, and land every day from bases, airfields, landing zones, and ships all over the world. The job of air traffic controller, which is open to enlisted personnel, requires extensive training and expertise. Air traffic controllers track aircraft by radar, issue instructions, direct traffic, and prevent accidents.
The military has its own justice system and its own courts. Court reporters work in those courts or military law offices assisting military judges and lawyers by recording legal proceedings, preparing documents, and performing research. Comprised of enlisted personnel from the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, court reporters undergo classroom instruction in judicial processes, high-speed transcription, preparing legal documents, and legal terminology.
Equal opportunity representative and officer
As part of the military's human resources management and services division, equal opportunity representatives and officers are enlisted personnel from all five branches of the service. They are charged with ensuring compliance with all laws, regulations, policies, and codes pertaining to nondiscrimination and equality in opportunity.
Qualified officers in all five branches of the service can pursue careers as life scientists. The work entails the study of living organisms, often in the pursuit of treatments and preventions for illnesses and infections. Although no initial job training is provided, some specialties require advanced course instruction.
Earth drillers work on construction, building, and extraction teams—usually outdoors, and often in harsh terrains with challenging climates. Both classroom instruction and hands-on training are required for the job. Those who choose this path will contribute to the hundreds of major construction projects the military takes on every year, including the building of airfields, structures, dams, and roads.
Cyber network defender
Enlisted personnel from all five branches serve as cyber network defenders. It's an important job that deals with communication and data security, as well as incident response, infrastructure support, and auditing. Applicants must complete basic training and advanced cyber training while meeting all the requirements needed to attain a top secret/sensitive compartmented information (TS/SCI) security clearance.
Military kitchens serve up more than a million meals every day. That makes chefs and head cooks, who are drawn from the pool of enlisted personnel across all five branches, some of the most important troops in the service. Since they literally have to feed an army, they receive extensive training through both advanced courses and on-the-job instruction.
All new military recruits receive training and education for their individual jobs and specialties to begin their careers in the service. All five branches, therefore, require educators to teach those classes, workshops, training programs, and vocational tutorials. Military teachers receive training in areas like lesson-planning, communication, and methods of instruction.
Military social workers are critical to the physical and mental health of personnel in the service. These service members—officers from either the Army, Navy, or Air Force—work to create healthy environments that seek to pre-empt negative elements like racism, sexism, toxic leadership, or substance abuse.
Telecommunications managers serve every branch except the Navy, and usually work in communication centers at stations or aboard ships. The job, which is reserved for officers, requires significant preparation: classroom instruction, on-the-job training, and advanced coursework. Their responsibility is hefty—to ensure and streamline communication across multiple systems and organizations based on the ground, sea, and air across every corner of the globe.
Software developers are officers selected from all five military branches. They develop, improve, and secure software programs for use in areas as diverse as payroll, personnel, intelligence analysis, and advanced weapons systems.
Computer programmers are enlisted personnel who come from all five branches of the service. They receive training both in the classroom and on the job in areas like network management, systems concepts, programming languages, planning, designing, and testing. They can work in offices, at computer sites, on bases, or aboard ships.
Marine architects are officers from all five branches who work under the umbrella of engineering and scientific research. No initial job training is provided, but these servicemen and women can work in offices or shipyards designing and improving ships, submarines, and other watercraft.
Statisticians are officers from all five branches of the military. They receive specialized training, depending on their field or area of expertise, for work in purchasing, analysis, decision-making, and production. Their overall task is to help the organization use its people and supplies in the most efficient way possible.
Military divers have exciting, challenging, and potentially dangerous jobs. Recruited from enlisted personnel, they work in every branch except, oddly enough, the Coast Guard. They work in the planning and preparation phases, as well as in the execution of tasks like underwater welding or recovery. Depending on their training, they may become SCUBA divers who work just below the surface, or deep-sea divers who spend long periods of time as far down as 300 feet.
Locksmith and safe repairer
The duties of the locksmith AAA sends to unlock your car are a bit different than locksmith and safe repairers who serve in the military. Enlisted personnel from all five branches, they work in repair shops both on land and aboard ships, and are charged with maintaining and repairing the Armed Forces' precision equipment. They receive significant technical training both in the field and in the classroom.
Military historians, which can work organizations like the Department of Defense, catalog and record a wide variety of information about people, events, machines, weapons, and tactics. Enlisted personnel can apply for this type of work, which requires training in maintaining databases, research, and corresponding in military style.
Branches of the military are large, global organizations comprised of vast numbers of people who are expected to move frequently, often with their families. Lodging managers are officers with the Navy, Marines, and Army who plan, coordinate, oversee, and execute the many moving parts that go into transferring personnel and civilians between bases and other installations.
Postmaster and mail superintendent
It's no secret that troops overseas live to receive mail from back home, but that's not the only reason all five branches employ postmasters and superintendents. The military is a sprawling, global organization that is only as good as its ability to ship, send, and receive communications and supplies. While this specific position is reserved for officers, enlisted personnel may choose to become mail clerks.
Military bases are tight-knit communities, and all five branches employ agricultural inspectors to monitor, choose, and inspect the products military communities eat every day. Since they work under the umbrella of environmental health and safety, agricultural inspectors receive training in fields like sanitation and disposal.
Military bases maintain their own fire departments, and the Air Force, Navy, and Army employ military firefighters, who are enlisted personnel, to prevent and put out fires on ships, buildings, and airfields. Military firefighters undergo similar training, and face similar risks as their civilian counterparts.
The military has its own justice system, and therefore maintains its own law enforcement services. Just like civilian police forces, all branches except the Marines employ enlisted personnel as police detectives who conduct investigations, solve crimes, charge suspects, assist in prosecutions, and testify in court.
The role of political scientist is reserved for officers in the Coast Guard and the Navy, and those who pursue this kind of work can expect to work in embassies or offices overseas. They gather, sort, and present information about the weaknesses, strengths, capabilities, and vulnerabilities of both friendly and antagonistic countries and organizations. Training length varies by specialty, but most political scientists will receive much of their training on the job.
Interpreter and translator
If you're good with languages and understand the nuances of different cultures, you might be interested in a career as a military interpreter and translator. All five branches employ these specialists, drawn from the pool of enlisted personnel. The length and intensity of language training depends on the applicant's previous level of fluency, and you can also expect supplementary training in areas like interrogation, report preparation, and the use and care of communication equipment.
Optometrists diagnose and treat eye disorders and vision problems, in many cases by prescribing corrective lenses. This specific medical specialty is open to enlisted personnel, but since servicemen and women and their families require the exact same medical care as civilians, all branches except the Coast Guard employ every kind of medical professional imaginable. There are military dermatologists, family practitioners, dentists, midwives, pathologists, and pediatricians, among many others.
Computer network architect
All five branches of the military employ computer network architects in their intelligence services. Open to enlisted personnel, the job entails planning, designing, and creating data communication networks for the organization. The job requires classroom training, technical expertise and—since it exists in the area of intelligence—some specialty and field training.