By Amanda Miller
After a jet-setting military career, finding a place to land in the civilian world can be tough. Job prospects, lifestyle preferences, and geographic considerations might put you in places you wouldn't expect.
Former Air Force Capt. Art Locklear attended prep schools in New Mexico and Colorado before entering the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. He then served in Mississippi, New Jersey, and Texas and deployed to such places as Thumrait air base in Oman. Locklear left the military to be with his family and ultimately returned to his home state of North Carolina.
Locklear now works as a plan compliance consultant for TIAA, a retirement provider, in Charlotte, where he's been for 10 years. For Locklear, his wife, and their five children, Charlotte is an ideal area that provides the opportunity for an outdoor lifestyle.
Like Locklear, Jay Bolden served at several Air Force bases - from a Midwest recruiting assignment to bases in California and Florida, with stops in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, and Iraq before separating as a captain.
Now he's a communications lead for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The job opportunity drove his decision to move from the Space Coast to the Mile High City.
Here's a list of industries in cities where you might consider landing.
Denver is the nation's third-highest-paying metro for aerospace engineers, while nearby Boulder has the sixth-highest concentration. Businesses and universities throughout the region are investing in aerospace and space commerce, such as higher education facilities in lower downtown, or “LoDo,” and on Boulder's historic campus, plus Lockheed Martin's forthcoming Gateway Center for building satellites.
A real-time analysis by the Computing Technology Industry Association breaks down available cybersecurity jobs by metro area. Omaha - home to Offutt AFB, U.S. Strategic Command, and industry employers - could become the cyber-defense career destination that veers outside the D.C. beltway. Omaha's demand for cyber personnel rates very high, while its supply is considered very low. Metro Washington, D.C., still dominates job openings, with 44,592 to Omaha's 1,551.
A new training program has opened the door a little wider for officers to transition to the fastest-growing economy of any large metro in the Upper Midwest. Xcel Energy, with headquarters in Minneapolis, announced last year 15 percent of all new hires were veterans. Transitioning officers often join the company's Minnesota nuclear power plants via a training pipeline. A growing focus on renewables, such as construction of several wind energy farms in the region, adds to the company's appeal among recent veterans, says Lacey Golonka, consultant on veterans and diversity at Xcel and a sergeant first class in the Army National Guard.
FINANCE AND TECH
Charlotte is one of the biggest banking centers in the U.S. - behind only New York and San Francisco, according to The Charlotte Observer's annual analysis. The city is home to the TIAA offices, where Locklear landed after the Air Force. Bank of America's headquarters are there, too. Meanwhile, Charlotte is gaining ground as a technology hub, with the fastest tech job growth from 2014 to 2016, according to Forbes.
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma joined forces to form the Northwest Seaport Alliance in 2015, creating the nation's fourth-largest container “gateway” - conveniently within range of some of the military's best recreational facilities, such as the Navy's Jim Creek Recreation Area. Together with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the port authorities offer “expedited and preferential hiring” to veterans.
Amanda Miller is a freelance journalist based in Denver.