10 Factors That Help Determine Your Salary After Service

10 Factors That Help Determine Your Salary After Service
Nora Carol Photography/Getty Images

By MOAA Staff


“How much salary can I expect to get in the corporate world?”


It’s a common question for servicemembers approaching the end of their time in uniform. Unfortunately, it’s not simple math – there’s no universal scale for converting a military specialty and status into an equivalent civilian position.


But there are ways to help transitioning servicemembers define their future salary. Check out some of them below, and don’t miss MOAA’s upcoming seminar on maximizing your overall compensation.


1. Where you move. Use a cost-of-living calculator (this one lives at Salary.com) to compare what you’ll earn, and what you’ll spend, in locations across the country.


2. Your competition. Are you one of a few people after the position, or one of dozens? The more qualified applicants there are, the worse it is for you. You lose your leverage as the company has more choices and doesn’t have to meet your requirements.


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3. Small or big pond? You have to decide if your future is with a small or large company. Larger firms may pay better, but start-up companies could rival those salaries as they secure key talent as part of planned growth. Nonprofits, like associations, aren’t known for their top-market salaries.


4. Supervisor-leadership role. Are you applying to be the boss, or to be a team member? As you know from your time in uniform, supervisory responsibilities are an additional challenge – one that will greatly influence salary.


[RELATED: Timeless Transition Tips: 5 Ways to Master Your Career Path]


5. Pulling back on the throttle ... You may have burned the candle at both ends during your military career. Now that you are getting out, de-stressing has appeal. Maybe you want to find that work-life balance you’ve heard so much about, but taking on less responsibility will decrease your salary potential.


6. ... or putting the pedal to the metal. Unlike the person in the previous example, you may have decided to prioritize professional success (or a high salary) after service. This means you will be seeking positions with the greatest responsibilities, the best opportunities for career development and upward mobility. You’ll command better pay if you meet these position qualifications, though you’ll likely face longer hours and less down time.


7. The free spirit. You’ve spent part of your life dedicated to the country. You could look for work in something you know, where you have experience and training, or you could go way outside the box – a career connected to a hobby, for example, or a long-dreamed small business. There is no set salary for many of these positions.


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8. Life as a rookie. Despite your training and experience in uniform, you are still “the new guy” in the eyes of future employers and hiring managers. They don’t know you at all; while your skills may stand out, you still represent a risk to the company.


9. The greater good. You may decide to forego a higher salary to continue to serve a section of society – in a state or local government position, for instance, or by working with a nonprofit or charity. The opportunity to help others isn’t always rewarded with a high salary.


10. Family matters. You’ve spent your time in the military at the beck and call of your country. When it mattered, service came first. Now, consider your spouse’s needs, and those of your children and extended family. Sometimes the best situation for them prioritizes stability over salary.


It’s clear there is no short answer to the salary question. Need more data? The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a breakdown for hundreds of occupations in hundreds of locations.  See if you can find where you fit.


A version of this article was originally published in 2012.


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