Salary Planning for Transitioning Military

Posted by Patra Frame

Civilian compensation is very different from military pay and benefits. Thus it is important that you learn what to expect in your chosen field. Many transitioning military assume civilian pay is always higher, but that day is long gone.

What do you want?

Your chosen field plays a big role in your pay. Those fields where there is high demand but limited supply generally pay well. The reverse is also true, which is why so many retail workers and security guards hold multiple jobs to support themselves.

Your personal interests and lifestyle play a role. One person might be very interested in earning big money, while another does not want the long hours or extensive travel that often accompanies such jobs.

Benefits, such as health care insurance, may be very important to you, or you may have it covered through a spouse and be less concerned.

Where you work and live also plays a role.

Salaries Vary Widely

There are a very wide range of salaries for almost any job. Typically, the same job can pay very differently depending on:

Type of organization, such as: major corporation or small local firm, government contractor, retail, non-profit, government agency, etc.<br>

Size of organization: generally small organizations pay less, large ones pay average rates.

Function within the organization: how important is the job to the organizations’ core business?

Location: Pay rates differ significantly across the USA and many jobs have noticeable pay differences depending on whether they are in a city proper, in inner or outer suburbs, rural areas, etc.

The state of the market: how many qualified people are there to fill jobs?

Which means you need to do your homework.

  • – How realistic are your expectations?
  • – What do your target type of organizations pay for this work?
  • – What options are most available to meet your desires?

Bottom line: you need to decide what total compensation you are seeking and how you will consider breaking that up among base salary, bonus, commission, overtime pay, benefits, and/or services.

Information Sources

And that all means you need to learn how to find pay and benefit information.

What are current salaries for the jobs which interest you? Remember, compare those for the same jobs at the specific type of organization which interests you and in your geographic area.

1.      Reach out and ask people you know well who are in the field for pay ranges, incentives, and other pay data that they might know.

2.      Research the salary information and pay ranges posted on jobs which interest you on job boards.

3.      Many professional organizations do salary surveys for their members. Check yours out. Or, if you are not a member, ask people in your field if they have access. Often these surveys also have some information on common benefits, so check for this too.

4.      When you are networking, ask these questions:
“What is the typical current pay range for X position?” and “What do you currently see happening to pay rates for Z?”

5.      Some larger employment agencies and job boards provide basic salary surveys for their core markets. While these are quite general, if you are working with someone in such a firm, they can tell you the local details.

Salary Data on the Web

There is plenty of pay data available on the web. Most of it is fairly general and often rather old. A lot of places use the same source, but brand it for their own use. Useful sources include:

  • – Bureau of Labor Statistics – great information by job on current wages by specific geographic areas. Benefits information studies are also available here.
  • – JobStar’s links to salary surveys.
  • – Commercial sites include,, and many others.

Be aware that these are rolling, large-scale averages of averages. When you put in a specific location, you get national average data multiplied by a standard factor for your location relative to the U.S. average.

Benefits Matter

Benefits are also quite variable. Few companies now offer pension plans although larger organizations usually offer some form of retirement savings plan and may match a portion of your contributions. Health care insurance is available in about half of all companies. What you will get and what you pay for it ranges very widely. Most mid-size and larger organizations offer paid vacation, sick leave, and holidays.

Many organizations showcase their benefits on their websites. You should look at these for all the organizations which interest you – and for others in these markets to develop a sense of what is common and what is not.

Bottom Line:

Learning about civilian pay takes some effort, but it will be well worth your time so you can negotiate a fair deal when you find the right job. And so you do not have unrealistic expectations when you are seeking work.

For More Information:

Read Job-Hunt’s Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz’s article, The Starting Salary Question. Also see Job-Hunt’s free eBook, Winning Negotiation Strategies for Your New Job by Barbara Safani plus Online Salary Surveys and Your New Job blog post.

ClearedJobs.Net HR Specialist Patra Frame

Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Specialist. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.


This entry was posted on Monday, April 02, 2012 7:44 am

2 thoughts on “Salary Planning for Transitioning Military”

  1. Hello,
    When I apply for a job and some times I can not find the company name or contact of a person to address my cover letter. How can I go about researching that to make my cover letter complete and presentable?

    Frank Nalu

    1. Two tips. First, don’t apply to ‘blind’ job adds- those without a company name. These ads are used by legitimate companies but also by agency recruiters who are just building their resume supply, by some collection agencies, and by a range of spammers. Second, if you do not have a contact name at a company: do some research online – look at their website, check out LinkedIn, and so on. Also visit the research librarian at your public library – they have a lot of good resources on company info. If nothing works, call the company and ask for the name of the person who runs the department you want to work in.

      And when you are job-hunting, you need to be working your network. Talk to people you know and learn about your target companies and ask them for contacts within each.

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