High-Paying Jobs for Veterans without a College Degree


October 15, 2023

7Minute Read

Military veterans possess a unique and invaluable asset: their real-world military experience. While it’s no secret that transitioning from military service to civilian life can present its own set of challenges, one misconception looms large – the belief that a college degree is the key to unlocking high-paying careers. 

The truth is far more nuanced. Your journey from the military to a prosperous civilian career is paved not solely with diplomas but rather with the concrete skills, discipline, and resilience honed through years of service. The value of real-world military experience cannot be overstated, and in this blog post, we’ll explore how veterans can capitalize on their remarkable backgrounds to secure high-paying jobs without the traditional college degree route. We’ll debunk myths and uncover the wealth of jobs for veterans who have served our nation with honor and dedication.

Top High-Paying Jobs for Veterans


  1. IT Specialist

IT specialists, often referred to as IT support specialists or help desk technicians, provide technical support to organizations. They troubleshoot and resolve hardware and software issues, assist users with technical problems, and maintain computer systems.

  • Salary expectations: IT specialists earn a median annual salary of around $55,510.
  • Military experience benefit: veterans often have experience with complex technology systems and equipment, which can translate well into IT roles. Their ability to work under pressure and troubleshoot critical systems aligns with the demands of IT support. Additionally, veterans’ discipline and attention to detail can contribute to efficient problem-solving in this field.


  1. Data Engineer

Data Engineers are responsible for designing, constructing, installing, and maintaining data architecture, databases, and large-scale processing systems. They create the infrastructure that allows organizations to collect, store, and analyze vast amounts of data.

  • Salary Expectations: data engineers typically earn an annual median salary of approximately $92,270.
  • Military Experience Benefit: veterans often have experience handling and managing data in various contexts, including logistics and operations. Their understanding of data security, attention to detail, and disciplined approach can be invaluable in building robust data systems. Moreover, veterans’ ability to work as a team and adapt to evolving technology aligns well with the dynamic field of data engineering.


  1. Software Developer

Software Developers design, create, and maintain software applications and systems. They write code, test software, and collaborate with cross-functional teams to develop software solutions that meet specific user needs.

  • Salary Expectations: software developers typically earn a median annual salary of around $112,620.
  • Military Experience Benefit: veterans often excel in software development due to their problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and strong work ethic. Military training often involves exposure to various technical systems and languages, making veterans well-prepared to learn and adapt to new programming languages and technologies. Additionally, their experience with teamwork and project management can contribute to successful software development projects.


  1. Commercial Pilot

Commercial pilots are responsible for flying aircraft for various purposes, such as transporting passengers, cargo, or conducting aerial tours. They ensure the safety of passengers and cargo, perform pre-flight checks, navigate routes, and manage in-flight emergencies.

  • Salary expectations: commercial pilots can earn an annual median salary of around $121,430.
  • Military experience benefit: veterans often possess exceptional discipline, attention to detail, and the ability to remain calm in high-risk situations – qualities crucial for aviation safety. Their familiarity with structured protocols and regulations can also be a valuable asset in the aviation industry.


  1. Elevator Installer and Repairer

Elevator installers and repairers, often called elevator mechanics, install, maintain, and repair elevators, escalators, and similar equipment. They ensure that these systems operate safely and efficiently.

  • Salary expectations: elevator Installers and repairers typically earn an annual median salary of approximately $86,490.
  • Military experience benefit: veterans often possess a strong sense of safety awareness, precision, and discipline, which are essential in this field. Their experience with working on complex machinery and following technical manuals can be a valuable asset. Additionally, veterans’ ability to troubleshoot and perform well under pressure aligns with the demands of elevator installation and repair.


  1. Police and detective work

Police officers and detectives are responsible for maintaining public safety, enforcing laws, investigating crimes, and ensuring the security of communities. They work at various levels of law enforcement, including local, state, and federal agencies.

  • Salary expectations: salaries for police officers and detectives can vary widely depending on location and experience but typically range from $50,000 to over $100,000 per year.
  • Military experience benefit: veterans often have experience with security protocols, crisis management, and firearms training, making them well-suited for law enforcement roles. Their discipline, ability to work as a team, and capacity to handle high-stress situations are highly valuable in maintaining law and order, and they can contribute to successful careers in police and detective work.


  1. Executive Protection/Security Consultant

Executive Protection Specialists and Security Consultants provide security services to individuals, organizations, or high-profile clients. They assess security risks, develop security plans, and implement measures to protect their clients from threats.

  • Salary expectations: salaries for Executive Protection Specialists and Security Consultants can vary widely based on the client and the scope of services but often range from $50,000 to well over $100,000 per year.
  • Military experience benefit: veterans often have experience with security and risk assessment, which is highly valuable in this field. Their discipline, adaptability, and ability to think on their feet make them well-suited for providing security to high-profile clients. Additionally, their understanding of tactics and emergency response can be crucial in safeguarding clients and mitigating security threats.

Read more: How to Use Your Military Skills to Break into the Tech Industry


The Importance of Skill Development and Alternative Education for Veterans 

Traditional college programs might not always align with veteran career goals or time constraints. Skill development through vocational training, certifications, and apprenticeships offers several advantages:

  • Focused and targeted learning: alternative education programs often provide specific, job-oriented training, allowing veterans like you to acquire the skills they need for their desired career paths more efficiently.
  • Hands-on experience: many vocational and workforce programs emphasize practical experience, which can be particularly beneficial for veterans accustomed to real-world application of skills during their service.
  • Shorter time to employment: you can start your career sooner by opting for alternative education paths, which can be especially appealing if you have financial obligations or are eager to enter the workforce quickly.

Read more: Camo to Code: A Veteran’s Transition to Tech

Veterans Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC)

The VET TEC program, administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is a testament to the government’s commitment to helping veterans access job-related training. This program provides funding for you to pursue training in high-demand technology fields, such as computer programming, data engineering, and information technology (IT).

VET TEC offers a unique opportunity to gain the skills needed for high-paying careers without incurring the financial burden or time commitment associated with traditional education. Here are the details:

  1. Eligibility: if you’re eligible for the post-9/11 GI Bill and have at least one day of unexpired entitlement may qualify for VET TEC.
  2. Approved training providers: you can choose from a list of approved training providers offering courses in various technology-related fields.
  3. Monthly housing allowance: participants in VET TEC receive a monthly housing allowance, making it financially feasible to focus on their training.
  4. No impact on GI Bill benefits: rest assured, using VET TEC doesn’t reduce or impact your eligibility for other GI Bill programs.

Skill development through vocational training, workforce programs, tech bootcamps, certifications, and apprenticeships is a practical and accessible path to high-paying careers for veterans. The VET TEC program serves as the latest tool designed for your post-service success, offering financial support and the opportunity to transition seamlessly into the technology workforce, recognizing and valuing the unique skill set you bring to the table. It is a testament to the nation’s commitment to empowering veterans on their journey toward fulfilling and prosperous civilian careers.

Read more: Top Remote Tech Jobs for Veterans


In a society that puts college degrees on a pedestal, it’s important to remember there’s a multitude of opportunities available for veterans that don’t necessarily require a traditional degree. As you know, the journey from military service to civilian success isn’t easy or one-size-fits-all, so make sure to take the time to recognize and embrace the unique skills and experiences that make you a competitive candidate in the job market.

Alternative education, vocational training, certifications, and programs like VET TEC stand ready to support you on your path to success. These pathways offer focused, practical, and cost-effective ways to gain the skills needed for lucrative careers without the weight of student debt or the time commitment of a traditional degree.

To all our veterans: seize the opportunities that align with your goals and aspirations. Recognize that your military service has equipped you with a set of skills and qualities that are not only relevant but invaluable in today’s job market. Your journey doesn’t require conforming to traditional educational norms. Embrace your uniqueness, set your sights high, and embark on the path that leads to a fulfilling and prosperous civilian career. The world is waiting for the extraordinary contributions that only veterans like you can make.

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