It’s obvious.  A quick scan of the job posts requiring a security clearance proves that employers increasingly value veterans.  But when it comes to your own financial interests, consider the areas of expertise that currently come with the highest salaries:

IT Program Management

The reason these jobs commonly offer six figure incomes  is because program managers are required to have both IT skills as well as prior experience managing teams.  Program managers in technology are required to have an understanding of coding, design, development and other IT specialties.  They also need to demonstrate their ability to manage the team’s operation and performance, work within prescribed budgets and meet deadlines.  In the defense industry, a program manager sometimes serves as the company’s representative when dealing with military customers, so good communication skills are critical.  Military backgrounds with command experience and technical expertise are tailor made for IT program management careers.

Cloud Computing

Over the next few years, cloud computing is expected to grow to a more than $120 billion market.  A solution to silo legacy systems, cloud computing is fast becoming the preferred IT solution for the Department of Defense and also defense contractors in the aerospace business.  Cleared job seekers with cloud computing experience will have continued opportunities for jobs with great pay, as these sectors lean further toward cloud security and a more enterprise-wide approach to managing information systems.  Cleared cloud experts earn an average of above $100,000.

Ruby on Rails

If you have web design skills and you’ve added Ruby on Rails development to your list of credentials, you have the potential to earn a salary of $120,000.  This is true on both the east and west coast.  Ruby on Rails is a full stack framework covering both front and back end design.  Because it is built on a more object-oriented language, Ruby on Rails developers provide organizations with the ability to build highly complex websites or apps that require databases.  Defense contractors requiring cleared web developers frequently list Ruby on Rails experience in the job description, along with PHP, JavaScript and other technologies.

Big Data

Big Data is now big business, to the tune of a projected market growth of $17 billion by 2015.  In every sector, including small businesses, big data is coming into play.  This is also true of the security and intelligence realms, where big data is continually being redefined.  Job listings for big data experts include data scientists, data analytics or predictive analytics experts.  Currently, the defense sector is increasing its investment in processing, exploiting and disseminating data, and there’s an exponential need to make use of the vast networks that provide intelligence and information.  We’re talking everything from satellite images to text files.  According to a CNN report in May, big data hiring has grown by almost 50 percent in the last two years.  Senior data scientists and data analysts earn salaries averaging six figures.


The little trademark penguin was born in 1991.  Many versions later, Linux is still a preferred IT skill no matter the emergence of new technologies.  Currently, the driver is the increasing need for cloud and big data solutions.  Linux system administrators work in a multi-task environment that can range from installing, configuring and maintaining systems, to networking, system backup and restoration and software packaging and deployment.  In the defense industry as elsewhere, Linux pros with four to five years of experience can earn up to 100,000 a year, about double the rate of other tech professionals.

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Tranette Ledford is a writer and owner of Ledford, LLC, which provides writing, editorial and public relations consulting for defense, military and private sector businesses. You can contact her at: