For service members planning on transitioning out of the military within the next five years and are still unsure about what they will do after they get out, here are three career fields that are not only the fastest growing, but also the highest paying (at least out to 2023). If any of these three fields appeal to you, now would be a good time to use Tuition Assistance (if still in) or the Post 9/11 GI Bill (if already out) to begin training for any of these careers, so that you have a leg up on the education requirements. 

Physician Assistant (PA)/Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Both PAs and NPs work under the supervision of a medical doctor and do many of the same things as a licensed medical doctor. However, the scope of their work is dictated by each state and both PAs and NPs must be licensed in the state where they practice. 

NPs usually come up the nursing side of medicine while PAs do not. While many focus on primary care and family medicine, others specialize into different areas of medicine, like dermatology, emergency medicine, surgery, or psychiatry. As far as education, both PAs and NPs are required to have a master’s degree from an accredited PA or NP education program, along with a one to two-year postgraduate residency depending on the program. 

As the chart below indicates, the demand is projected to grow in this medical field from 16% to  25% in these states within the next five years.

Also as the chart shows, in nine out of the thirteen states listed (**), PAs and NPs earn at least double that State’s median salary. This makes for a comfortable standard of living if practicing in any of these nine states. Also worthy of noting that six of the thirteen states are located in the Midwest.   

State Median Salary Projected Growth Number of Jobs
Arizona $110,750 25% 839
Connecticut $118,020** 16% 376
Illinois (^) $108,260 17% 481
Indiana (^) $96,090 23% 325
Iowa (^) $110,550** 18% 191
Kentucky $91,010** 16% 169
Minnesota (^) $116,200** 20% 441
Ohio (^) $105,410** 17% 545
Pennsylvania $98,250** 17% 1,400
Texas $111,060** 25% 2,841
Virginia $99,340 19% 538
Washington $117,650** 22% 743
Wisconsin (^) $107,920** 17% 331

Physical Therapy

For those that would like to get into a more specialized area of healthcare, physical therapy is a good choice. Qualifications in this field include graduating from an approved program as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). Most programs are six to seven years long and graduates come out with a DPT and a bachelor’s degree. Other DPT programs are three years long, along with having a bachelor’s degree and the completion of certain science prerequisite courses before applying. This field is generally smaller than the PA or NP, but still very lucrative and needed as evidenced by the projected five-year growth.  

State Median Salary Projected Growth Number of Jobs
Arkansas $81,430 21% 432
Hawaii $90,540 12% 134
Nebraska (^) $80,130** 20% 308

Software Developer

This is by far one field that has the most demand; nineteen states have a projected growth between 14% to 29% out to 2023. It is also one of the best paying with eleven states reporting median salaries in this field that are at least double that State’s average salary. This makes it also a good field to get into that will give a family a good standard of living.

Most software developers have four-year computer science degrees and strong computer skills as developers create and design computer programs for businesses. Some have also completed specialized certifications in various disciplines.  

State Median Salary Projected Growth Number of Jobs
Alabama $96,400 17% 1,072
District of Columbia $112,510 26% 746
Kansas (^) $85,380** 19% 1,100
Louisiana $81,640** 29% 525
Maine $90,190 15% 272
Mississippi $85,470** 23% 254
Missouri (^) $93,880** 19% 2,800
Montana $87,120** 24% 241
Nevada $105,640** 25% 911
New Hampshire $110,740** 18% 1,078
New Mexico $108,080 21% 305
North Carolina $103,280** 19% 5,257
North Dakota (^) $80,620 17% 180
Rhode Island $96,850 14% 307
South Carolina $90,830** 26% 1,337
South Dakota (^) $75,000*** 19% 203
Tennessee $87,630** 24% 1,747
Vermont $97,720 19% 196
West Virginia $87,490** 22% 306

These three career fields are the hottest right now and the demand is projected to continue out to at least 2023.

If you want a challenging, but rewarding career helping people, either becoming a PA/NP or Physical Therapist are good choices. If you are more technology-oriented, then software development is a great choice. But because the education requirements in these fields takes between four to seven years to complete, now is the time to start training for your chosen career.


* Approximately $9,000 less than the State average.

** Twice (or more) than the state average.

*** 80% above the state average salary

(^) Located in the Midwest

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.