In August, we reported that the four best career fields for veterans to get into once out of the military were: Healthcare, Government Service, Defense Contracting, and Information Technology. A recent report identified comparisons for veterans versus non-veterans. Key areas that affect post-military service employment and lifestyle are income and unemployment, and those vary depending on your location in the United States.

Knowing your best career choices after service is important, but income differences depending on location are also important considerations too and should factor into selecting your post-military career.

Average Incomes for Veterans

In general as far as income, veterans fair better than their non-veteran counterparts: $65,696 versus $54,137, respectively. Comparing five 10-year age groups, starting with the 20s and ending with the 60+ group that factored into this area, the greatest income spread between the veteran/non-veteran groups is around $13,000 in the age 50 group. The least difference occurred in the age 20 and 60+ groups, where the spread between veterans and non-veterans is around $4,000.

Average Income by State

Where you live makes a difference too in the money you can make. Of the 50 states, the only one having wages for veterans are lower than for non-veterans is Kentucky – 3.9% less. At the other end of the scale, in Michigan for example, veterans earn on average 64.9% more than their non-veteran counterparts.

Four other top-paying states for veterans include:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Connecticut
  3. New Jersey
  4. Massachusetts

The five states with the lowest pay for veterans are:

  1. Arkansas
  2. West Virginia
  3. Wyoming
  4. Vermont
  5. South Carolina

Veteran Unemployment Rates

The pandemic of course has turned everything upside down in regard to employment/unemployment. Once over, things should return to a more normal pre-pandemic state. Using pre-pandemic numbers, in 2019 the unemployment rate for veterans was lower than for non-veterans in every state, with the exception of one – North Dakota. States with the lowest unemployment rate were:

  1. New Mexico
  2. Delaware
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Florida
  5. Louisiana

In comparison, these five states had the highest unemployment rate:

  1. Alaska
  2. Oregon
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Michigan
  5. Illinois

Gender Pay Gap

Unfortunately, there are still a significant pay differences based on gender for both veterans and non-veterans. In general, veteran females earn $16,000 less than their male counterparts compared with $18,000 less for non-veteran females.

Some of the states having the highest pay for veteran females include:

  1. Alaska
  2. Maryland
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Georgia
  5. Virginia

States with the lowest female pay are:

  1. Arizona
  2. West Virginia
  3. Arkansas
  4. Alabama
  5. South Carolina

Veteran Pay and Making a Career Choice

Overall, both veteran and non-veteran pay has been trending upward. But, the gap is widening with veteran pay outpacing the non-veterans. For example in 2000, veteran and non-veteran pay averaged $39,026 and $29,063, respectively for a difference of $9,963. By comparison, in 2019, the pay averages were $65,536 for veterans and $52,851 for non-veterans – a difference of $12,685.

When considering a post-military career choice, be sure to factor in how your location impacts your overall quality of life, and be sure you are not undervaluing yourself – a common problem for veterans entering into the civilian marketplace.


Related News

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.