The 2024 Security Clearance Compensation Report looks at all the factors that drive compensation in national security. Veterans play a key role in the industry. Just as it’s important to recruit new service members, it’s also important to retain them in national security after they make the military transition.

Veteran Compensation

In 2023, only 50% of respondents identified as veterans, marking a 5% drop from previous years. Despite access to various resources, veterans still face significant hurdles advancing their careers in this field.  One of the most striking findings is the widening pay gap between veterans and nonveterans. Back in 2020, veterans earned about $2,000 less than their nonveteran peers. Fast forward to 2023, and this gap has ballooned to $8,000 in three short years.

While veterans reported $111,084 average total compensation, nonveteran security clearance holders reported $119, 006 average total compensation. Factors like degrees, certifications, location, and specific government agencies can make a huge difference in compensation. Veterans who strategically leverage these elements can narrow this pay disparity, but a lot goes into the why behind it that isn’t always captured.

Compensation by Military Branch

Looking at the data by military branch, Air Force veterans routinely report the highest average total compensation, coming in at $116,670 in the 2023 survey. Marine Corps veterans followed at $113,478, with Navy veterans at $110,793. On the lower end, Army and Coast Guard veterans earned $108,397 and $100,039, respectively. Skillsets gained while in uniform that are relevant to a job post transition are key in determining compensation numbers.

The Why Behind Job Satisfaction and Retention

A new aspect of the 2023 survey examined veterans’ transition to civilian jobs. A significant 43% of veterans felt their first civilian job didn’t meet their compensation expectations. Those who were satisfied earned about $20,000 more on average. The main reason for dissatisfaction? Low salary offers, according to 29% of respondents.

Retention is another major issue. About 66% of veterans left their first civilian job within two years, with 28% leaving in less than a year. This high turnover could suggest a disconnect between veterans’ expectations and the reality of their new roles. From aligning recruitment and retention strategies more effectively to enhancing military transition programs, we can do a lot to ensure veterans’ career aspirations are met. Supporting veterans adequately is crucial for both their success and the overall strength of the national security sector.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.