5 Unexpectedly High-Paying Jobs for Separating Veterans

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Victor F. Cano)

With the benefits and allowances that come with military service, some veterans will find it difficult to match their current lifestyle once they separate. This is especially true for one-term enlistees who will start from the bottom of the civilian world.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there for veterans to make good money as a civilian, even if they have to work their way up once more. With a little training or education, excellent salaries are out there for those who are looking.

Here are just a few that are well above the median national income of $31,133 as of May 2020.

1. Air Traffic Controllers

This is a job the military will pay you to learn and do, with all the certifications and education necessary to work the busiest airfields in the world. Even if this isn’t your military specialty, it’s a career field worth looking into, as the median salary is roughly $134,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Be advised, however, ATC is not a career for the faint of heart or for those who can’t work under pressure. Air traffic controllers earn every penny of that six-figure salary, but it’s a job you can get into with just an associate’s degree and the right certifications.

2. Civilian Engineers - Military Sealift Command

Engineers for the Military Sealift Command are civil service mariners. Like the name implies, they are responsible for maintaining and operating equipment aboard military and civilian ships, sometimes working alongside military personnel. They also are tasked with monitoring drydock workers and others who work on the ships.

The average annual salary for just a third assistant engineer working in the Military Sealift Command is $96,341. Applicants are required to be engineers, however. They also must have all the credentials of an international mariner, but Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine credentials are accepted.

3. High School Teachers

The days of the underpaid teacher quickly are becoming a thing of the past. Although the requirements for teaching at a high school level vary by state, as does the median salary by locality, the national median income for high school teachers was $62,870, as of May 2020.

Statewide average annual wages for high school teachers vary widely, with a gap of more than $40,000 between the highest- and lowest-paying states. The highest average salary can be found in Alaska; the lowest is in Oklahoma. All are well above the median national income.

4. Golf Ball Divers

Laugh all you want, these guys are laughing all the way to the bank. Every time someone shanks a golf ball into a water hazard, someone has to go fish it out -- and those fishermen are making a killing. Golfers lose an estimated 300 million balls per year, and a cadre of scuba-trained entrepreneurs built an industry around retrieving and recycling them.

Divers face all sorts of hazards in that line of work, even though many of those bodies of water are man-made. Gators, snakes and other dangerous animals still call them home. Those willing to hazard the hazards can make $50,000 to $100,000 every year.

5. Transmission Tower Climbers

Whether making repairs or just switching a light bulb, someone eventually has to climb those high towers that make our modern-day communications so much easier and faster. These skilled climbers have a dangerous job, but their risks are rewarded. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for one of these daredevils is more than $62,000.

The best news for this kind of work is that the basic entry requirement for the job is a high school diploma or equivalent. Most employers requiring the services of a climber will take the time to train their climbers in their roles.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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