Study Shows Veterans Make More Money Than Non-Veterans

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The results are in. Veterans are outperforming civilians in terms of average wages earned!

According to a 10-year study by economics Dr. Francesco Renna and Dr. Amanda Weinstein of the University of Akron, Vets actually earn $26 per hour compared to a median hourly rate of $21 for non-Veterans. This may come as a surprise to some, but the data supports the conclusions.

The study, entitled “The veteran wage differential,” was published late last year, but its implications are just now making headlines. The delay could be due to limited access to the study, posted in Applied Economics (the article is $43 to download). But once the word got out, people started talking!

Why Veterans Earn More

“Many people are surprised when I show them that veterans tend to have higher wages than non-veterans,” Dr. Weinstein stated. As an Air Force Veteran herself, Weinstein had taken a strong interest in pursuing the topic for research, especially in light of the fact that so many Veterans struggle with finding employment immediately following their transition from service.

But as encouraging as the study’s findings are, how do the researchers account for the results? Actually, it should come as no surprise to anyone. There are many factors which impact the earnings of any given employee, including their education and other prior training, as well as work experience, obviously.

Most military members receive a fair amount of paid, career-specific training prior to starting work at their first duty location, along with supplementary training as they advance in rank. They may spend years or decades performing their duties (as well as building up an impressive list of ancillary duty skills). Older and wiser, they can command higher salaries after they get out.

Education Equals More Pay

Further, the military really pushes education, with most bases having an on-site education office dedicated to helping service members pursue their college goals, to include advanced degrees. This can be done often at no cost to the service member, through incentive benefits such as Tuition Assistance and the GI Bill (which many people don’t have to tap into until after they separate).

Not only is education highly encouraged (and even tied to promotion eligibility in some cases), but the institution of Higher Ed has a virtual love affair with military students, whose tuition payments are made straight from Uncle Sam! Indeed, to be viewed as a Military Friendly® School is an increasingly sought-after label. And service members can generally receive credits for their military basic and technical training, speeding up their path towards graduation.

Soft Skills

Hiring managers don’t discard soft skills, either. According to Omnia, top soft skills include: leadership skills, teamwork, communication, problem solving, work ethic, flexibility/adaptability and interpersonal skills. These are all traits the military fosters!

The military teaches “people skills,” such as conflict management and an understanding of diversity and justice. And as anyone who’s served can tell you, work ethic is grilled into your core, which is a trait most companies appreciate.

Still another factor is trustworthiness. Nearly everyone in the military has at least a Secret security clearance, meaning they’ve been vetted. And upon separation from Active Duty, Veterans receive a DD Form 214, showing the conditions of their discharge, which are usually honorable.




Leveraging Veteran Status

Most job seekers don’t submit their discharge paperwork as part of their applications, but sometimes they do, especially if there is a hiring preference given for Veterans and/or if it’s a federal job.

The military is an ad hoc pipeline for the federal workforce. Being a Vet is no guarantee of a job, but it can certainly increase one’s odd because the skills and experience may be more likely to match up. Not only that, but GS and other federal jobs do apply Veteran points… and GS jobs are often higher-paying than similar private positions.

Not Being “All You Can Be”

Interestingly, the research also noticed that Veterans aren’t even reaching their full earnings potential. Why not? Because they tend to avoid moving to the highest-paying areas. This is also not too surprising, given that most military installations are located outside of major cities. Many Vets buy homes in the area they served in and don’t want to leave, or they simply aren’t “city people.”

Another noted trend—Veterans shy away from some of the biggest-paying career choices, like real estate, insurance and finance. But again, that should not be a complete shock, considering most military career fields are unrelated to these areas. One would have to essentially forego their entire background and start from scratch, versus building upon a solid foundation they’d already established from their military job.


Veterans are known valuable assets to virtually any sector, as Dr. Weinstein stated.

“The men and women that I had the opportunity to serve in the military are highly skilled, dedicated and hard-working. They have a lot to offer the workforce and the data shows that.” — Dr. Amanda Weinstein

There are many federal and private resources designed specifically to assist these Vets as they transition into new careers. The biggest hurdle remains simply getting out the information to those it applies to, educating them on the value of the skills and traits they possess, helping them match with potential employers, finding and filling any skills gaps, then translating everything from military to civilian terminology during the application and interview phases.

When done right, we now have evidence that Veterans will have no trouble earning a great income!



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