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The Department of Defense offers an incredible variety of roles, fulfilling both defense and peacetime services across the United States and internationally. Contrary to popular media depictions, there’s a whole lot more to being a part of this significant employer beyond early morning drills and driving tanks!
The US defense force is comprised of seven core forces:
- Marine Corps
- Air Force
- Space Force
- Coast Guard
- National Guard
Whether on base, land, at sea, or even in space – no two days are the same as you’ll use your training and skills to support communities in need and work to ensure a safe and secure home for all. There are opportunities to suit every lifestyle and skillset:
- In the Navy, you’ll be a member of a supportive community, traveling the world and exploring new cultures.
- In the Army, you’ll take part in exercises in Australia and overseas, preparing you for your role at the forefront of response.
- In the Air Force, you could work with cutting-edge aero technology, assisting with aeromedical evacuations anywhere in the world.
In the Department of Defense, you could assist with clerical administration to engineering, human resources to technology, or naval shipbuilding!
Roles span anything from temporary contract workers to traditional employee contracts and long-term organizational functions. Employees in defense careers are heavily supported to continue with their professional development following initial training. Many secure nationally recognized qualifications alongside working full-time, setting them up for ongoing success and professional growth.
As well as traditional careers in administration, combat, and intelligence, areas of need and potential skill shortages include:
- Engineering (for ships, submarines, and aircraft vehicles).
- Intelligence and Surveillance
- Information Technology and Cyber Security
- Technical Design and Construction
There’s lots of potential for growth and opportunity to build a long-term stable career. This includes paid degree pathway and early career entry through school-leaver and apprenticeship schemes.
Entry into the sector is as varied as the roles available, so no matter what academic pathway you choose to pursue, there’ll be an opportunity to get started with a career in the defense sector!
What You Could Do
Job roles in the defense sector sit under seven main areas:
- Marine Corps
- Air Force
- Space Force
- Coast Guard
- National Guard
Here’s a few examples of the types of roles you could pursue:
- Army Officer: With world-class training, unlock your leadership potential as a strong manager and decision-maker with a job as an Army Officer.
- Artillery Operator: Join the team that set up, aim and fire the Army’s formidable heavyweight artillery in a career full of camaraderie.
- Maritime Warfare Officer: Take responsibility for the control, navigation, systems, and maritime safety of an advanced Navy vessel, assuming responsibility for the ship during each watch you keep.
- Electronics Technician: Work at the leading edge of technology, maintaining advanced missile systems, navigation equipment, radar, surveillance equipment, communication networks, and more.
- Load Master: Take charge of aircraft cargo loading, weight distribution, monitoring, and the safe delivery by runway or parachute of equipment, supplies, fuel, vehicles, and personnel.
- Weapons Systems Operator: Operate some of the world’s most sophisticated airborne electronic and weapon systems, from a seat in one of the world’s fastest fighter aircraft, managing air combat or electronic warfare missions.
- Aeronautical Engineer: Maintain and manage aircraft structures, propulsion systems, ancillary equipment, and related ground support systems, working at the leading edge of aircraft technology.
These job roles are just a taste of what’s on offer.
Each industry segment will also include administrative or managerial functions that support the sector in important ways.
Department of Defense Jobs:
- Project Manager: Planning and oversee projects within the department, from initial ideation through to completion. You’ll coordinate people and processes to deliver projects on time, within budget, and with the desired outcomes aligned to objectives.
- Information and Records Officer: Take responsibility for creating, storage, retrieval, and disposal of all recorded information about the department’s activities. Data can come in many formats, such as digital, photographic, film, or paper.
- Work Health and Safety Officer: Take responsibility for ensuring the safe and compliant operation of the department. You’ll implement defined Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) strategies that identify hazards, assess risks to health and safety, and use state-of-the-art tools and techniques to avoid accidents and injuries.
You can also get involved through Civilian Service. The Army offers abundant opportunities for challenging and rewarding civilian employment in virtually all career fields and parts of the world. Whether you are a student, a recent graduate, a veteran, a current Federal employee, or a U.S. citizen without federal experience, the Army has a job for you.
Graduate Employment and Gender Split
Although a degree is not always essential for every career pathway in the defense industry, it’s worth knowing where a degree can take you within the industry.
You can complete a degree with majors in:
- Homeland Security
- Law Enforcement
- Criminal Justice
- International Law & Policy
The National Association of Colleges and Employers tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors.
Here’s a look at recent outcomes data for graduates:
- Homeland Security, Law Enforcement and Related Studies Graduates in full-time employment: 49.2%
- Homeland Security, Law Enforcement and Related Studies Graduates in employment overall: 78.5%
The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within.
Reports indicate that the average division is:
The Department of Defense regularly acknowledges that they need to do more work to improve this split and are continuously working to address the gender imbalance across their various industry sectors.
Salaries in the sector are competitive and range widely based on several factors.
The defense force also bands salaries, so employees receive increases based on years of service, rank, and professional qualifications.
- Army Officer: $60,000-$116,000
- Army Sargeant (Infantry): $27,000-$51,000
- Logistics Manager: $44,000-$102,000
- Human Resources Specialist: $26,000-$71,000
Salaries can be pretty varied and determined by several factors, including:
- The segment of the industry you work within.
- Your job title and seniority.
- The amount of experience you have.
- Any specialist qualifications.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth and outlook across the Department of Defense and various sub-sectors are strong and continue to grow to meet developments and changes across the globe.
The goal of the armed forces is to maintain a force sufficient to deter, fight, and overcome various threats or conflicts in multiple regions at the same time.
Current reports indicate that job opportunities are strong for qualified individuals across all branches of the armed forces between now and 2028.
All services have requirements to fill entry-level and professional positions as current employees move up through the ranks, leave the service, or retire.
Qualifications and Entry Pathways
You can enlist in the defense force from the age of 17 with your parent’s consent and from the age of 18 without your parent’s consent.
The Department of Defense focuses on several candidate attributes, not just academic qualifications, so it is possible to join at an entry-level for many roles within the army without a high school achievement – although this is preferred.
A degree is required for officer roles and more professional roles, including human resources, logistics, and engineering.
Where to Learn More
You can find out more about defense careers through their professional websites and career directories:
You can also find out more information about life and work in the defense forces through the following helpful resources: