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Military and civilian work: Comparing personnel shares by occupation field

| November 2018

In 2017, civilian workers outnumbered military personnel nearly 110 to 1. But what distinguished the groups even more was how differently people are distributed among occupations.

There were about 142.5 million U.S. civilians employed in 2017, compared with 1.3 million active-duty servicemembers in the U.S. Armed Forces. As the chart shows, military service was dominated by three fields: mechanical and repair; engineering, science, and technical; and transportation and material handling. Civilian employment, in contrast, was more heavily concentrated in support services, which includes food service, cleaning, and personal care occupations.

View Chart Data

Percent share of civilian employment and military personnel employment, by selected occupation field, 2017
Occupation Civilian employment Military personnel

Machine operator and production 

6 2

Support service (2)

33 2


4 2

Human resource development (1)

6 3

Executive, administrative, and managerial 

10 6

Protective service 

2 6


9 7

Transportation and material handling 

7 14

Engineering, science, and technical 

6 16

Mechanics and repairers

4 22

Note: Occupational field titles are from the Military Occupational Classification. Through a crosswalk, these titles are linked to civilian groups from the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. Data are for selected groups only; therefore, shares do not sum to 100 for either group.

(1) Civilian employment data include the education, training, and library SOC group.

(2) Civilian employment data include the community and social service, food preparation and serving, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, personal care and service, and office and administrative support SOC groups.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center (military personnel); and U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (civilian employment).

The chart data represent about 88 percent of civilian workers and 81 percent of military personnel. Totals do not sum to 100 because both groups omit some occupational fields. For example, combat specialty occupations, which accounted for about 14 percent of military work, are not included because there is no civilian equivalent. And the sales occupations group is among those with many civilian jobs but few military ones.

Veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce can use employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in making career decisions. For example, military air traffic controllers planning to transition into a civilian counterpart job may want to know that BLS projects this occupation to have about 2,400 openings each year, on average, through 2026.

The data in the chart are from the U.S. Department of Defense and BLS. Military occupational specialties are linked to civilian occupations using a crosswalk that matches Military Occupational Classification (MOC) codes to Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes.

For more information about hundreds of occupations, including what workers do, what they’re paid, what the job outlook is, and more, see the Occupational Outlook Handbook. For more information about transitioning from the military into civilian employment, visit My Next Move for Veterans.

About the Author

Stanislava Ilic-Godfrey and William Lawhorn are economists in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS: ilic-godfrey.stanislava@bls.gov and lawhorn.william@bls.gov.

Suggested citation:

Stanislava Ilic-Godfrey and William Lawhorn, "Military and civilian work: Comparing personnel shares by occupation field ," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2018.

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/careeroutlook Contact Career Outlook

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