If you’re considering a transition from the military to the private sector, it pays to start planning well in advance. I sometimes start working with candidates two to three years before they plan to leave the service. This allows me to advise the candidates on which assignments to go for and which skills to pick up in order to make them the most marketable when they transition.

From what I have seen in recent years, there are two areas that are very much in demand. Candidates who can hone skills in these areas during their time in the service will do well in the private sector.

Programmable Logic Controller Technicians

Programmable Logic Controllers, or PLCs, are essentially industrial computers that control manufacturing processes. They are used in a wide range of industries, and manufacturing companies are in dire need of technicians that can install and service them.

PLC technicians are experienced in robotics, mechatronics, and human-machine interfaces, among other areas. The more exposure you can get to computing while in the service, the better positioned you will be in the private sector.

Lean Six Sigma

Another hot area in the private sector is Lean Six Sigma, which is a set of techniques for removing defects from processes. It focuses on achieving stable and predictable results each time you execute a process, and on getting the entire organization to work together to continuously improve outcomes.

While this may sound quite technical, it’s actually a methodology that is used throughout the military, although it may not go by that name. If you’ve worked in operations order or mission planning, you’re familiar with the basic tenets of Lean Six Sigma. Or if you’re in a tactical unit, tactical logistics work will prepare you well.

College Degrees

Finally, for all candidates I strongly recommend getting a college degree. Even if you haven’t completed the degree by the time you’re ready to transition, it will help to show that you are steadily pursuing it. A Bachelor’s degree can make the difference between getting a good job and getting an excellent job.

One candidate I worked with recently applied for a job in the $70,000 – $80,000 range, and was offered $110,000 because he had a Bachelor’s. The return on investment for this degree is immediate and high.

This is the fifth in a six-part series on transitioning from the military to the private sector. Check back in a few days for my final post on the types of technical jobs that are available for veterans.


This is the fifth article in a six-part series on transitioning from the military to the private sector. Follow the links below to the follow-up articles that delve more deeply into the transition process for veterans.

5 Reasons It Pays To Use A Military Recruiter

Expanding Your Horizons After the Military

Setting Realistic Salary Expectations After Leaving The Service

How to Structure a Post Military Resume