When you’re transitioning from military service to the private sector, one of the first questions you’ll ask yourself is, “How much am I worth?” The answer is not always straightforward. A military recruiter can help you set realistic expectations for your private sector salary and negotiate with employers to make sure you get the best possible package.

Military Salaries Won’t Directly Translate to the Private Sector

Most veterans will see a jump in their pay when they leave the military. But remember, in the military you do not have to pay for housing, rations or health insurance. In the private sector, you will be responsible for some or all of those costs, so your income after expenses may be lower.

Of course, housing and other living expenses vary greatly by job location. A recruiter can help you put together estimates for these expenses and advise you on a reasonable salary bracket for the geography you are considering.

Look at the Total Package

In the private sector, your salary is only part of your total compensation. Your package may also include such benefits as 401-k contribution matching, a pension plan, relocation allowance, shift differential, or incentive bonuses. When you’re evaluating competing offers, a recruiter can help you compare the total value of different packages to help you make the best choice.

Many positions I place candidates into allow overtime work for 1.5x base pay. As a rule of thumb, where overtime is allowed, candidates can add up to 10% onto their base salary if they choose to work 5-10 extra hours a week.

Trust Data Over Anecdotes

Oftentimes candidates come to me with salary expectations based on what other veterans they know have been offered. Unfortunately, these anecdotes can prove to be unreliable indicators and can lead to unrealistic assumptions about future compensation. Remember, salary and compensation packages are complex and vary greatly by industry and geography.

At Lucas Group, we send candidates a yearly report with actual salaries veterans we’ve placed have been offered across roles and industries. When I meet with new candidates, I make sure they understand what their skill set is worth in the private sector, and make sure they are comfortable with the salary bracket for each position they apply for.


This is the third 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

How To Structure a Post-Military Resume

Most In-Demand Military Skills For The Private Sector