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10 Best Degrees for Military Officers

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An officer in the armed forces is someone who holds authority over others. Entering as an enlisted member typically limits jobs, and entering as an officer opens up more job opportunities, as well as the ability to earn more in many fields. Officers must have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Even physicians with advanced degrees may enter as officers and work as doctors in hospitals on bases or battlefields. However, those who want to enter with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree have plenty of attractive opportunities. In addition to good pay, officers enjoy the excellent medical and other benefits that the military has to offer. These are some of the top career paths for officers this year.

1. Finance

This is an excellent degree path for someone who wants to earn a high salary in the military. Finance degrees teach students how to read and interpret financial statements, develop financial plans and develop other strategies. They learn how to use software and conduct calculations on their own, including important ratios. In civilian roles, they may advise individual clients or businesses. In military roles, graduates of finance degree programs handle important financial planning that keeps military branches operating efficiently with allocated funds. Also, they may help manage contracts and handle other tasks.

The good news about many finance-related careers in the military is that they only require a bachelor’s degree to enjoy opportunity for advancement and higher pay. The military teaches graduates how to apply their finance skills in the roles they fill. They typically work with high-level finance programs and must advise those who are in charge of making decisions with critical financial information. The pay varies but is usually attractive. For example, a military acquisitions and contracts manager earns about $107,000 annually. The role requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. Military accountants and auditors, who typically hold a master’s degree in accounting or finance, earn about $77,000 annually.

2. Strategic Intelligence

Strategic intelligence is a degree path that teaches students how organizations and governments collect, analyze and manage intelligence, which is valuable information. The information is typically about places, people and events. In the military, these types of information are valuable and critical for making decisions that can affect the safety and security of the country. In a strategic intelligence program, students learn how intelligence systems work, how to organize information and how to interpret it. They may work on military bases after graduation, or they may work on posts overseas. After leaving the military, there are also opportunities to work for national organizations.

A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for some jobs in the military or with national intelligence organizations. However, there are also master’s degree programs. A degree program prepares the student for a critical role that includes analyzing and interpreting information. It also prepares the individual to identify and report threats. People who are good at solving problems, have an exemplary attention to detail and can work well under pressure are good candidates for this career path. The average military intelligence analyst salary is $76,741 per year.

3. Business Administration

Business administration encompasses a wide range of duties, including management of business operations, research, supply chain management, financial tasks and much more. In some cases, there may be HR duties as well. In the military, a graduate of a business administration degree program may apply the skills learned in the program to organize, lead and manage various departments. For example, a student with a business degree and a focus in finance may work in an accounting department. Someone with a focus in business law may work in a contracts department, and a person with a general business administration degree may work in administrative support or another role. People who are highly organized, can multi-task well and have good leadership qualities are excellent candidates for administrative roles in the military.

There are several options for business degrees, and the level of degree often determines which jobs an officer qualifies for. A bachelor’s degree in business administration provides a graduate with the basic knowledge needed to effectively lead a department. However, a master’s degree prepares a person for more complex roles by teaching applied skills. Also, in a master’s degree program, a student can pick a major or focus area, such as finance, health care administration, leadership or something else. Students who prefer to work in a specific department in the military and plan to earn a master’s degree can choose an appropriate major. Salaries can vary widely based on title. For example, an assistant may earn about $30,000 annually to start, and an analyst with experience and special skills may earn two or three times as much. Many military administrator salaries are between about $55,000 and $70,000.

4. Nursing

In the military, all nurses must serve as officers, so RNs who want to become military nurses must complete at least a BSN program. Having a higher degree in nursing allows graduates to select a variety of jobs in the military. Nurses who are on active duty may work on a military base or overseas in a field hospital. At home, they provide care to other active duty personnel and their families. Abroad, they provide care to ill or wounded soldiers. They may assist doctors in performing some medical procedures. Nurses monitor patients, relay messages to doctors and manage medical charts. As practitioners, they may evaluate patients and recommend treatments under the supervision of a doctor.

There are bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in nursing. People who want to perform a wider range of care tasks usually seek a master’s or a doctoral program. However, a bachelor’s degree nursing program prepares students by teaching them how to identify signs and symptoms, how to treat various conditions, how to measure doses, how to interpret medical instructions and more. They also learn how to empathize with patients and provide excellent direct care. Additional military training prepares nurses to apply those skills in the battlefield. For people who are good at working under pressure and are personable, nursing may be a good career choice. Salaries vary widely based on job type, degree and experience. For example, advanced practice nurses earn about $94,000. The average military nurse salary range is $58,000 to $103,000 per year.

5. Management Information Systems

Management information systems are used for making important decisions. They are also used for controlling, analyzing and organizing information in a useful way. Students who study management information systems learn how to view processes, people and technologies in an organizational manner. According to research published by the military, it expects to see faster-than-average growth of 16% in computer and management information systems over the next decade. For officers who want a stable and fast-growing career in the military, this career path is a good choice. It is also good for someone who enjoys technology, is organized and has a strong drive to find and solve problems.

There are bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management information systems. A bachelor’s degree prepares graduates with the basic skills and knowledge they need to apply critical skills in military support roles. A master’s degree provides more in-depth training and may allow a graduate to advance further to higher-paying roles in the military. Students learn how to collect, sort and organize information, as well as how to interpret it in a way that makes it useful for making important decisions. They learn valuable analytical skills that they can also apply in related roles if they want to seek a career in a different department. The average military information systems manager salary is about $105,000.

6. Information Technology

Information technology degree programs teach students how to efficiently manage and monitor computer systems in organizations. They install hardware, set up networks, troubleshoot and provide technical assistance for a wide range of problems. There are several types of jobs that graduates of an information technology program can seek in the military. For example, an information technology specialist in the Army maintains, troubleshoots and manages military information systems. An information systems technician in the Navy performs similar tasks to protect and maintain critical information systems.

Graduates of a bachelor’s degree program in information technology can qualify for these roles, and the skills they learn prepare them properly to work with and understand information systems in the military. However, they receive additional training in the military to learn the specific ways that they will apply what they learned in school. This is a good career path for someone who has great attention to detail, can solve complex problems and is patient. Although the pay for IT specialists tends to be higher in the private sector, many military IT jobs salaries are about $50,000. There is the potential to advance and earn more in some branches.

7. Aviation

A degree program in aviation teaches students the important aspects of flying. It includes information about smaller aircraft, commercial jets and more. They learn about FAA rules and other critical information, as well as the factors involved in safe flying. In the military, there are plenty of career options for officers who want to stay in the field of aviation. Many graduates of aviation programs who want to work in the military choose the Air Force. However, there are careers in other branches as well. In the military, these officers may oversee aspects of aviation and learn how to operate different aircraft, such as Black Hawk helicopters and fighter jets.

A bachelor’s degree in aviation prepares a graduate for military aviation jobs by teaching the necessary skills to understand the science of flying and important rules. Also, the military provides specialized training that allows graduates to apply the skills they learned in school to more complex aircraft. The training they receive in the military is also designed to help them use those skills in critical situations that may require quick decisions. People who meet the physical requirements to become pilots are good candidates. Also, the abilities to concentrate, make critical decisions under pressure and solve complex problems are highly helpful. The average aviation officer salary is about $88,000. However, pay can vary based on role, experience and the branch of military.

8. Psychology

In a psychology degree program, a student learns important information about human psychological development and behavior. This degree path teaches people how to identify some of the potential causes of behavior and why people make certain decisions in a wide range of applications. Psychology helps students understand people better and how to work with them in many capacities. In the military, graduates of psychology degree programs are highly valued, and some branches struggle to find enough graduates to fill important roles. Graduates may work on bases, remotely or overseas if they are deployed. Depending on their level of education, they may provide direct care, counseling or other support to personnel who are on active duty or their family members. Also, they may handle profiling tasks or other duties in varying capacities.

A bachelor’s degree prepares a student for some of the roles in the military. However, a master’s degree in clinical counseling is also valuable since military personnel are highly susceptible to developing PTSD, anxiety or depression and require treatment. Additional military training prepares graduates of psychology programs to work specifically with people who are on active duty, military spouses or families and veterans. This is a good job for someone who is empathetic, has the ability to consider multiple factors in a complex problem and can develop solutions to problems. Salaries vary based on education, role and military division. The military psychology salary range is between $49,000 and $196,000. The highest-paid professionals are psychiatrists, and they are physicians with psychology training. Psychologists who hold a master’s or a doctoral degree earn salaries in the middle or higher ranges, and those with a bachelor’s degree earn salaries in the lower to middle parts of the salary range.

9. Theology

Theology is the study of the nature of God or deities and religions. Students who study theology often go on to work as professors or religious leaders. In the military, they typically work as chaplains. A chaplain may work on a military base or on a post overseas during deployment. There may be other roles as well, such as a religious affairs specialist in the Army. In many instances, a military chaplain provides pastoral counseling and support to fellow soldiers and their families. The chaplain may conduct religious services, pray for the sick and counsel people who need spiritual support.

There are bachelor’s degree programs for theology majors, and there is a master’s degree in divinity as well. Both paths will prepare graduates to work in the military in a religious role. Additional military training prepares graduates to work specifically with the unique needs of soldiers facing combat, military spouses who lose loved ones and veterans who must cope with memories. This is a good career path for someone who has strong mental stability, is empathetic and can work with a wide variety of people. The average annual military chaplain salary is about $50,000. However, higher-range salaries may reach into the $80,000s. Experience, education and military division affect the salary amount.

10. Criminal Justice

Criminal justice degree programs teach students the skills they need to work in law enforcement, corrections and similar fields. In the military, there are several criminal justice jobs. Officers who enter with a criminal justice degree may work in safety or security roles, including military police officer, NCIS agent, firefighter, criminal investigation or special investigation roles. As police officers, they are responsible for maintaining order on military bases. As investigators or special agents, they may investigate crimes that involve fellow personnel or others. This is a job that is good for people who can separate personal and work life and for those who have extraordinary attention to detail for investigations.

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is sufficient for many security and safety jobs, including MP roles. However, some special agent roles and investigatory roles may require a master’s degree or higher. In some cases, officers who enter with a bachelor’s degree may return to school to finish a master’s degree and move up to higher-paid roles in the military. The military also provides extra training to prepare graduates for the specific roles they fill. For example, the legal procedures military police must follow differ somewhat from traditional police procedures. Salaries vary widely based on role, education and the branch of the military a graduate enters. For example, the average MP salary is about $50,000 with a bachelor’s degree. However, NCIS special agent salary may be over $150,000.

Becoming an Officer in the Military

People who want to become officers in any branch of the military should first decide which career field they prefer or have the skills for. Those who already hold a bachelor’s degree may consider earning a master’s degree first or exploring careers that are related to their existing degree. It is also important to compare the different branches of the military. Additionally, prospective students or graduates who want to become officers must understand the age limits, which vary between different military divisions. As a rule, people who have no prior military experience cannot become an officer after the age of 35. There are exceptions for military chaplains and medical officers.

The easiest way to find out about available careers based on age, education or education goals is to talk to recruiters in the desired branches of the military. Today, there are also schools that offer discounted tuition to those who are on active duty in the military, providing a cost-effective way for officers with a bachelor’s degree to seek a higher degree to advance in a current field or shift to a different one.

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