Do Military Hires Demand High Salaries?

What is the cost to hire someone from the military? I’ve written before about the fabulous free relocation benefits provided by the government (see my March 2000 article, Elimination Relocation Expenses…). And that alone should be good reason to consider the value of a military hire. But let’s take it one step further by looking at the current reality of military expectations and needs, including compensation. Usually it is far less expensive to hire military candidates than their civilian counterparts. The reason being is that total compensation in the military is far less than in equivalent civilian jobs. To start, the base salary in the military is significantly below current market levels. The military takes advantage of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” by catering to an individual’s “basic needs” first (housing, medical, food, etc) through special allowances and provisions. Then the military offers a decent, but considerably low, salary. No one is going to get rich while serving in the military. Usually they enlist or become commissioned for entirely different reasons, including a desire to serve our country regardless of the pay. There are no “bonuses” or stock options given, and considering the long hours that most military servicemen and women work per day, for some, their average hourly wage could be calculated to be below the federally mandated minimum wage. Unfortunately, there are even a great number of our service members who qualify for food stamps while serving our country. A recent article written by the LA Times reports that more than 5,000 military families are currently on food stamps. Part of the reason for this is that the military is made up of more and more men and women with families. The military of years past contained largely single men who did not have financial family obligations and could live comfortably on a military wage. Today’s volunteer military is different, with a different set of needs. This fact is what is fueling a recent drive to boost some of these wages. As for pay structure, a private first class (entry level) makes $15,684 a year in base pay, a staff sergeant (proven supervisor) makes $24,552, and a first lieutenant (college graduate) makes $31,440. While medical care and various allowances and benefits supplement these incomes, they are far from competitive with civilian wages. The White House reports that a typical member of the Armed Forces earns 13 percent less than his or her civilian counterpart for the same type of work. (Source: Edwin Chen, “Bush Vows Better Pay to Soldiers,” Los Angeles Times, 13 February 2001, p. A5). What does all this mean to the employer? Well, the reality is that those coming out of the military do not generally have a good idea of what their skills are worth on the outside. For most, a 10%-15% jump in pay will be like winning the lottery, and yet will still be a very feasible and competitive compensation level for the employer. Add that to the free relocation and that’s a deal! Now granted, when some of these folks attempt to make the transition, they have no idea of what their real net worth is to the civilian world, and may make unrealistic leaps in salary demands. But this is certainly the minority, and based on lack of knowledge. I think that by offering a fair and decent salary to a veteran, based on current market conditions, you would be gaining a very loyal employee, not just one that is interested in making the most money they can. Has you company put a price tag on the value of loyalty to your organization? <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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Bill Gaul ( is President and CEO of The Destiny Group, an Internet-based recruiting tool that utilizes the latest patent-pending technology (including audio/visual) for organizations to use to source men and women departing the military services. Endorsed by all of the U.S. Service Academy Alumni Associations, and three times selected as one of the "50 BEST" by CareerXRoads, this online system is the easiest and lowest cost method to reach transitioning military worldwide, without a per-head fee.

Bill's articles are Copyright 2001, The Destiny Group.


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