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Top Five Cities for Veterans to Find Civilian Work


Most enlisted service members retire at the ripe old age of 39. The average age of retirement for officers is 46. (Notice how I did not add “years young” after either of these numbers. You’re welcome.) Although a military pension is nothing to sneeze at (half your base salary, discounted medical insurance, commissary privileges), for most military retirees exiting the service simply means it’s time to transition to a civilian career.

Forbes Magazine published a list of the top places to live and work after a military career. Here’s a look at a handful of their findings, which were selected out of 379 possible cities with an unemployment rate lower than the national average and housing cost 40% below the national average. The group also considered availability of military skill-related jobs, number of federal government jobs, volume of DoD contracts, number of small or veteran-owned businesses, proximity to military installations and amenities such as VA hospitals, military pension tax rate, sales tax rate, presence of universities/colleges, climate and crime rates.

At the top of the list was Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The capital city of Oklahoma ranks 31st among U.S. cities in population and eighth largest by land area. Two major federal employers are Tinker Air Force Base and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center. Private employers with military-friendly hiring practices include members of the oil, natural gas and petroleum industries.

Within the metropolitan area are several colleges and universities: Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City Community College, University of Central Oklahoma, The University of Oklahoma/OU Health Sciences Center, and Langston College, Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and Rose State College are all within a 15-minute drive.

The cost of living in Oklahoma City is relatively low in comparison to other metropolitan areas. Oklahoma boasts the fourth lowest total tax burden in the United States, and Forbes ranks it #2 best housing market. A 2,200 square foot house in Oklahoma City would sell for $130-135,000 compared to $244,700 in Colorado Springs or $159,000 in Kansas City. Oklahoma City was named Forbes magazine’s “most recession proof city in America” in 2008, citing falling unemployment, strong housing and solid growth in the energy, agriculture and manufacturing industries.

Climate in Oklahoma City is considered “subtropical humid,” with an average temperature of 60.2 °F (15.7 °C). The wind truly does come sweeping down the plains, especially during peak tornado season in April-May.

Tinker Air Force Base is located in southeast Oklahoma City area near Midwest City. Tinker is home to major Department of Defense, Air Force and Navy activities with critical national defense missions. Two public/private partnerships are also housed within the secure perimeter of Tinker: The Oklahoma Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Technology Center (MROTC), a national center for technical solutions to aging commercial and military aircraft; and the Tinker Aerospace Complex.

Rounding out the top five are Norfolk, Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; Austin, Texas and San Antonio, Texas.

1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
2. Norfolk, Virginia
3. Richmond, Virginia
4. Austin, Texas
5. San Antonio, Texas

Although there are no guarantees that anyone in today’s challenging economy will enjoy a successful job search, targeting the search to areas that have lower cost-of-living, lower unemployment rates and higher education opportunities might help overcome some of the usual obstacles. For military retirees, other considerations include translating skillsets into civilian industry terms, proximity to military amenities and easy access to health care are also in play.

The rankings are a resource to help military retirees overcome common transition challenges, such as effectively translating job skills and managing a new financial landscape.

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