Thinking about leaving the military goes through every service member’s mind every time they are up for re-enlistment. A little planning will help you to make this choice when it is best for you to make the transition.
There are many benefits to being in the military including free housing, healthcare, subsidized education and the opportunity for advancement and travel. Look up your long-term benefit requirements for retirement, the GI Bill, housing options, and healthcare. Does another tour of duty substantially increase your long-term benefits? Often this is the case and can be very important when comparing civilian and military employment. One more tour might mean a lifetime of healthcare benefits or that your children can inherit your unused Post-9/11 GI Bill money and use it for college.
When comparing salaries between the military and civilian employment look not only at the pay but at the current benefit package as well. Remember that a civilian job does not include housing, food, educational benefits and free health and dental benefits. If you live on base, you will also need to take transportation costs into account when comparing civilian and military salaries.
Talk to civilian equivalents about their job satisfaction. How many hours do they work? What kind of vacation do they earn? Examine the general state of the economy. Military jobs don’t look all that inspiring when the US economy is doing really well, but during downturns you might leave your good military job and find that it is next to impossible to get a job in the civilian sector.
Leaving the military because you don’t like your boss or your unit or because you are having other personnel issues is something you should think about changing with a transfer. Be aware that civilian companies have similar personnel problems. At the end of the day, people are people and at least in the military, there is an overriding sense of purpose and the pursuit of a common goal that helps to foster teamwork.
When comparing military and civilian employment, also consider the small intangible things: time with your family, living near your aging relatives, living abroad, the camaraderie that is unique to service members. Every individual is different and you will need to think about what is most important to you. Balance this with the financial element to determine which job — civilian or military — is the right job for you at this point in your life.