The State of The Market Report: Career Opportunities for Military Veterans in 2005

December 2004


Randall Scasny

The ideal symbol for the career opportunities of military veterans in the coming year happened on October 4, 2004, when the non-governmental spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, reached sub-orbital flight for the second time in 14 days to win the long coveted Ansari Prize of $10 million.

Almost immediately after SpaceShipOne's feat, the Chairman of Virgin Airways, Richard Branson, announced that he would invest $25 million in a new venture, Virgin Galactic. He anticipates offering commercial space trips and building a market of 3,000 customers within 5 years.

I have chosen these coinciding events to capture the essence of what the coming year can offer military veterans: great promise despite short-term bumps along the way.

Marking this great promise, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) reported only last month that job growth continued in the aerospace sector, showing an ongoing rebound after hitting a 50-year employment low this year.

Since June, aerospace companies have added 7,500 new jobs, bringing employment in the industry to 587,600 nationwide. This increase builds on a jump of 8,500 jobs in the second quarter of the year and indicators are strong for the trend to continue, according to the AIA.

The encouraging employment trend highlights a looming challenge for the aerospace industry, however. The current workforce is aging, with a large percentage nearing retirement. This coupled with increased demand for workers shows a dramatic need to redouble efforts to attract young people to aerospace careers and support training programs.

This is good news for young vets and newly separating retirees with aerospace expertise--The Aerospace Industry needs you!

The Aerospace Industry is the epitome of how America creates jobs--through innovation. Military vets feed the job jet of private industry entrepreneurs to merge practical know-how and theoretical innovation to develop new markets.

"Innovation is at the heart of any strategy for growth in a transforming economy," Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg told business leaders at a recent meeting of the Executives' Club of Chicago. "Innovation creates wealth, jobs and value. Innovation provides the sustainable competitive edge to individual workers and entire industries that is required in a global economy."

Verizon is transforming the telecommunications landscape by deploying innovative broadband technologies like fiber to the premises, which brings fiber-optic connections directly into customers' homes and businesses. Verizon invests $12 billion to $13 billion annually in network technology, more than any other company in the nation, according to the company.

But innovation and job growth is not limited to the high tech industries of Telecommunications and Aerospace. Nor is the State of the Job Market as fast as launching a rocket for a quick thrill ride.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, national employment payrolls are a mixed bag. Natural resource and mining employment is up 1.3 percent while Utilities employment is down 1.6 percent; Education and Health Services are up 0.9 percent while Manufacturing is down 0.5 percent; Financial Services are up 1.1 percent while Information Services employment is only treading water (Sept 2004 to Oct 2004 changes).

To take advantage of career opportunies in the coming year, let's tour the jobs market place and overview the major industry sectors to determine what is the state of each industry and what job opportunities may exist.

We will review the following industry sectors:

  • Defense
  • Aviation
  • Automotive
  • Consumer and Retail
  • Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
  • Energy and Mining
  • Financial Services and Banking
  • Insurance
  • Electronics and Information Technology
  • Media
  • Real Estate
  • Telecommunication
  • Internet
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Utilities

Note: the color red denotes the "hot" employment sectors.


Defense and government spending on security-focused products and services was one of the major forces that pulled the country out of its recent economic recession. Government spending on Defense as a result of the war in Iraq will continue to rise. As the U.S. focuses more on Homeland Security and private industry pursues security-focused business, direct and indirect Defense job growth be solid.

However, as with any government-driven business, the final decision rests with budget priorities. And only a few weeks since the Presidential election, the rhetoric of trimming costs and closing the ever-growing Federal budget deficit are gaining steam in Congress. The decreasing value of the U.S. dollar on global currency markets along with the cautionary govspeak of Fed Chairman Greenspan are adding pressure to do something about the Federal deficit, currently at about $0.4 trillion. However, don't expect this political wrangling to affect the job market in this sector.

The Defense industry--at least the largest contractors--Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, EADS, Thales, and United Technologies--will continue to reap the rewards of the renewed emphasis on Defense since 9/11.

The bottomline is that the highly qualified and those who possess the coveted TS clearance will always be in demand. For those who do not have top tier skills, expect a competitive ride, however.

On a side note, The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is now accepting applications for the government's Senior-Executive-Service, Federal-Candidate-Development Program, which should offer military veterans career opportunities in a variety of Federal agencies, including Homeland Security.

It's a comprehensive program that prepares individuals for top leadership posts through exposure to competitive programs that include rotational assignments within the Executive Branch, formal training, mentoring and performance assessments.


Unfortunately, most of the major commercial carriers are in or near bankruptcy; the industry as a whole is downsizing itself with Delta being the last to announce a mass layoff.

This industry is presently in a period of intense restructuring. Terrorism fears don't help its business, either. If your heart is set on the aviation industry, approach it with a practical mind and it's a good idea to have a contingency career transition plan in your back pocket.


Despite all the "cool" ads this industry pumps out during sporting events, the automotive industry as a whole is more or less stagnant because of three factors: (1) consumers like foreign cars creating increased competition; (2) decreased demand causing an industry-wide downsizing; and (3) large pension fund payouts that are a constant draw on their financial resources.

While sales of SUVs have been brisk, the automakers have had to pay a price--huge discounts. Increased energy prices have added uncertainty to how consumers purchasing habits. Top tier automotive industry suppliers are reporting weak earnings growth. All this adds up to am at best lukewarm employment outlook.

There is one bright side to this industry, however. And it is huge. The hybrid car. With the cost of gas increasing and unlikely to return to the $1.00 dollar days, the hybrid electric car may be this industry's salvation. Foreign competitors are already offering hybrids. The market is poised for a major refurbishing. This means a good prospect for job creation in the sales, service and maintenance of hybrid cars.

Those military veterans who have electrical, mechanical AND electronic skills will be in high demand. Presently, auto techs who can actually troubleshoot complex automotive systems are desperately needed.

Consumer and Retail

There is one phrase that describes this industry sector: the power of the discounter. The recent merger of Sears and K Mart to fend off the competitive power of WalMart is a case in point. Americans love to spend money and love to spend it at the discounters.

Despite a recession in business spending several years ago, consumer spending has always remained firm in this sector. Expect solid employment opportunities based on a good business model (low cost is king). However, if you pursue employment in this sector, do not expect a big salary. Consumers products aren't the only thing the discounters discount.

HealthCare, Pharmaceuticals and BioTechnology

HealthCare: As America ages, more healthcare jobs are born. And Americans are living longer than ever before. Healthcare providers were in high demand during the recent recession. As such, salaries were increasing. Downside, so are healthcare costs. This industry sector is struggling with how to pay for ever-increasing expenses and needs. But expect a quick path to employment if you have the skills.

Pharmaceuticals: This is another hot sector despite a few bumps on the road. Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals sectors tend to feed each other. So, expect good employment possibilities but less than Healthcare itself. The bump: getting FDA approval for drugs and the high research and development (R&D) costs.

BioTechnology: This industry sector uses high technology to create drugs and healthcare therapies to cure old, nasty diseases. It is a small sector yet interest in it has grown immensely in the last few years. To get into the employment office, you need skills. That means education. Figure on getting a Master's degree to generate some employer interest.

Energy and Mining

Mining: Every product in the world needs some kind of metal; and you need to mine it to find the raw material to create steel, aluminum and more. However, the mining industry depends on a fickle variable, consumer needs, and a governmental variable, environmental compliance.

Depending on consumer needs will determine how much and what type of raw material is needed. So, mining can very well follow the growth of other industry sectors such a consumer and retail. On the other hand, mining is a messy business and requires the compliance to Federal regulations.

Compliance or clean ups as a result of non-compliance cost money and can exert downward pressure on companies' bottomlines. For employment, there will always be a need for laborers, mechanics and maintenance staff at these companies. The key point is can you handle the up and downs of the mining industry business cycles?

Energy: If you drive a car and pump your own gas, you already know the hot button issue of this industry: cost. Prices have been rising for a number or reasons with the war in Iraq and fears of terrorism being the most talked about causes. In any event, U.S. oil production in the past has been on the downslide because overseas oil was cheap. As prices increase, U.S. production becomes viable. Expect Alaska's reserves to open up to drilling in the coming years. So will a jobs boon.

Financial Services and Banking

Financial Services: This industry sector goes through wild swings depending on the final tick of the day on Wall Street. In 1999, when the Internet stock boom was hotter than the sun, financial jobs were plenty. When Enron tanked, the stock market and mass layoffs were the daily news. Presently, employment is brisk. For folks with good people skills, a business background, and a desire to talk on the phone a lot, expect good job prospects.

Banking: One thing that is fueling the hot banking business is low home interest rates causing a big demand in mortgage refinancing. But as the interest goes, so goes this sector's business. Once interest rates rise significantly, this sector will slow down. But job opportunities are good right now.


This industry sector usually see dependable, steady growth because "insurance" is a must have for just about any person or business. The only thing that shakes up this industry is scandal, international uncertainties and natural disasters. This sector has experienced each one of these uncertainties recently. Marsh & McLennan, the world's biggest insurance broker, is the source of the scandal of the moment. Layoffs are starting but they are very regional and unlikely to affect the entire industry unless the scandal is much more widespread than expected.

9/11 and the fear of terrorism is No. 2.

Number 3? This past summer we have had enough hurricanes and forest fires to last us a lifetime! Insurance companies have to pay out and tick up their premiums to satisfy their insurance policy holders to stay in business.

The bright side?

The most significant change going on in this industry is that over half of insurance companies plan on selling policies over the Internet. This means one thing: this industry will have an ever-increasing need for technology workers.

Electronics and Information Technology

Electronics: The state of this industry sector depends on consumer thirst of electronic products. As sales increases, so do the prospects of electronics' firms. Recently, demand has been slow to tepid, as the home PC market is essentially saturated and business sales of large computer systems (servers) stalled, a major cause of the recession of 2001.

Electronics manufacturing has definitely been on the slide as well as electronics jobs associated with sister industries such as telecommunications.

The key to electronics employment is to research the hot sectors and determine which ones need electronics skills. If you do this, you will find a direct pathway to employment (For example: the biomedical equipment sector needs folks with electronics skills.)

Information Technology (IT): The buzzword for this industry sector is "outsourcing." Jobs are being outsourced in increasing amounts by IT companies across the board.

The reasons why are varied. Cost control is the most talked about reason. But project management problems as a result of excessive employee turnover (techs jumping ship to another company) is another reason why companies outsource. However, outsourcing is not a perfect world. Outsourced relationships are expensive to manage and do not always produce the desired outcome. (See References.)

Recently, the Information Technology Association of America reports that "the long awaited recovery in the information technology job market could be off to a shaky start [in 2004] with a slight 2 percent increase in IT employment from the first quarter of 2003 to the first quarter of 2004 and a shrinking forecast for growth in the remainder of the year."

(Note: The ITAA's results were obtained by a telephone survey of 500 hiring managers from IT and non-IT companies nationwide found the overall size of the IT workforce grew from approximately 10.3 to 10.5 million jobs from early 2003 to early 2004. But demand for IT workers continues to drop, with hiring managers indicating that they will seek to fill approximately 270,000 fewer jobs over the entirety of 2004 than they did during 2003. )

This flat to meager jobs growth forecast will make IT hiring extremely competitive and will require job hunters to be very flexible about compensation, local, business travel and benefits.

One trend worth noting in the IT sector is the rumbling from the IT workers themselves on the need to unionize to protect IT jobs in the future. At this point in time, it is only "talk." But if the trend of outsourcing continues, expect IT unions to become a reality. If they pull it off, it will be very powerful. Why? All businesses are essentially IT businesses no matter if they sell microchips, washing machines or cat food. Expect Congressional action sometime in 2005.

In any event, for displaced IT workers, the best way to think about re-employment is to review your primary and supporting skills and do a flip-flop. Make your supporting skills your primary ones and launch a job hunt from a different angle of attack. This is called "re-purposing" a job hunt.


This industry sector covers television, cable, and radio. The most notable thing about this sector is (1) how the Internet is changing how the broadcast media does business and (2) the rise of cable tv subscribers and (3) new interest in satellite radio.

This sector has expanded over the years and will always be in a growth mode if it continues to bring out new content (shows and programs) that interest its viewers, thereby, interest advertisers who want to pay big money to media companies so consumers see their products and (hopefully) buy them.

This sector does a lot of shifting, with media consolidation occurring quite often. This means that jobs are in flux and job security may be an oxymoron for the sector.

The biggest possibility--and it is big-- for this sector is what I call the Howard Stern effect.

Whether you love or hate him, radio gadfly Howard Stern and his showdown with the FCC may very well change the face of this sector and create a wave of new companies and jobs in satellite radio. Stern has signed a very large contract where he will move from Clear Channel (traditional radio) to Sirius (sat. radio) and bring with him lots of viewers and advertising dollars.

If this pans out, expect lots of programs and advertising to jump to sat. radio. This will force in the coming years a downsizing of traditional radio and an expansion in sat. radio, which essentially means new jobs. Time will only tell what happens.

Real Estate

While the Internet boom faded away around year 2000, the real estate boom, which started in the mid 1990's is still going strong with no end in sight. This sector has benefitted from low interest rates and more liberal lending policies by financing institutions.

However, Fannie Mae, the largest holder of home mortgages, is experiencing some financial travails. And interest rates are on the rise as the U.S. economy has heated up and inflation has upticked.

Expect employment to be solid and the need for maintenance people solid. But the variables affecting this sector could change any reasonable predictions.


During the 1990s this industry sector made the classic mistake of the technology world: over-capacity and under-demand. As such, the industry bled jobs to downsize itself quickly to match consumer demand. The sector is growing slowly again. As consumer demand increases, especially in the cable and broadband sub-sectors, telecom jobs will rebound.


Despite the popular stereotype left over by investors who were burned by blowing money on speculative Internet stocks in the late 1990s, that "Internet companies don't make money," this sector is experiencing an explosion of new revenues! If you don't believe it, ask the instant billionaires of Google (its founders) the day the company went public this past year.

The fact is the Internet is the business place of the present and the future. No business can really function without it.

More and more companies are transferring their advertising and marketing budget dollars onto the Internet and more new companies are using the Internet to gain a foothold into the marketplace.

The key factor to understand about employment in this sector is that it is melded to IT, which is experiencing lackluster job growth. So lots of Internet tech jobs will be outsourced. However, what is needed by this sector are people who can manage and market and create new business online (what never really happened during the 90s Internet boom) as well as people in the "back office" or warehouse who can maintain local equipment and manage "product".

Transportation and Logistics

This sector consists of hauling freight on trucks, trains, ships, and planes. But innovations in technology have required this industry sector to employ people with hi tech skills in IT, Logistics and Inventory Control.

In addition, this industry will increasingly be burdened by the need of implementing tighter security controls as a result of changes since 9/11. Remember that in today's post-9/11 world, transportation issues are in some respects tied to Defense issues. Like the growth in the Defense industry, expect employment in this industry to increase.


Note: The following were the sources of this article.

SpaceShipOne homepage

Ansari Prize

Virgin Galactic

Aerospace Industries Association

Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg speech to The Executives' Club of Chicago: An Agenda for a Creating an Innovation-Centered Economy

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Testimony of Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan

Yahoo! Finance "Industry Center"

The Financial Times

Reuters Financial News

Delta Air Lines Reports September 2004 Quarter Results

National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence

Hybrid Cars

Marsh & McLennan

Outsourcing's New Balancing Act: DiamondCluster Survey Finds Executives Striving to Adapt to Shifting Risks and Challenges of Outsourcing

Recovery Slight for IT Job Market in 2004

Time for a high Tech Union?

The Most Important Deal In Radio History

Fannie Mae

Information on the Internet Industry

All opinions, advice, statements or other information expressed in this article are solely the author's and do not necessarily express the opinions of or the publisher.