The US military has plenty of technology-oriented careers. These jobs might be on the ground supporting front-line combat operations, or they might be at a desk in a modern, high-tech data center, away from the threat of bullets or bombs.
Some of the military's IT and cyber jobs mirror civilian roles. People in these positions might set up laptop computers or email systems. But other tech-focused military careers do work that's unique to the armed forces, like conducting cyber warfare.
In either case, all of the military's IT and cyber jobs are essential to mission success. Continue reading to learn more about some of the unique and most in-demand jobs in cybersecurity and IT.
What's the military's outlook on tech jobs?
In the last five years, the military has continued to adapt and expand its IT and cybersecurity job ranks.
Cyber security specialists, cyber operations specialists, and network and database administrators are among the military's most in-demand cyber jobs. Every branch has these types of positions available, US Cyber Command said in a statement last year.
In October 2014, the Army celebrated a milestone — 15 West Point cadets entered directly into cyber officer careers for the first time. "Our cyberspace operators enjoy a dedicated career field, cutting-edge and adaptive training and education, and talent management to guide a path through an entire career conducting cyber operations," Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty said in a statement marking the cyber branch's fifth anniversary.
The Air Force and Space Force combined employed nearly 11,000 cyberspace operations officers in 2020, according to the Air Force Magazine annual almanac. Cyberspace operations officers engage in defense and offensive operations. They apply knowledge of electronics theory, information technology, and cryptography to support missions. This role may also be responsible for commanding weapons systems and crew members.
Earlier this year, the Marine Corps announced the creation of four new jobs: interactive on-net operator, exploitation analyst, host analyst, and network analyst. The Marines also updated the role of cyber warfare operator and eliminated the job of offensive cyberspace operator, according to Task & Purpose.
The responsibilities of exploitation analysts will include converting intelligence data into operational knowledge. They'll be technical experts, responsible for planning cyber operations, which may include disrupting or destroying an enemy's digital networks.
Looking ahead, software coders will likely have an important role in the Space Force, much like fighter pilots do in the Air Force, according to a recent article by Space News. "Software touches everything we do in the Space Force," said 1st Lt. Jackie Smith, who leads a Space Force software boot camp.
Branch breakdown: Who does what?
In 2021, the US military employed about 1.34 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen, and Space Force Guardians. These service members filled hundreds of jobs worldwide.
Although that seems like a huge number, military personnel represent a small percentage of the approximately 161 million people in America's civilian workforce. This group includes people at least 16 years old who have a job, or who are looking for work, and who are not in the military.
In the Army and Marine Corps, job titles are known as your military occupational specialty, or MOS. The Navy and Coast Guard call their job titles ratings, while the Air Force and Space Force call their job titles Air Force Specialty Codes, or AFSCs.
Some military jobs, like the Army's 13B MOS, cannon crewmember, are unique to the armed forces and don't have an exact civilian equivalent. But many other military jobs, including IT and cybersecurity, do have direct civilian counterparts.
IT and cyber professionals work in the military's enlisted, warrant officer, and officer ranks. In many cases, once service members leave the military, they'll be qualified candidates for many civilian tech sector jobs.
Here's a branch-by-branch look at some of the military's IT and cyber-related jobs:
Established in 2019, the Space Force is the newest — and smallest — military branch in terms of total personnel. The Space Force has about 16,000 military and civilians. Officials expect the branch to grow up to 20,000 in the coming years.
One of the available jobs in the Space Force includes working as a client systems guardian. In this role, guardians are responsible for ensuring that computer networks, hardware, and software function correctly at all times. The work includes installing programs, troubleshooting, and maintaining "access and control of the necessary technology to complete all of our missions."
Airmen who work in cyber systems operations design, install, and support Air Force computer and software systems. Cyber systems operators make sure the network stays operational and perform planning and budgeting. People with this job will install and maintain servers and may support information warfare operations.
Cyber operations specialists defend the Army's satellite, navigation, and aviation systems against cyber threats. In this entry-level enlisted role, soldiers may conduct offensive and defensive operations using computers and devices to complete missions.
Cryptologic technician maintenance personnel install, operate and repair cryptologic equipment. They install, operate, and maintain computers, networks, and related systems that support land, sea, and aviation operations. Individuals in this position also maintain electronic equipment and antennas that support communication networks. The Navy says people with this enlisted job may work anywhere in the world with "top secret equipment vital to national security."
Cyber network operators install and operate data networks and cyber systems, and work with both hardware and software. They may work with Microsoft Exchange servers and other types of communications hardware and software.
Information systems technicians work on Coast Guard computer systems, digital telephone systems (which are often cloud-based), and the physical components that link everything together. According to the Coast Guard, people with this job install and maintain computer servers, individual workstations, and fiber optic cable.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Michael J. Kirchner
Dr. Michael J. Kirchner is an assistant professor of organizational leadership at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he teaches courses in leadership and human resource development. Dr. Kirchner also serves as the campus' veteran resource center director.
Previously, Kirchner oversaw the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Military and Veterans Resource Center, where he guided programming for the campus' 1,500+ military-affiliated student population. Under his leadership (2013-2016), the campus built a nationally recognized "military-college-career" framework focusing on supporting student veteran transitions.
Kirchner earned his Ph.D. in human resource development from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research on career transitions and leadership development has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Human Resource Development Quarterly, Advances in Developing Human Resources, New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, and Industrial and Commercial Training.
Kirchner is the founder and president of Time for Development LLC, where he provides consulting to organizations on military-friendly programming, human resource development strategy, and training design. He served for a year in Baghdad, Iraq, from 2004-2005 as part of the U.S. Army National Guard.
Kirchner is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.