The U.S. military offers a plethora of career options as well as training opportunities, often at a reduced cost and sometimes it is even paid for in full. While many think of the military as consisting solely of combat personnel, there are a lot of other long-term job opportunities in every branch. As 2021 comes to a close, let's take a look at the future trends of the military and career trajectories.

Most popular careers in the military

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), enlisted personnel and officers have a wide range of career options. Here are some of the most common career fields found throughout the U.S. military branches:

  • Engineering.
  • Medicine.
  • Administration.
  • Human resources.
  • Protective services.
  • Mechanics.

Regardless of service level, members of the military have many different opportunities, but there are a few that stand out and are increasing in popularity and demand.

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Engineering, science and technology are on the rise

According to a BLS report published in March 2021, engineering, science and technological careers make up the majority of total enlisted personnel with a total of 170,642 people.

  • Army: 42,202.
  • Air Force: 53,672.
  • Marine Corps: 27,810.
  • Navy: 46,958.

This field is booming, in part due to the need for more advanced technology in the military. The Department of Defense's most recent proposed budget for U.S. research and technology development has surpassed any previous budget proposal. According to Military and Aerospace Electronics, "Pentagon experts want $111.96 billion in 2022 for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E), which would be a 4.2 percent increase from 2021."

An increased budget means that more people and experts will be needed to execute the elevated technological requirements. Here are some of the most popular jobs within this career path:

  • Security analysts
  • Civil engineers
  • Environmental engineers
  • Computer network architects

In addition to these STEM career path options, the existence of the United States Space Force has welcomed a plethora of new opportunities. According to their website, the Space Force is looking for those who are interested in science and technology, including:

  • Space operations officer
  • Developmental engineer
  • Intelligence officer
  • Space systems programming
  • Cyber surety

To learn more about your options as an officer, an enlisted military professional or a civilian, be sure to check out the career section of their website. As of now, there are only about 6,434 personnel assigned to the Space Force, but there are plans to beef up the project. In fact, the Air Force's FY22 budget requested "$156.3 billion represents a 2.3% increase, and the Space Force's budget of $17.4 billion is a 13.1% increase," according to

Combat specialty

Combat is still an extremely important component of what each branch does, despite the variety of other options. According to BLS, an enlisted officer who specializes in combat plans and directs "military operations, oversees combat activities and serves as combat leaders. They may be in charge of tanks and other armored assault vehicles, artillery systems, special operations, or infantry units. This group also includes naval surface warfare and submarine warfare officers, combat pilots, and aircrews."

The BLS research study found that there were a total of 164,390 enlisted personnel in the combat occupational group, a vast majority of them being in the Army. To learn more, check out this helpful resource, regardless of your preferred branch. 

BLS research makes it clear that technology and science are the fastest-growing military career paths, followed by the plethora of combat specialty opportunities. In third place was the occupational group of vehicle and machinery mechanics, with a total participation number of 61,506 people across all branches. To learn more about each branch's employment opportunities, visit their respective websites.