Paths to the C-Suite: Career Tips for Veterans Based on LinkedIn Data

December 13, 2016

What do the CEOs of Nike, Johnson & Johnson, FedEx, and Verizon all have in common (and it’s not just that they lead some of the most well-known Fortune 500 companies)?

They are veterans of the United States military.

There is a strong business case for hiring veterans, not only for their soft skills and technical skills, but also their growth potential. Veterans have a demonstrated propensity for leadership, team building, critical thinking, and the ability to assess problems and make decisions in difficult and dynamic environments. So it should be no surprise that they are rising to the highest ranks in America’s top companies.

At LinkedIn, our research team took a deep dive on executive veterans to learn more about their paths to the top. We wondered what specifically is driving their success and what can other veterans can do today to rise in their companies? Here’s what we discovered:

1. Consider Larger Companies When Working Towards Executive-Level Positions

Currently there are 186,000 veterans on LinkedIn who hold executive-level positions (director and above). Out of that population, 28% work at larger companies (those with more than 1,000 employees). When considering companies to work for, veterans entering the civilian workforce appear more likely to succeed in larger companies when pursuing executive-level roles.

  • Exec

2. Pursue Careers in Finance and Engineering to Get a Leg Up

Veterans pursuing occupations in finance and engineering had the highest likelihood of reaching director-level positions and above at companies with more than 1,000 employees. In a previous veterans study, we found that veterans excel in engineering, coding, security and software skills compared to the average LinkedIn member. The combination of veterans’ leadership and team building skills with their high likelihood for technical skills creates a recipe for success. For veterans in non-technical, more combat-oriented roles, our LinkedIn Learning platform has a host of courses to get you started (and you can get free access via our LinkedIn Veterans Program).

  • First Jobs

Fortunately, there are thousands of openings when it comes to the first jobs executive level veterans had when they left the military. Check out the job openings below:

Top Springboard Job for Vets

Open Jobs (U.S.)

Salary (U.S. Median)

Financial Analyst



Staff Accountant



Sales Engineer



Manufacturing Engineer



Project Engineer



3. Look Beyond Government Jobs  

While our previous research reflects that government is one of the top three industries for employing veterans, the majority of veterans are spread across a wide range of industries. Government, however, is not the top industry for those veterans seeking to reach executive status. In fact, veterans who currently hold influential executive positions are 1.5X as likely to be working in the Financial Services and Insurance industry compared to all veterans.

  • industry

The Path to the C-Suite

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to veterans achieving executive level status, but there are some things that the leaders represented on LinkedIn have done to increase the likelihood. If you are a veteran joining the workforce for the first time out of the service, consider larger companies and roles in the finance or technology industries. If you don’t currently have skills that align with these industries, consider leveraging all of the opportunities LinkedIn provides for veterans.

Ready to springboard your career? There are many job opportunities available to you on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to update your profile. Learn how to improve your profile in minutes or take our veterans LinkedIn Learning course.


These insights are based on an analysis of the veterans on LinkedIn currently employed in non-military occupations. We started by looking at the current occupations listed on these members’ profiles and defined ‘executive’ veterans as those whose current position is Director-level or above.

To identify the top springboard jobs, we analyzed the profiles of all veterans with 15+ years of experience and grouped members according to the first job they started after completing their service. We then calculated the percentage of members in each group who are currently executives at a company with 1,000 or more employees to determine the likelihood of each job leading to the executive path. For e.g., 12% of veterans who began their post-military career as a Financial Analyst eventually reached the executive-level at a large company.