Engineering, Science and Technical Occupations

Each job description is preceded by an indication of which branches of the service the job is available in, as not all branches of the service offer the same careers. For additional information beyond what we offer here, you can also visit: careersinthemilitary.com and todaysmilitary.com/careers.

Air Traffic Controllers

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps

Every day, hundreds of military airplanes and helicopters take off and land all over the world. Their movements are closely controlled to prevent accidents. Air traffic controllers direct the movement of aircraft into and out of military airfields. They track aircraft by radar and provide voice instructions by radio.

What They Do

Air traffic controllers in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Operate radio equipment to issue takeoff, flight, and landing instructions to pilots
  • Relay weather reports, airfield conditions, and safety information to pilots
  • Use radar equipment to track aircraft in flight
  • Plot airplane locations on charts and maps
  • Compute speed, direction, and altitude of aircraft
  • Maintain air traffic control records and communication logs

Where They Work

Air traffic controllers work in land-based and shipboard control centers.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian air traffic controllers work for the Federal Aviation Administration in airports and control centers around the country. They perform duties similar to those of military air traffic controllers. They may specialize in specific areas, such as aircraft arrivals, departures, ground control, or en route flights.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision, normal hearing, and a clear speaking voice are required to enter this occupation. Controllers must pass a special physical exam.

Chemical Laboratory Technicians

Army
Navy
Coast Guard

Fuels and oils must be free of water and other contaminants to be safely used in aircraft or vehicles. The same is true for chemicals and other materials used by the military. Chemical laboratory technicians test fuels, oils, chemicals, and other materials for quality, purity, and durability.

What They Do

Laboratory technicians in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Obtain petroleum test samples from storage tanks, barges, and tankers
  • Test fuels and oils for water, sediment, and other contaminants using laboratory equipment
  • Analyze chemicals for strength, purity, and toxic qualities
  • Perform chemical and physical tests on clothing, food, paints, and plastics
  • Keep detailed laboratory records and files

Where They Work

Chemical laboratory technicians work in laboratories on military bases and aboard ships.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian chemical laboratory technicians work for petroleum refineries, chemical companies, manufacturing firms, and government agencies. They perform duties similar to those of military laboratory technicians. Civilian chemical laboratory technicians specialize in particular industries, such as petroleum, food processing, or medical drugs. They also may be called fuel and chemical laboratory technicians or laboratory testers.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to perform chemical tests. Some specialties may require moderate to heavy lifting.

Communications Equipment Operators

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The ability to link air, sea, and ground forces through communication systems is critical in the military. Communications equipment operators enable messages to be transmitted and received.

What They Do

Communications equipment operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Transmit, receive, and log messages according to military procedures
  • Encode and decode classified messages
  • Operate different types of telephone switchboards
  • Install, maintain, and operate communications equipment
  • Monitor and respond to emergency calls

Where They Work

Communications equipment operators may work either indoors or outdoors, depending on the specialty. They may be assigned to ships, aircraft, land bases, or mobile field units.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian communications equipment operators work in airports, harbors, police stations, fire stations, telephone companies, and many businesses. They may also work aboard ships. Their duties are similar to duties assigned to military communications equipment operators, although civilian communications equipment operators do not usually work in field units. They may be called radio operators, telephone operators, radiotelephone operators, switchboard operators, or teletype operators, depending on their specialty.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision, normal hearing, and the ability to speak clearly and distinctly are required to enter some specialties in this occupation. Operators must often sit for long periods.

Computer Programmers

Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The military is one of the largest users of data-
processing equipment in the world. Information about communications, personnel, finance, and supply is kept in its many high-speed computers. This information is important for planning and management. Computer programmers plan and prepare instructions, called programs, that command computers to solve problems and organize data.

What They Do

Computer programmers in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Organize and arrange computer programs into logical steps that direct computers to solve problems
  • Determine and analyze computer systems requirements
  • Code programs into languages that computers can read, such as COBOL and FORTRAN
  • Design, test, and debug computer programs
  • Review and update old programs as new information is received or changes are needed

Where They Work

Computer programmers normally work in office settings. Some work aboard ships, in missile facilities, or in space command centers.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian computer programmers work for such organizations as manufacturing firms, banks, data-processing organizations, government agencies, and private corporations. These employers handle large amounts of information that programmers help organize for convenient use. Civilian computer programmers perform duties similar to those in the military. They may also be called computer systems analysts.

Emergency Management Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The military prepares for emergencies or natural disasters by developing detailed warning, control, and evacuation plans. Emergency management specialists prepare emergency plans and procedures for all types of disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or enemy attack.

What They Do

Emergency management specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Assist in preparing and maintaining disaster operations plans
  • Train military and civilian personnel on what to do in an emergency
  • Operate and maintain nuclear, biological, and chemical detection and decontamination equipment

Where They Work

Emergency management specialists work indoors when conducting training sessions and preparing disaster plans. Sometimes they work outdoors while operating decontamination equipment and monitoring disaster training.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian emergency management specialists work for federal, state, and local governments, including law enforcement and civil defense agencies. They perform duties similar to military emergency management specialists.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is needed to identify chemical agents.

Environment Health and Safety Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Each military base is a small community. The health and well-being of the residents and surrounding land is a major concern of the services. Keeping military workplaces and living areas sanitary helps to prevent illness. Environmental health and safety specialists inspect military facilities and food supplies for the presence of disease, germs, or other conditions hazardous to health and the environment.

What They Do

Environmental health and safety specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Monitor storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste
  • Analyze food and water samples to ensure quality
  • Conduct health and safety investigations of living quarters and base facilities
  • Provide training in industrial hygiene, environmental health, and occupational health issues

Where They Work

Environmental health specialists work indoors while inspecting food facilities and buildings. They work outdoors while inspecting waste disposal facilities and field camps.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Most civilian environmental health and safety specialists work for local, state, and federal government agencies. Their duties are similar to the duties of military environmental health specialists. They may be called food and drug inspectors, public health inspectors, health and safety inspectors, or industrial hygienists.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to inspect foods for quality and freshness.

Intelligence Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Military intelligence is information needed to plan for our national defense. Knowledge of the number, location, and tactics of enemy forces and potential battle areas is needed to develop military plans. To gather information, the services rely on aerial photographs, electronic monitoring using radar and sensitive radios, and human observation. Intelligence specialists gather and study the information required to design defense plans and tactics.

What They Do

Intelligence specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Study aerial photographs of foreign ships, bases, and missile sites
  • Study foreign troop movements
  • Operate sensitive radios to intercept foreign military communications
  • Study land and sea areas that could become battlegrounds in times of war
  • Store and retrieve intelligence data using computers
  • Study foreign military codes
  • Prepare intelligence reports, maps, and charts

Where They Work

Intelligence specialists work in offices on land and aboard ships, and in tents when in the field.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian intelligence specialists generally work for federal government agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency. Their duties are similar to those performed by military intelligence specialists. The analytical skills of intelligence specialists are also useful in other fields, such as research or business planning.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required for some specialties in order to work with color-coded maps.

Meteorological Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Weather information is important for planning military operations. Accurate weather forecasts are needed to plan troop movements, airplane flights, and ship traffic. Meteorological specialists collect information about weather and sea conditions for use by meteorologists. They make visual observations and take readings from weather equipment, radar scans, and satellite photographs.

What They Do

Meteorological specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Launch weather balloons to record wind speed and direction
  • Identify the types of clouds present and estimate cloud height and amount of cloud cover
  • Take readings of barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, and sea conditions
  • Operate radio equipment to receive information from satellites
  • Plot weather information on maps and charts
  • Forecast weather based on readings and observations

Where They Work

Meteorological specialists usually work in offices either on land or aboard ships. They work outdoors when making visual weather observations and launching weather balloons.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian meteorological specialists work for government agencies (such as the National Weather Service), commercial airlines, radio and television stations, and private weather-forecasting firms. They perform duties similar to those of military meteorological specialists. Civilian meteorological specialists may also be called oceanographer assistants and weather clerks.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to use color-coded maps and weather charts. Some specialties may involve heavy lifting.

Non-Destructive Testers

Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Military equipment is often placed under heavy stress. An airplane's landing gear absorbs heavy runway impact. Submarine hulls withstand tremendous pressure in the ocean depths. In time, stress may cause structural weakening or damage. Non-destructive testers examine metal parts for stress damage. They use X-rays, ultrasonics, and other testing methods that do not damage (are non-destructive to) the parts tested.

What They Do

Non-destructive testers in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Inspect metal parts and joints for wear and damage
  • Take X-rays of aircraft and ship parts
  • Examine X-ray film to detect cracks and flaws in metal parts and welds
  • Operate ultrasonic, atomic absorption, and other kinds of test equipment
  • Conduct oil analysis and heat damage tests to detect engine wear
  • Prepare inspection reports

Where They Work

Non-destructive testers work indoors in laboratories and aircraft hangars. They also work outdoors in shipyards and in the field.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian non-destructive testers work for commercial testing laboratories, airlines, aircraft maintenance companies, and industrial plants. They perform duties similar to military non-destructive testers and may be called radiographers.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to read color-coded diagrams.

Ordnance Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps

Ordnance is a military term for ammunition and weapons. Ordnance includes all types of ammunition, missiles, toxic chemicals, and nuclear weapons. Ammunition and weapons are hazardous materials that must be handled carefully and stored properly. Ordnance specialists transport, store, inspect, prepare, and dispose of weapons and ammunition.

What They Do

Ordnance specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Load nuclear and conventional explosives and ammunition on aircraft, ships, and submarines
  • Inspect mounted guns, bomb-release systems, and missile launchers to determine need for repair or destruction
  • Assemble and load explosives such as torpedoes
  • Defuse unexploded bombs
  • Locate, identify, and dispose of chemical munitions

Where They Work

Ordnance specialists work both indoors and outdoors. They work in repair shops while assembling explosives and repairing weapons. They work outdoors while repairing equipment in the field and loading weapons on tanks, ships, or aircraft.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

There are no direct Opportunities in Civilian Life for many of the military ordnance specialties. However, many occupations are indirectly related. For example, civilians work for government agencies and private industry performing ordnance research and development. Others work for police or fire departments as bomb disposal experts. Some also work as gunsmiths or work for munitions manufacturers and firearms makers. Ordnance specialists may also be called bomb disposal experts.

Physical Requirements

Ordnance specialists may have to lift and carry artillery shells and other heavy ordnance.

Radar and Sonar Operators

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Radar and sonar devices work by bouncing radio or sound waves off objects to determine their location and measure distance. They have many uses, such as tracking aircraft and missiles, determining positions of ships and submarines, directing artillery fire, forecasting weather, and aiding navigation. Radar and sonar operators monitor sophisticated radar and sonar equipment. They normally specialize in either radar or sonar.

What They Do

Radar and sonar operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Detect and track position, direction, and speed of aircraft, ships, submarines, and missiles
  • Plot and record data on status charts and plotting boards
  • Set up and operate radar equipment to direct artillery fire
  • Monitor early-warning air-defense systems
  • Send and receive messages using radios and electronic communication systems

Where They Work

Radar and sonar operators in the military primarily work indoors in security-controlled areas. They work in operations centers and command posts either on land or aboard aircraft, ships, or submarines. Some may work in a mobile field radar unit.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

There are no direct Opportunities in Civilian Life for military radar and sonar operators. However, civilian workers who use radar and sonar equipment in their jobs include weather-service technicians, air traffic controllers, ship navigators, and ocean salvage specialists.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to enter this occupation. Specialties involving flying require passing a special physical exam.

Radio Intelligence Operators

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Knowing about the military forces of foreign governments helps our military experts plan the nation's defense. One way of learning about foreign military forces is to listen to their radio transmissions. Troop locations, battle tactics, and other secrets can be learned from listening to foreign military units sending messages to one another. Radio intelligence operators intercept, identify, and record foreign radio transmissions.

What They Do

Radio intelligence operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Record radio signals coming from foreign ships, planes, and land forces
  • Study radio signals to understand the tactics used by foreign military forces
  • Tune radios to certain frequencies and adjust for clear reception
  • Locate the source of foreign radio signals using electronic direction-finding equipment
  • Translate Morse code signals into words and type them for review by superiors
  • Keep logs of signal interceptions

Where They Work

Radio intelligence operators may work indoors or outdoors, depending on assignment. They may also work in airplanes, ships, and land vehicles.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian radio intelligence operators work for government agencies like the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They also work in related jobs for private electronics and communications companies. They perform duties similar to those of military radio intelligence operators and may also be called electronic intelligence operations specialists.

Physical Requirements

Radio intelligence operators may have to sit for long periods while listening to radio transmissions.

Space Operations Specialists

Navy
Air Force

Orbiting satellites and other space vehicles are used for communications, weather forecasting, and collecting intelligence data. In the future, more and more military operations will involve space systems. Space operations specialists use and repair spacecraft ground-control command equipment, including electronic systems that track spacecraft location and operation.

What They Do

Space operations specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Transmit and verify spacecraft commands using aerospace ground equipment
  • Monitor computers and telemetry display systems
  • Analyze data to determine spacecraft operational status
  • Repair ground and spacecraft communication equipment
  • Assist in preparing spacecraft commands to meet mission objectives
  • Operate data-handling equipment to track spacecraft

Where They Work

Space operations specialists work in space operations centers.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian space operations specialists work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Weather Service, and private satellite communications firms. They perform duties similar to those of military space operations specialists.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to enter this occupation.

Surveying, Mapping, and Drafting Technicians

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The military builds and repairs many airstrips, docks, barracks, roads, and other projects each year. Surveying, mapping, and drafting technicians conduct land surveys, make maps, and prepare detailed plans and drawings for construction projects. Surveys and maps are also used to locate military targets and plot troop movements.

What They Do

Surveying, mapping, and drafting technicians in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Draw maps and charts using drafting tools such as easels, templates, and compasses
  • Make scale drawings of roads, airfields, buildings, and other military projects
  • Conduct land surveys and compute survey results
  • Draw diagrams for wiring and plumbing of structures
  • Build scale models of land areas that show hills, lakes, roads, and buildings
  • Piece together aerial photographs to form large photomaps

Where They Work

Surveying, mapping, and drafting technicians work both indoors and outdoors in all climates and weather conditions. Those assigned to engineering units sometimes work outdoors with survey teams. Those assigned to intelligence units may work on ships as well as on land.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian surveying, mapping, and drafting technicians work for construction, engineering, and architectural firms and government agencies such as the highway department. Their work is used for planning construction projects such as highways, airport runways, dams, and drainage systems. Surveyors and mapmakers are also called cartographers or cartographic technicians.

Physical Requirements

Good depth perception is required to study aerial -photos through stereoscopes. Normal color vision is required to work with color-coded maps and drawings.