Career Spotlight: Defense Contractor

The use of defense contractors stretches back to the American Revolution. During that war, the Continental Army was inexperienced and ill-equipped, so contractors provided food, clothing, horses, wagons, weapons, and even scouting services. Today, the Department of Defense still requires the help of defense contractors for the U.S. military.

What Is a Defense Contractor?

A defense contractor is a business organization or individual who provides products or services to a government’s military or intelligence department. These products and services can include technical support, training, weaponry, aircrafts, vehicles, communications support, logistics, and electrical systems.

Working for a Defense Contractor

According to, The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation are two of the largest defense contractors. These defense companies focus on manufacturing in areas of aeronautics, technology services, space systems, electronic systems, information technology, and others.

You don’t have to work for a large business to be a defense contractor, though. The Department of Defense also works with small businesses, including those owned by women, minorities, and veterans.

Whether you work for a large or small business organization, much of what you do working in defense contracting will be the same. You will help make radars, sensors, weapons, data-analysis tools, command-and-control systems, and cybersecurity systems. As such, it is important to have a degree in an area that supports your career goals.

How to Become a Defense Contractor

The world of defense contracting is complex; it is important to think about what you can offer the Department of Defense and the U.S. military before entering the field. What types of services or products can you and/or your company offer? There are a few steps to follow if you want to become a defense contractor:

  • Verify your business eligibility—Check the Small Business Administration size standards tool to see if your business meets small business size standards. Your business must meet certain standards to operate for profit, be independently owned and operated, and make significant contributions to the U.S. economy. Also, be sure to choose a North American Industry Classification System code that best describes your business.
  • Get the proper credentials—Obtain a free data universal numbering system number, which will help you bid on proposals by coding the physical location of your business. You can also register with the Federal Contractor Registry, System for Award Management so your company is listed as wanting to bid on projects of the federal government.
  • Find appropriate opportunities—You can look for an appropriate contract opportunity at
  • Hire qualified individuals—Whoever works in your company must be qualified and committed to understanding federal guidelines and be masters in their fields.

Defense Contractor Job Outlook

Working as a defense contractor has many benefits. You can work in an exciting, fast-paced, and growing career field while providing goods and services that help the U.S. military. In addition, there are other great pros to working in defense contracting:

  • Good equal opportunity
  • Generous paid time off
  • Annual cash bonus called the Success Sharing Plan
  • 100 percent tuition reimbursement for approved coursework
  • Life insurance plans
  • Health care plans

According to, defense contractor salaries in the U.S. range from $19,398 to $517,263 with the median salary of $93,671.

If you think that you could offer goods and products to help the Department of Defense and the U.S. military, consider becoming or working for a defense contractor. A Bachelor of Science in National Security from Excelsior University can give you a foundation in federal regulations to help propel you in this career.