How to Convert Military Occupational Skills to a Civilian Job

by Tony Guerra

The U.S. military has long been a source of career training in hundreds of occupations. A common name for a U.S. military career field is military occupational specialty, or MOS, though the Air Force and Navy call them different names. Regardless of the general name for military career fields, explaining their duties, skills and responsibilities on a resume can be difficult. Military people can take steps, however, to leverage their MOS skills to improve their civilian job opportunities.

Military Acronyms and Civilian Resumes

The U.S. military uses an endless variety of acronyms to explain or describe what it does. MOS itself is the perfect example of a military acronym that doesn't translate well to the civilian world. Army AIT, or advanced individual training, is another acronym that simply means a soldier's career or occupational education and training. If you want to use your military occupational education and training to obtain a job, first avoid the use of military acronyms on your resume.

Explaining Your Military Skills

Getting a job using your military career field's skills means translating those skills into civilian terms. For example, explaining an infantryman's skills and responsibilities to a civilian employer can be difficult, according to the Military Wallet website, even though an infantryman simply "operates equipment and manages people in a high-stress environment." Deconstruct what you did in your MOS and describe individual acts, such as being an enterprise computer network administrator, rather than just saying you were an Army information technologies specialist.

Explaining Your Job Titles

Nothing confuses a civilian employer like seeing military-specific job titles on your resume. While a civilian employer surely would congratulate you on being a Navy leading petty officer, writing "U.S. Navy: supervisor responsible for improving employee productivity" is better. Similarly, military officers are frequently managers and executives responsible for making a host of decisions, such as budgeting, training and leading strategic change. Always take time to examine your military job title and think about what it would mean in civilian terms.

Military Job Translator Tools

Many military jobs simply don't exist in the civilian world, but explaining them becomes easier when making use of several commonly available online tools. The O*Net occupational information network lets you take your military jobs, enter them and then receive a "civilianized" summary with examples of careers requiring those skills. also has what it calls a military skills translator. Using the translator, just enter your military job and receive a civilian resume-suitable synopsis of skills you learned.

About the Author

Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.

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