Matching Military Experience with Civilian Jobs


It’s job candidates’ responsibility to clearly describe their skills and experiences, and put their best foot forward. With veterans, however, sometimes those talents aren’t always reflected on their resume. Why? One reason is that veterans' roles and job duties are different in the military world, with different terminology from the private sector. Another reason is that veterans may not fully articulate the scope of their experiences because they are trained not to be boastful. The overall result: a communication gap with hiring professionals.

You may be tempted to dismiss these resumes out of hand. But it’s in your best interest to take a closer look, because you may be missing out on an opportunity to hire someone who is highly qualified, not to mention loyal, poised, driven and team-oriented. A few suggestions:

  1. Dig a little on their service. All veterans have a job specialty throughout their career, known as a Military Occupation Code (MOC). In the Army and Marines, this is also called a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). In the Air Force, it’s called the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC). In the Navy, it’s the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) Code. Some of these specialties, if they’re listed on a resume, may be difficult to decipher. But there are some resources that can give you a better idea of what a military job entails.

    These branches offer some specific information:
    Air Force
    Coast Guard

    Look at O*NET OnLine:
    The site offers a search function that allows you to enter the code and get a description:

  2. Ask other veterans. Talk to a veteran in your company about a certain military job; if they don't know, that person may be able to point you to someone who does. Or reach out to an organization that works with veterans and that has veterans among its employees or volunteers.
  3. Ask the candidate. You’ll likely learn a lot by asking a veteran to explain or elaborate on their service experience—they will often talk not only about their duties and achievements, but about their leadership and management experience as well. This also will give you an idea of their communication skills.
  4. Use Hiring Our Heroes' Resume Engine tool. By registering at the site, you can read resumes of veterans who have used this program to translate their military skills and experience into civilian terms.


Aggressive training with an eye for competitive advancement is just part of a veteran's routine life. By the time veterans come to you seeking employment, many have completed certification and license training, as well as extensive educational courses. Not only that, they have developed intangible skills like leadership from their experiences.

But how do you as a recruiter, manager or business owner translate a person’s training for a mission and correlate it to what your organization needs? Sometimes connecting those dots is not as much of a stretch as you might imagine.

But how do you as a recruiter, manager or business owner translate a person’s training for a mission and correlate it to what your organization needs? Sometimes connecting those dots is not as much of a stretch as you might imagine.

That’s because the Department of Defense has worked with the Departments of Labor, Education and Veterans Affairs to develop many ways for veterans to pursue vocational and technical licensing and certification. In other words, the path has been paved for veterans to seamlessly and successfully step into your organization.

Military Rank to Education Crosswalk

The DoD has designed Vo-Tech programs to document a veteran’s current or past training and experience, or to offer them training for certification and licensing that will qualify them to eventually become your employee.

The best ways to evaluate your interviewee’s credentialing:

Get familiar with military courses for specific Military Occupation Codes.Here are some examples:

  • Suppose you are a public utility seeking electrical engineers. Dig into the course offerings at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE Learning Center (ULC), which manages and implements the Proponent-Sponsored Engineer Corps Training (PROSPECT) Program. This program provides job-related training through technical and professional courses to meet the unique needs of the Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies. The PROSPECT Program’s course catalog, known as the “Purple Book,” lists more than 200 courses.
  • Learn about the offerings of the Army e-Learning Program, which provides free courses to help soldiers prepare for various technical certifications. It does not provide the certification exam, but it does provide courses, practice tests and online books to help them prepare for the actual exam.
  • You as an employer and a recruiter know, of course, that apprenticeships are the most cost-effective way to train employees. The U.S. Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) is a formal military training program executed by the Center for Personal and Professional Development. It provides opportunities for Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy veterans to complete civilian apprenticeship requirements while they are on active duty. The U.S. Department of Labor provides the nationally recognized “Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship” upon program completion. This means the veteran has completed the industry-wide required number of classroom and on-the-job training requirements for that trade.

Do your research on the training for specific military jobs pertaining to your business. This will take some work on your part, but it’s worth the effort: The U.S. Army Human Resources Command Website provides extensive information on the certification and training requirements for every job ranging from public affairs to aviation, to mechanical maintenance, to military police, to chaplain assistant. Click on each job listing, and you’ll pull up a file that lists the various niche components for that job and its required training. As an example, if you’re a correctional facility, you would find under the Military Police file that a soldier could obtain certifications for corrections executive, corrections manager, corrections supervisor, corrections officer and corrections officer/provisional. A Military Police soldier also can get training for everything from bloodstain pattern analysis to fraud examination. Once you see how the training, rigor and certifications between the military and the civilian world match up, it will become easier for you to grasp how that job candidate would specifically dovetail into and augment your organization’s mission.