How To: Translate Military Terms

How To: Translate Military Terms

A recent ZipRecruiter study set out to determine the biggest challenges facing veterans as they search for civilian jobs. We interviewed both veterans and people who recruit veterans, and of those interviewed, 78% cited “translating skills” as a hurdle veterans must overcome*. This is unsurprising considering the military-specific terms and titles that are used within the service—terms which average civilians probably won’t understand—and explains why it can be difficult for veterans to communicate their abilities to civilian employers and get the interviews and jobs they want.

If you are a veteran on the civilian job hunt, building a basic understanding of how to translate your military experience to a civilian resume is crucial. You might find it useful to include your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) Code on your resume if you’re hoping to land a job similar to your military position. But if you’re seeking employment in a completely new line of work, incorporating basic corporate translations is the best way to make your resume civilian-friendly. Below, we’ve rounded up the most common military-specific terms (left) and their civilian equivalent (right).

Hierarchy or Seniority Level Terms

Military Title Civilian Translation
Commander VP, Director or Senior Manager or
Executive Officer Deputy Director or Assistant Director / Associate Director
Field-Grade Officer Executive or Manager
Company Grade Officer Operations Manager or Coordinator
Warrant Officer Department Manager or Department Head
Senior NCOs Supervisor or Coordinator
Infantry Security Manager or Security Enforcer
First Sergeant Personnel Manager, Manager
Squad Leader Team Leader or Team Lead
Supply Sergeant Logistics Manager
Operations NCO Operations Supervisor / Operations Manager

Skills and Responsibilities Terms

Military Term Civilian Term
AI Additionally skilled in
Combat Hazardous conditions
Company Department or section
Medal Award
Military Personnel Office Human Resources
Mission Task, function, or objective
Military occupation speciality Career specialty
Squad or platoon Team
Reconnaissance Data collection and analysis
Regulations Policies or guidelines
Security clearance Security clearance
Servicemembers Employees
Subordinates Employees
TAD/TDY Business trip

If you’re unsure about what types of civilian jobs to apply for, an MOS translator can help you hone in on the jobs you’re most qualified for based on your military experience. Here are a few to consider:

As a new member of the civilian workforce, you’ll be asked to speak to your military experience in resumes, cover letters, and interviews many times over. You want to make sure you have an arsenal of civilian-friendly tools and terms that allow you to do this, so you can show employers in any industry why you’re the right fit for their open job.

*ZipRecruiter Internal Data, July 2018. Of 14 candidates interviewed regarding the most prevalent challenges faced by Veteran job seekers, 11 listed and mentioned translating skills as the top challenge. These candidates were a combination of Veteran job seekers, Veteran-specific corporate recruiters, and non profit employment programs that serve transitioning Veterans.

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By ZipRecruiter