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Changing Jobs in the Military: Is It Possible?

Airmen prepare an engine for shipment.

Every service member has a specific job, often called a military occupational specialty or rating, usually assigned very soon after enlistment or basic training. Each specialty includes specific duties you will be expected to perform to help your service branch protect the peace and fulfill its mission.

Specialties are assigned based on your personal talents and skills, available “billets” or job openings, and the overall mission needs of your service branch, both current and future.

Can I transfer to a new military MOS if I don’t like my current one?

Check out the different military jobs.

From armored tank drivers and infantry units to musicians and mechanics, the military offers professional opportunities for almost every career.

If you’d like to change specialties and try something new, there are steps you can take to find a new position as you continue your service. But be aware, a change in military specialty is not always possible or guaranteed.

The Army and Marine Corps calls this type of change a “reclassification” or “change of military operations specialty.” The Navy calls it a “cross-rate,” and in the Air Force it is “re-training.” But no matter what it’s called in your branch, be aware the military expects service members to stay in their first specialty for a while – usually several years. After all, it’s taken time and resources to train you – the military wants to see a return on its investment.

Occasionally, a branch may run a “mandatory reclassification” to maintain a balanced fighting force.

Increasing your chances of transferring to a new military position

You must ask for a transfer through your chain of command. Your branch’s approval depends a lot on your personal situation. If your service record is clean, and you have a good reputation with your chain of command, your request is more likely to be considered.

In addition, a transfer may be more likely if:

  • You are re-enlisting. You can request a specialty reassignment when you re-enlist, during which you agree to serve for another few years in your new position. This is likely the best time to make a move to a new position.
  • There are too many personnel in your current position. If your current specialty is overstaffed, it may be easier to move to a different specialty with fewer staff positions.
  • Your desired specialty is understaffed. If the specialty you would like to join is in need of more personnel, you are more likely to be able to make the change. Your service branch may even send out a call looking for people interested in switching to critically understaffed positions.
  • You’ve received more training or education, like a college degree, that makes you more valuable in a different position. Some specialties aren’t available until you’ve served for a few years, like many positions in the special operations units.

Will I be able to use my military MOS to find a civilian job?

You can absolutely use the skills and experience you’ve gained in the civilian workforce. In fact, many of the specialties require civilian-based credentials and training to operate effectively. For example, both military and civilian air traffic controllers are FAA-certified.

There are several Department of Defense programs dedicated to helping separating service members find solid civilian careers. For example, each service branch runs a credentialing program designed to translate a service member’s specialty and general military experience into a civilian-style resume hiring managers can understand. And remember, Military OneSource is here to connect you to the resources and services you need to live your best military life.

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