Enlisting in the military can help you achieve your career goals. In fact, there are even some jobs that you can only do as a service member, like drive a tank or fly a fighter jet. Here’s what you need to know about your future military career.
How you receive your military job
While every enlisted service member graduates from their branch’s basic training, where you head afterwards depends on your assigned military occupational specialty, or MOS. In the Air Force, this code is called an Air Force Specialty Code, or AFSC.
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Your preference for which MOS or AFSC you want to pursue will be considered. However, the military job you’re ultimately assigned to hinges on your personal talents – as evaluated by various exams like the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, and your initial military trainers – and roles the service needs filled the most when you enter.
Some branches assign jobs to service members when they sign their initial contract before basic training. Other services wait to assign codes until later. You may be guaranteed a specialty within a category – which we describe below – but not a specific military job code. Make sure you ask your recruiter how MOS or AFSC assignment works for your service before you enlist.
Different categories of military occupational specialties
While all service members will eventually receive a specific MOS or AFCS – such as a firefighter or artillery specialist – many enlistees enter boot camp only knowing that they will receive a position within a broad category of MOS. That is, enlisted recruits may know they will get a job within the broad protective services or combat categories, but they won’t know their particular military job code until after basic training or later.
Browse the categories below to see what range of military jobs interests you, and be sure to make your military career preferences known when asked by your instructors and other officers.
Administrators keep databases and information about everything in their service branch, from personnel to equipment to funding. Positions within this military specialty include:
- Lawyers and legal affairs
- Maintenance tracking
- Supply and transportation logistics
- Warehouse management
A unique job category within the armed forces, those with combat specialty roles train and work specifically within warfare-related activities. These can include:
- Special force units, such as the Army Rangers or Navy SEAL teams
- Tank and armored vehicle operators
Those with a construction military specialty position are responsible for building and repairing necessary infrastructure – including bridges, airfields and buildings. Some possible jobs in this specialty include:
- Crane operator
Service members with this career specialty maintain and repair the electronic equipment used by all military personnel. Those in this category can specialize in repairing certain classes of equipment, including:
- Aircraft electronics
- Weapons and targeting systems
Just like in the civilian world, the military needs those with technical and scientific skills. Positions in this category include:
- Engineers of all kinds, such as civil, structural and electrical
- Scientists in many fields, such as environmental, statistics and disease-control
- Intelligence gatherers
The military needs those whose primary work is to heal both service members and their families. Available roles in this specialty include:
- Medical doctors
- Laboratory and equipment technicians for X-rays, ultrasounds, etc.
Even the military has a human resources department, just like civilian organizations. After all, every branch’s most important resource is its service members. Jobs in this specialty can include:
- Personnel specialists, who coordinate tasks relating directly to service members like training, assignments and promotions.
- Recruiting specialists, who provide information about their specific branch of the armed forces to recruits.
- Training specialists, who teach service members the skills they need to succeed. For example, your instructors at basic and advanced training had either a permanent or temporary assignment in a human resource specialty.
Like the electronic repair positions discussed earlier, this military specialty also includes the operation and repair of equipment – but specifically industrial equipment and machinery. Roles in this specialty include:
- Survival equipment specialists
- Engine, nuclear reactor and water pump operators
Service members who work in this military specialty help advance their branch’s marketing and public relations goals. They speak to the civilian press to share accurate information about their branch’s activities and goals to the general public.
Military units and installations need protective services personnel, just like a civilian city. Roles in this specialty include:
- Military police, or MP
To keep fighting forces fit and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, each branch maintains personnel as support staff, whose sole focus is the morale and personal well-being of service members. Roles in this military specialty include:
- Religious program specialists
- Cooks and food service staff
- Counselors who provide non-medical services
Each branch needs to be able to transport goods and personnel wherever they’re needed in the world, which is where transportation specialists and material handlers come in. Some jobs in this category include:
- Forklift operators
- Boat and truck operators
A unit can’t deploy if its vehicles and heavy equipment don’t work, which is why the military trains special mechanics to repair and maintain its fleet of machinery. Careers in this specialty include:
- Aircraft mechanics
- Automotive and heavy equipment mechanics
- Heating and cooling mechanics
- Marine engine mechanics
- Mechanics who repair equipment at power plants and stations
In addition to some of the common jobs held by service members, the military also offers unique career options that may not have crossed your mind. These include:
- Entomologists, who study, track and treat bug infestations at installations worldwide.
- Musicians, who play in service bands such as the “The President’s Own” Marine Corps Band for both fellow service members and the general public on either temporary or full-time assignments.
- Multimedia illustrators, who design the graphics and illustrations used in military publications.
- Veterinarians, who care for the military’s service animals – including horses, dolphins and dogs.
- Photographers, who record the events happening in military life both at home and abroad. In fact, some of the images you’ve seen on Military OneSource feature their work.
Note that these and other unusual military careers may not be available for service members in every branch. For example, only the Army employs veterinarians, but they support every branch’s working animals.
You can express interest in a specific military job specialty or even general category. However, your assigned MOS or AFSC will be based on your branch’s mission needs and your personal abilities, as determined by the ASVAB and other exams, as well as the training specialists you have during basic and advanced training.
What happens after you receive your military job assignment
Depending on their assigned MOS or AFSC, enlisted service members take more advanced coursework after basic training to fulfill their military job duties.
- Army soldiers will go to Advanced Individual Training, or AIT
- Marines will go to the School of Infantry, or SOI.
- Navy seamen will go to advanced training at one of 21 “A Schools.”
- Air Force airmen will head to technical training, where enlisted service members will automatically earn traditional college credits in addition to their military specialty.
Depending on your assignment, skills and performance on the job, you can request a transfer to a different military specialty. You’ll have to discuss how to do this with your unit commander and determine whether your desired assignment is available.
If you’d like to discuss anything about your military life or even vent to someone who understands what it’s like – knowing what you say stays completely confidential from your chain of command, peers and family – you can reach out to Military OneSource anytime.