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How To: Translate Military Terms

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

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


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


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


Additionally skilled in


Hazardous conditions


Department or section



Military Personnel Office

Human Resources


Task, function, or objective

Military occupation speciality

Career specialty

Squad or platoon



Data collection and analysis


Policies or guidelines

Security clearance

Security clearance






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.

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

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