What Is a Military Occupational Specialty Code (MOS)?

The U.S. military uses differing systems to identify and classify different occupational areas with further identifications that designate specific jobs within those areas. Each service has its own system of job classifications, which are discussed below.

The ASVAB Test Determines Job Qualifications

Many young people in high school take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test. The ASVAB doesn’t test how smart a candidate is or how much he or she knows. Instead, the ASVAB tests their natural inclinations and abilities. Each military job classification in each service has minimum ASVAB scores required for further training and placement. Practice tests are available online at each service’s website.

Jobs and Qualifications Systems Used in the U.S. Military

The U.S. Army uses the Military Occupational Specialty Code (MOSC) system for enlisted personnel, which has 9 characters. The first two letters are numerical and the third character is a letter.

The U.S. Marines use the same jobs and classifications, call Occupational Fields (OccFld) for both enlisted and officers.

The U.S. Air Force uses a system called Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC). Codes for officers have four characters and enlisted codes have five. They may use a letter prefix or suffix to further specify requirements or individual qualifications.

The U.S. Coast Guard uses a system called the Rate. The Rate system uses two- or three-character code which is based on the name of the job, i.e., YN (Yeoman). Care must be taken not to confuse the Rate (the job description) with Rating (the rank) of a sailor.

Getting the Military Job You Want

It is important to carefully weigh both the service branch and the job you want. This is the job you will have for at least several years. Before you consider visiting a recruiter, take a time to carefully research, consider and rethink, if necessary. Have two or three jobs in mind and compare each service’s training, conditions and availabilities for those jobs.

  • Where will you be stationed? Overseas or at-sea adventures that sound exciting as an 18-year-old with no responsibilities. It will not be nearly as fun when you have a wife, a toddler and another baby on the way.
  • Is there room for advancement? Some jobs can be bottlenecked at the top end of the designations. By the time a candidate is ready for promotion to the top three grades, there may only be a handful of openings available. Research this feature carefully.
  • How does the job transition to civilian life? Make sure that the military job will enable you to easily translates to well-paying and sought after the civilian jobs.

It is smart to take your parent(s), a military veteran, another older adult or all three with you to the recruiters. They will be your advisers. Listen to them. You can end up with a fulfilling and important career or be miserable for years. Take your time.