Make no mistake about it; you are a talented individual. Your post-uniform mission, should you boldly decide to accept it, is to convince a potential employer of that very same fact. In your quest for a new job sans rank upon your shoulder, you will most certainly find yourself trying to communicate your ever so marketable awesomeness via the time-honored resume.

Love it or hate it, it’s still the expected job search instrument of choice used to showcase past work experiences, marketable skills, obvious superpower abilities and applicable shiny credentials.

Finding the write words (yes, pun intended) isn’t always easy, however. It becomes particularly challenging when the reader of said resume is unfamiliar with the military way of life. Fret no more. You can interpret those camouflaged acronyms, ranks, and course titles in a way that civilian employers will understand exactly what you have to offer.

The following common military-to-civilian-translations and tips can help you get your point across to just about anybody.

You know it as: Civilian employers will understand it as:
NCOIC, Watch Captain,Petty Officer of the Watch Supervisor, Manager, Coordinator
Commander, Chief Division Head, Director, Senior Manager
Executive Officer (XO) Deputy Director, Assistant Manager
Action Officer (AO) Analyst (or Senior Analyst if applicable)
TDY/TAD Business travel
PCS Relocation
OER/NCOER performance appraisal
MOS/MOC career field
Commanded supervised, directed
Battalion, Unit, Platoon organization, agency, department
Mission responsibility, task, objective, job
Combat/War hazardous conditions, conflict
Headquarters headquarters, corporate office
Subordinates employees, co-workers
Service members employees, co-workers, colleagues,personnel, individuals
Security Clearance security clearance
Military Personnel Office (MILPO)Personnel Action Center (PAC) personnel office
Regulations guidance, policy, instructions
Reconnaissance data collection, survey, analysis
TDA/MTOE organizational structure,material resources, manpower

Additional military translation Tips You Can Use:


You might have a laundry list of ARCOMs, MSMs, and AAMs and that is a good thing. Clearly, you did your job well. Don’t, however, fill your resume with each and every one of them. Simply mention, where appropriate, that you received awards for outstanding job performance. If there is something critical to mention about a certain award that propels your case for the job further, then it is fine to elaborate on that particular award.

Job Titles:

Don’t get caught up in making sure your positional military title (Captain, Major, Sergeant) translates. Focus more on communicating the functional area of your job title (Communications Technician, Emergency Medical Technician, Nurse). That said, here are some common translations that may be helpful:

Warrant Officer Technical Manager/Specialist/Department Manager
Senior NCOs First-Line Supervisor
Sergeant Major Senior Advisor
First Sergeant Personnel Supervisor
Squad Leader Team Leader/Team Chief
Supply Sergeant Supply Manager/Logistics Manager
Operations NCO Operations Supervisor
Platoon Sergeant Supervisor/ Instructor/Trainer


Make your classroom achievements easy to understand. Feel free to edit course titles for clarity’s sake. Here are some common examples:

Basic Training = Basics Skills Course
Advanced Individual Training (AIT) = Advanced Skills Course (mention career field)
Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC) = Basic Leadership and Management Development Course
Basic Non-Commissioned Officers Course (BNOC) = Intermediate Leadership and Management Development Course
Advanced Non-Commissioned Officers Course (ANOC) = Advanced Leadership and Management Development Course
Officer Advanced Course (OAC) = Entry Level Officer Training Course
Combined Arms Staff College = Senior Managerial Leadership School
Command and Staff College = Senior Leaders Program
War College = Executive Leadership School

Remember, it is not necessary to list all the training you’ve completed. Stick to mentioning the most recent and relevant ones.

Check out our defense industry resume database.

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Janet Farley is the author of the Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job (Jist Inc, 2012). She writes the JobTalk column for the Stars and Stripes newspapers.