January 17, 2017, By Amanda Wilks – There are a lot of important choices to make when joining the military, and choosing the right military occupational specialty (MOS) is one of the biggest. That is the choice that determines how you serve while you are in the military, but it also has repercussions that can last long after you leave the service. There are plenty of options to choose from, and the choice can seem daunting at first. The best way to deal with that is to gradually narrow down the list by thinking about each factor that contributes to your choice. Cross options off the list if any of the factors make them look like bad choices, and mark the ones that excel in one or more areas.
Consider Your Aptitudes
The military requires applicants to take the ASVAB (a series of tests used by the U.S. Army to determine whether you have the mental capabilities to join) as part of the recruitment process in order to assess their talents. Your score on the ASVAB will give you a list of MOS for which you qualify, but the test can help you narrow that list down even more.
Each MOS has a minimum score for qualification, but a person who barely meets the requirements to pick an MOS and someone who vastly exceeds those requirements will have very different experiences during training. In general, having a high score in an area is a good sign that you should consider an MOS in that category.
On the other hand, this should not be the only factor that you consider. If you meet the requirements to choose an MOS, then the military is confident that you will excel in that field. If a job outside of your top-scoring category strongly appeals to you, then you should consider pursuing it even though other jobs might be easier for you to learn.
Look at the Payment
The federal employee salary is set by law. In the military, your salary is determined primarily by your rank and the amount of time that you have spent in the service. That means that your salary does not take your MOS into account, but not all specializes receive the same total compensation.
The military offers a variety of bonuses to its employees. Recruiters can offer incentives to choose a specific MOS, but there are also regular bonus payments for specific duties. Choosing an MOS that will qualify you for special pay can lead to a significant increase in your income, and you can start accumulating it right after you finish your training.
Plan Your Education
Many people join the military in order to get an education, and choosing the right military occupational specialty can help with that process. In some cases, this happens because the skills that you learn as part of the MOS can transfer to civilian employment. This is often the case for people who do organizational work, but mechanics, military engineers, and a variety of other specialists also learn that kind of skill.
Your military training can also help with your academic education. All soldiers benefit from the G.I. Bill, but many soldiers can convert their military training into academic credits to complete a degree quickly. The number and type of credits that are available will vary from one MOS to the next, so everyone who is considering a place in the military to get an education should give serious thought to their academic future when picking an MOS.
Evaluate the Risks
Most people complete their time in the military without ever sustaining a serious injury, but joining the military does mean accepting a certain amount of risk. The amount of danger that a soldier faces, as well as the types of injuries that they are most likely to experience will vary significantly between each MOS. Many of the more dangerous specialties come with special pay and teach a variety of useful skills, so you need to compare the risks associated with an MOS to the benefits when making your choice.
Many people assume that combat specialties are dangerous and that all others are safe, but the reality is more complicated. The most dangerous specialties do include several combat roles, but they also include non-combat personnel who are exposed to danger as part of their job. For example, rescue-swimmers brave dangerous conditions to bring others to safety, while truck drivers are natural targets for enemies that want to cut off the military’s supply lines. These roles are all vital, and danger does not stop people from doing them, but you do need to be aware of the risks when making your choice.
Think About Your Career
Every MOS teaches valuable skills that can boost your career, but not every MOS will help with every future job. For example, a military mechanic will have an easy time adjusting to a job in a civilian garage, but won’t be able to draw on as much experience going into an office. When you pick your MOS, try to keep your future job prospects in mind and pick a specialty that will help you get the job of your dreams later in life.
After you go through all of these stages, you will have narrowed down your list of possible specialties to just one or two options. Discuss each of military occupational specialty on the list with your recruiter to cover any lingering questions, and then choose the one that feels like the best choice.