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How to Translate Military Jargon to Civilian Terminology on Your Resume

The transition from military to civilian life is not easy. It comes with many challenges. Even something as relatively simple as writing a resume is a challenge in its own right. Having become accustomed to using military jargon on a daily basis, many veterans struggle to write resumes that civilians can understand. To succeed, it’s important to “translate” military jargon into everyday language.


It’s tricky, especially if you don’t have much experience in the matter. Many former military members struggle with this process. Fortunately, finding a professional military-to-civilian resume writing services is highly recommended! This guide will walk you through the best ways to translate military terms into civilian language, giving you a better chance of getting the jobs you want.


image of a military ribbon and star with the words "How To Translate Your Military Skills To A Civilian Resume".

The Importance of Translating Military Jargon

Brigade. Mission. NCO. There are dozens, if not hundreds of military terms and phrases that need translating into civilian English. But, before we look at the “how,” it’s important to address the “why.” Here are some of the key reasons why you can’t expect to get much success if you continue using military jargon on your civilian-oriented resume.


Confusing for Civilian Recruiters

The No. 1 reason to remove military jargon from a resume is to avoid causing any kind of confusion to civilian recruiters. When you’ve spent years in the military, it’s easy to get in the habit of using certain terms and acronyms every day.


To you, they might feel perfectly normal and natural. But to most civilians, they’re like a whole other language. Translating them to more every day or “universal” terms helps you clearly express yourself to recruiters without any risk of confusion.


Trimming Unnecessary Info

The best resumes tend to be quite concise and to the point. Given that recruiters typically make up their minds about resumes in a matter of seconds, they want to see the most valuable and important info, right away.


If you go into too much detail about your military career and achievements, you may waste time and space on information that isn’t particularly relevant. Translating your resume helps you trim out unnecessary content and focus on your most relevant and impressive achievements.


man dressed in half military uniform and half business suite with the words "Military To Civilian"

Selling Yourself as Effectively as Possible

You might have had a fantastic military career, but it can be tricky to convey that to a civilian recruiter. If your resume is full of jargon about officers, missions, and medals, a recruiter might not truly understand the scope of your accomplishments.


By translating those terms into simpler, everyday language, you should be able to more effectively sell yourself to employers. You can explain to them exactly what you’ve achieved so far in clear terms, which could be the difference-maker that helps you get hired.


Military Terms Translation Guide

The importance of translating military terminology is clear to see. Next, let’s look at how it’s done.


Translating Titles and Positions

First, we’ll look at titles and roles within the military, and how they can translate to civilian titles. This is one of the main areas where veteran resumes tend to get bogged down in jargon. So, it’s important to adjust terms like “Commander” and “Squad Leader” into positions that anyone can understand.


  • Commander = Senior Manager

  • Field Grade Officer, Chief = Manager, Executive

  • Senior NCO, Watch Captain = Supervisor

  • Infantry = Security

  • Squad Leader = Team Leader

  • Executive Officer = Deputy Director

  • Supply Sergeant = Logistics Manager

  • Action Officer = Analyst Warrant

  • Officer = Specialist

  • Operations NCO = Operations Specialist


Translating Schools and Training

Education is a big part of any resume, and you may have received a lot of military training. Again, it’s best to translate this, as certain terms or training titles can be tricky to comprehend for civilians.


  • Basic Training, Boot Camp = Basic Skills Course

  • Basic Non-Commissioned Officers Course = Intermediate Management Development Course

  • Advanced Individual Training = Specialist Training

  • War College = Executive Leadership School

  • Combined Arms Staff College = Senior Management School

  • Senior Leader Course = Senior-level Leadership Development Course


military members in line with the U.S. flag and the words "The Transition From Military Life To Corporate Life"

Translating General Terms and Phrases

There are also a lot of other minor military terms you might be comfortable using that also need switching out for civilian alternatives. Here are some examples:


  • AAM-ARCOM, NAM = Award

  • Medal = Honor, Award

  • Military Occupation Specialty = Career Specialty

  • AH-64 = Military Helicopter

  • Brigade = Team, Group

  • Combat = Hazardous Conditions

  • FOB = Base

  • Mission = Task, Objective

  • NCO = Supervisor, Manager

  • Reconnaissance = Data Collection, Data Analysis

  • Soldiers = Staff, Employees, Colleagues

  • Subordinates = Employees, Personnel

  • Company = Department

  • Military Personnel Office = Human Resources (HR)

  • TAD, TDY = Travel

  • PCS = Relocation

  • OER = Appraisal

  • Command = Supervise, Direct

  • HQ = Headquarters, Corporate Offices


Translating Key Skills and Experiences

As you can see, there are quite a lot of terms and acronyms to translate. But, as well as changing individual words and phrases to civilian equivalents, it’s also important to translate some of your experiences and achievements. The idea is to use the best and most relevant parts of your military career on your resume to sell yourself and prove that you’re the right fit for a role.


For example, let’s say you spent time in the Army and did a lot of work training other soldiers. A military way of phrasing that could be “I spent 10 years in the Army and was responsible for training subordinates in the use of tanks and weapons.” However, you could “de-militarize” your resume by writing, “Developed a training program for new team members. Personally trained and evaluated over 200 employees to ensure their readiness for completing their objectives.”


This part can be quite challenging. A good way to go about it is to think back over your military career and note down all of your best and biggest achievements, as well as your usual day-to-day duties. Then, try to think of ways in which you can convert those duties into civilian concepts. Look through civilian job descriptions to learn more about what duties are expected and how they might relate to your military work.


Translate Your Resume for the Best Chance of Success

Translating military terms can be tricky, but it’s crucial for building a successful resume. If you’re not sure how or where to start, a resume writing services for veterans in Denver Colorado can help. Alternatively, you can try translating your resume with the aid of a civilian friend or family member. Ask them to look over your document and point out any terms or phrases that civilians may not understand.

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