What Is an MOS in the Military? – Unveiling Specialty Codes

Did you know there are over 10,000 occupational specialties in the US military? There are plenty of job opportunities and roles in the Armed Forces. A service member’s role within the military is their MOS or military occupational specialty.

Regardless if you’re from the Air Force or Marine Corps, you’re assigned a military occupational specialty code. This article will explain how the MOS code system works and how people looking to enlist can apply for the job title they would like within the military.

Understanding Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)

Understanding Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)

Military Occupational Specialty, or simply MOS, is a term used by military service branches to identify people’s military jobs within that specific service branch. There are thousands of jobs in the Armed Forces. From human resources specialists to infantry personnel, each job involves unique training.

Some MOS codes have a broader definition, while others are extremely niche. The MOS list is defined by category, similar or related specialties categorized within CMFs or Career Management Fields.

Each job within a Career Management Field is assigned a label. Related specialties that comprise a CMF are given the same first two numbers, followed by a letter assigned to a specific job. It should be noted that the numbers assigned to an MOS don’t indicate a person’s status or rank within the military. This system is a way to categorize jobs that function together into groups.

MOS and Career Management Field (CMF)

To understand how MOS codes work, you must familiarize yourself with CMFs. A CMF is a group of specialties or branches. As mentioned, these related specialty groups have the same first two numbers.

Understanding CMFs enables you to decipher MOS codes easily. Here are some common examples:

  • MOS 9: Interpreter/Translator. People in this field translate and interpret foreign languages in English and vice versa.
  • MOS 11: The Infantry Branch. The designations comprise the main combat force on the field, assigned to fight against enemy troops. Military recruits are given MOS11X as enlistees. When they become infantrymen, this becomes 11B, while an Indirect Fire Infantryman is given 11C.
  • MOS 12: The Corps of Engineers. These are specialists in building, demolition, and mobility. They assist their fellow service members in building defenses and obliterating defenses.
  • MOS 13: Field Artillery Soldiers. These people control immense firepower during combat operations. They manage various electronics and communication platforms aside from weapon systems and munitions.

Different Types of MOS

Each military branch has its own set of MOS codes. Simultaneously, there are opportunities to advance one’s career in each field. The MOS you’re assigned to during basic training isn’t necessarily your MOS during your entire military career. You can change MOS ratings and expand your skills through training.

Army MOS List

The Army branch of the US military has around 160 MOS designations assigned to enlistees, from frontline warriors to aviators and aviation support, to special forces and armor to civil affairs to chaplains’ assistants, interpreters/translators, mechanics, and beyond.

Here are some Army MOS examples:

  • MOS 17C: Cyber Operation Specialists are assigned to protect Army intelligence and highly confidential information. Their role is to safeguard digital data from enemy hackers through the maintenance of security measures like firewalls and the introduction of new cybersecurity.
  • MOS 18: Army Special Forces are tasked to train allied troops and engage enemies through secretive direct-action missions worldwide. Army Special Forces members are privileged to wear the prestigious Green Beret upon completing rigorous qualifications courses. Some MOS codes for people in the Army Special Forces include:
    • Special Forces Assistant Operations and Intelligence Sergeant (MOS 18F)
    • Special Forces Communications Sergeant (MOS 18E)
    • Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (MOS 18C)
    • Special Forces Enlistment Option (MOS 18X)
  • MOS 19: Army Armor officers and crew are tasked to protect service members through combat operations employing armored vehicles.
  • MOS 25: The Signal Corps provides reliable, secure communication between on-ground personnel, helicopter troops in a combat zone, and ground commanders. These professionals are also tasked to intercept, gather, translate, or decipher verbal/nonverbal enemy communications.

Marine Corps MOS List

The Marine Corps uses a four-digit code for its occupational specialties. Once they graduate from boot camp, military personnel from the Marines receive their initial job, the Primary Marine Occupational Special (PMOS). Additional MOS (AMOS) or Category II MOS is for those who undergo special training programs for particular skills or duties during tours.

Here are some examples:

Personnel and Administration (01) are tasked to perform administrative services, including general administration and postal service. The civilian job equivalent of this MOS code is ‘human resources.’ To qualify for this job post, you need to possess communication abilities, typing skills, and elementary clerical skills.

Military Intelligence (02) comprises jobs gathering, processing, and disseminating sensitive classified information. Under this field, there are specialties, including counterintelligence, geographical intelligence, and image interpretation and analysis. To qualify, you should possess a mastery of analytical and technical skills and communication, computer, and clerical skills.

Infantry (03) comprises ground forces trained to locate and destroy enemy fire and repel or maneuver their assault through fire and close combat. All roles under this branch require military personnel to have high fitness levels, mental toughness, and tactical proficiency.

Air Force MOS List

There are 135 jobs available in the Air Force. These jobs are designated a five-character alphanumeric code — the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC). Nine categories exist within this service branch: Contracting and Financial, Logistics, Medical, Operations, Support, Professionals (Chaplain and Legal), Special Investigations, Special Duty Assignments, and Special Reporting Identifiers.

Here are some sample Air Force MOS:

  • Aircrew Operations (1A). Their duties include resolving issues that could render an aircraft inoperable. Samples include:
    • 1A7XX Aerial Gunner
    • 1A8XX Airborne Cryptologic Linguist
    • 1A2XX Aircraft Loadmaster
    • 1A3XX Airborne Mission System
    • 1A4XX Airborne Operations
    • 1A6XX Flight Attendant
    • 1A1XX Flight Engineer
    • 1A0XX In-Flight Refueling
    • 1A9X1 Special Missions Aviation
  • Cyberspace Career Field (1B). Their duties include combat, reporting, network-management systems, and surveillance. The AFSC is 1B4XX Cyberspace Defense Operations.
  • Command & Control Systems Operations (1C) are tasked with aerospace surveillance and vehicle detection, including missile warning systems. Sample MOS codes include:
    • 1C1XX Air Traffic Control
    • 1C7XX Airfield Management
    • 1C0XX Aviation Resource Management
    • 1C2XX Combat Control
    • 1C5XX Command and Control Battle Management Operations
    • 1C3XX Command Post
    • 1C6XX Space Systems Operations
    • 1C4XX Tactical Air Control Party

Navy Rating List

Navy Rating List

The Navy calls MOS ratings. Technically, ratings are the same as MOS codes. However, the US Navy has a particular way of classifying occupational branches and individual jobs. The Navy has 93 ratings, categorized into communities like aviation, medical, security, and surface operations.

Here are sample Navy ratings:

  • Air Traffic Controllers (AC) direct and control Navy aircraft movement through radio communications.
  • Intelligence Specialists (IC) analyze intelligence data and prepare briefings. They also maintain intelligence databases.
  • Legalman (LN) or paralegals assist fellow service members and prepare records for proceedings, like courts of inquiry and court-martial.
  • Master at Arms (MA) runs security protocols and law enforcement operations.

Coast Guard Rating List

Like the Navy, the Coast Guard categorizes its occupational assignment ratings by responsibility. There are almost two dozen ratings in the Coast Guard, namely:

  • Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMT)
  • Aviation Survival Technicians (AST)
  • Avionics Electrical Technicians (AET)
  • Boatswain’s Mates (BM)
  • Culinary Specialists (CS)
  • Damage Controlmen (DC)
  • Divers (DV)
  • Electrician’s Mates (EM)
  • Electronics Technicians (ET)
  • Gunner’s Mates (GM)
  • Health Services Technicians (HS)
  • Information Systems Technicians (IT)
  • Intelligence Specialists (IS)
  • Machinery Technicians (MK)
  • Marine Science Technicians (MST)
  • Maritime Enforcement Specialists (ME)
  • Musicians (MU)
  • Operations Specialists (OS)
  • Public Affairs Specialists (PA)
  • Storekeepers (SK)
  • Yeomen (YN)

Explaining the Job Speciality Selection Process in the Military

There are plenty of opportunities for people wanting to serve in the US military. Potential enlistees and active-duty service members should orient themselves with the job requirements of a specific job before they seek counsel from a recruiter or military career counselor.

You need to undergo tests to determine your eligibility for a specific role. Your score determines your chances of landing the job opportunity you’re aiming for.

  • Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) determines the jobs a recruit is qualified for. Faring well in this exam permits the recruit to choose which job they get after boot camp or basic training. You can practice for this exam.
  • Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) is required if a recruit wants a job requiring foreign language skills.
  • Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) determines if the recruit is medically qualified to join the military. Forms and paperwork are reviewed at MEPS.
  • Physical Profile is a designation for the recruit’s medical condition in various areas.


Working in the military is a privilege and responsibility. If you want to attain your dream job within the Armed Forces, you need to prepare accordingly.


What is the most common MOS in the Army?

MOS 11, or infantry, is the most popular in this service branch. This makes up 50% of the Army.

What is the military MOS number?

MOS refers to one’s military occupational specialty. This code determines your specific role in the military.

Do military officers need MOS?

Commissioned officers are assigned Areas of Concentration (AOC), which are related and then grouped into a specific branch. Like enlisted personnel MOS, hundreds of different careers are available for commissioned officers, each with its own code.

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