You’ve proudly served in the U.S. military and deserve recognition for your contributions to our country. Many of the skills and experience you gained while serving translate well into a civilian career, making you a valuable candidate to employers.
Unfortunately, knowing how to list your military service on a resume isn’t so easy.
You’ll need to correctly translate military terminology, acronyms, and experience into easy-to-read, civilian-friendly writing so that hiring managers better understand what qualifications and skills you have to offer them.
To help you, below we’ve included five tips for how to add military experience to a resume, along with three helpful reminders about what to avoid in the process.
1. List your military experience in your resume summary
The first section of your resume will be your resume summary, so it’s important to showcase your military experience there for the hiring manager to see.
Your resume summary should highlight your relevant military experience, expertise and skills, career highlights and achievements, and any other relevant qualifications you possess.
Here’s an example of a great resume summary for a military police officer:
Senior Military Police Officer with 8+ years experience leading, managing, and training a team of 60+ police personnel. Extensive knowledge in delegating and managing base security, conducting searches, and identifying potential security flaws and concerns. Oversaw the safeguarding of $1M+ in military equipment, while reducing safety and disciplinary incidents by 20% in under 1 year.
Notice how the veteran details their experience (8+ years experience leading, managing, and training a team of 60+ police personnel), and expertise (delegating and managing base security, conducting searches, and identifying potential security flaws and concerns).
Finally, the veteran includes a career achievement to show the hiring manager they’re able to deliver results (Oversaw safeguarding of $1M+ in military equipment, while reducing safety and disciplinary incidents by 20% in under 1 year).
2. Put your military service in your work experience section
If you have military experience relevant to the job you want, you should list it in your resume’s work experience section.
Treat your military service the same as any other professional work experience by listing it chronologically and adding your dates of service and positions held. Additionally, you should include your accomplishments by quantifying your work experience with hard numbers.
Using hard numbers when listing your work experience gives the hiring manager a better idea of the scope of your military duties and responsibilities, as well as how you contributed to your previous military unit or company.
For example, here are three work experience bullet points from a military police officer that quantifies their achievements:
Managed a team of 20 police officers, providing security for 1,000 personnel living in a base 1.5 square miles in size
Conducted avg. of 300 visitor and 50 vehicle inspections daily, searching for and identifying potential security threats. Prevented 20+ security incidents from occurring in under 6 months
Interviewed and investigated avg. of 10 witnesses and suspects weekly, developing standard questionnaires and interview SOPs for fellow police officers
Note how the veteran uses hard numbers above when detailing their military work experience and accomplishments. For example, detailing the number of police officers they managed (20), the number of personnel they provided security for (1,000), and the base size (1.5 square miles).
3. Add your military education to your resume
Military academies and schools are highly regarded in the U.S. as being top-tier educational institutions. If you’ve graduated from a military academy, take credit for your hard work by listing your education in your resume education section.
Treat your military education the same as any education acquired at a public or private U.S. institution. List dates of study, degree achieved, and any achievements or honors you gained.
Here’s an example of a veteran’s military education experience from West Point:
UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY | WEST POINT, NY 2010 – 2014
Bachelor of Science, Law and Legal Studies
- Graduated with a 3.9/4.0 GPA
- Dean’s List 4 semesters (graduated 30 out of 900 cadets)
- Superintendent’s Award for Excellence recipient (top 5% of cadet class rated in physical, academic, and military excellence)
4. Display your relevant military awards and honors
Military awards are excellent additions to your resume because they showcase a variety of valuable soft skills such as dedication, strong work ethic, teamwork, and integrity.
Include your military awards in a dedicated section titled “Military Awards” or “Military Honors”.
However, if you’re running out of space on your resume (remember the length of your resume should be about one page), then you can include your military award(s) as bullet points in your work experience section.
Additionally, make sure only to include military awards relevant to the job you’re applying for, and that civilian hiring managers can easily understand their significance.
5. Highlight your transferable military skills
Throughout your military experience, you’ve gained many soft skills that employers value, such as excellent management skills and leadership skills, as well as hard skills specific to your MOS, NEC, or AFSC.
If you’re not sure exactly what skills are appropriate for you to list, given your military experience, use a military skills translator to search with your MOS, NEC, or AFSC indicator and branch of service.
3 additional tips for how to add military experience to a resume
Knowing what information to include when adding your military experience to your resume is equally important as knowing what information you should omit or alter. To help you write a great resume, we’ve included three additional tips below for you to be aware of.
1. Don’t include graphic details about combat experience
Many veterans have unfortunately seen combat and the side effects it produces. While you may be accustomed to discussing combat experience with your fellow veterans, civilian hiring managers may find it intimidating, or at the very least irrelevant to the position you’re applying for.
Only include combat experience if you’re applying for a position that values it, such as law enforcement or security guard positions. Additionally, make sure when describing your combat experience to omit any graphic details while highlighting the transferable skills you gained in the process.
Here’s an example of what not to do when writing about your combat experience:
- Personally responsible for 11 KIA enemy combatants
- Managed a squad-sized element, training them on mission tactics and SOPs while receiving enemy fire and TIC ambushes daily
Now here’s that same example, but focused on the transferable skills rather than the combat experience itself:
- Managed and trained 10 military personnel, developing and executing detailed team and objective SOPs under sometimes stressful conditions
- Increased team employee retention rate by 25% through proper mentorship and acting on insights from previous employee exit surveys
2. Translate military jargon and acronyms
Chances are you’ve used many common military acronyms and terms during your service that civilians won’t understand. Even something as simple as saying, “The U.S. military is part of D.O.D.” will likely confuse people who don’t have a government background.
When listing your military service on your resume, you’ll want to make sure that you translate military terms such as your military rank, job duties and responsibilities, and other jargon into relatable terms that civilian hiring managers will grasp.
3. Proofread your military experience
Proofreading your resume is essential no matter what kind of experience you have. Be sure to check for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure you’ve properly translated military acronyms and jargon into civilian-friendly language.
Use programs such as spell check on Microsoft Word or Grammarly to check for grammar and punctuation mistakes. Also, ask a friend already working in the industry you’re applying for to proofread your resume for clarity, checking that civilian hiring managers will understand your military experience.