Army 21L MOS: The Lithographer

If you’re looking to learn a skilled trade that you could use after the Army, you should learn more about the 21L MOS: the Army lithographer.  Lithography is any type of printing, which involves the creation of a printing plate.  A lithographer is someone who practices this profession.

Duties and Responsibilities

Here is a very brief list of duties and responsibilities you might have in this MOS:

  • Produces maps, charts, psychological leaflets and similar printed matter
  • Use copy cameras, computers, color scanners and plate makers
  • Conducts dark room processing
  • Produces plates and proofs
  • Operates offset presses and digital duplicators
  • Performs preventative maintenance on lithography equipment
  • Safely handles photographic chemicals
  • Trains in sheet fit press operations
  • Produces single and multi-color printed matter
  • Train in layout to produce multi-negative and signature flats

Requirements for MOS

To qualify for this MOS you need to achieve an 85 in the aptitude area ST on your ASVAB test.  The strength requirement is heavy.  The physical profile requirement is 222122.  Normal color vision is required.  You must be a U.S. Citizen.  Prior to attaining the rank of SSG you must have a Secret Security Clearance.

AIT Training

To the best of my knowledge, the AIT for the 21L MOS is 18 weeks long and is located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  You will receive training on a wide variety of topics to include operating printing equipment, developing negatives, handling photographic chemicals, producing plates and proofs, and much more.

Career Opportunities

The Army offers plenty of career opportunities in this MOS within the enlisted ranks.  If you decided to leave the Army at any point you could work as a bindery worker, a prepress technician or printing machine operator.

Qualities and Skills Required to Succeed in this MOS

Here are a few skills or qualities that can help you succeed in this MOS:

  • Patience
  • Meticulous
  • Attention to detail or perfectionist
  • Work good by yourself or in small groups
  • Creative

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that the Army 21L MOS, the lithographer, is a great career choice for the right person.  If you are looking to learn a skilled trade that you could use after your Army career, this might be the right fit for you.  I would encourage you to do your homework and talk to several different Soldiers and NCOs in this MOS to learn more, so you can make an informed decision.

What are your thoughts?  If you have experience as a 21L I would love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below to tell me what you like or dislike about the job, any tips for success you might have, and what you do on a daily basis.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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5 thoughts on “Army 21L MOS: The Lithographer”

  1. Lithographers rock –going back to Paul Revere and even previously! Sorry but this is one MOS that I can definitely say has benefitted everyone. But if you chose it, expect disappointment in civilian life. As for after-Army work, you need to realize that printing is not what it used to be. Best to develop online skills, so you can carry on the same type of work. Yes, it is different. But it might save your career.

  2. Hmmm, lithographer seems like an excellent opportunity for careers after the Army. The world is full of printing types of positions. If you look around, there are tons of material printed every day. It seems this would be a great position in the Army too. I would think that there would be strong clearance procedures with a job such as this. It seems that many printed objects would have secret material. Do you know if there are strict clearance guidelines?

    1. It says you have to have a clearance as a NCO, but not to get the MOS. Yes, there are lots of Secret documents that need to be printed. There are also many “unclassified” documents and maps to produce.

      1. I guess the Army separates the high security printing from the low security and only has those with security clearance perform high security jobs.

        Just looking at all the paperwork and other printed materials in the military, a person who takes this MOS surely will never have to worry about that job going away.

        This would be great experience for life after the Army too. There are plenty of jobs for those who know printing.

    2. Greg, I have to disagree with you on this one. The printed word, and by that I mean something physically printed and reproduced on paper, is becoming less and less common. Lithographers do the actual printing on paper. Think about that. We still need this MOS, and some things will always be printed, but more materials have moved online and into virtual formats. This might not be a good MOS for the civilian transition.

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