Which MOS to Choose When You First Enlist in the Army: Tips for Picking the Right MOS

Today, I want to share some practical advice on which Army MOS to pick when you enlist in the Army.  Most people are very young when they first join the Army (17-21 years old) and they simply don’t know what they don’t know. They go to their local recruiter, take an ASVAB test, take their medical tests at MEPS and then choose an MOS from the options they are given on that specific day.  In other words, they don’t put a lot of thought into the MOS they choose.

That’s how it’s normally done anyway.

Knowing what I know now, I would definitely recommend a different approach. Rather than being reactive, I think it is wiser to be proactive and have a game plan before you ever set a foot in your Army recruiter’s office or at MEPS. After all, joining the Army is a big decision and you should definitely put some thought into it.

Choosing the right MOS is very important.  No, you won’t necessarily be locked into one MOS your entire military career (if you choose to make a career out of the military), but picking a MOS that interests you and prepares you for life after the Army is very important.

Today, I want to teach you how to do that, so you can go to your recruiter and MEPS with a game plan!  Let’s get started.

# 1 Take Your ASVAB

The first step in the process is to take your ASVAB test.  You want to do this first so you can get your line scores and know which MOSs you are potentially eligible for.  This is the starting point.  Most people do this during their senior year of high school.  If you don’t have a current ASVAB test score, get with your local recruiter and they will give you a test.

# 2 Make a List of Civilian Careers That Would Interest You

I understand you are 17 -21 years old and probably aren’t sure what you want to do with your life.  That’s perfectly normal.  That being said, spend an hour or two and brainstorm potential civilian careers, or trades, that you think would interest you.  In other words, what could you see yourself doing with your life AFTER the Army.  The reason I think it’s important to think about this is because the Army can potentially train you for almost any trade or career you can imagine, free of charge.

For example, let’s suppose your dream has always been to be a welder.  That’s what your dad did and that’s what you see yourself doing with your life.  In this example, why not enlist as an Army welder?  They’ll train you and give you some real world experience, so after your first enlistment you can leave the Army and find a great civilian job.

# 3 Make a List of Army MOSs That Would Interest You

Once you’ve put some thought into what civilian careers you see yourself pursuing in the mid-term and long-term future, your next step is to evaluate all of the different Army MOSs that interest you.  You can start out by doing an internet search and printing off a comprehensive list of all the MOSs available.  From there, you can make a list of the ones that interest you.  Once you have your preliminary list of 10-20 MOSs, you can do your due diligence and learn more about each MOS.  One easy way to do that is to spend some time on YouTube or do a quick internet search.  There is a lot of free information online.

# 4 Find Out the Requirements for Each MOS

Once you’ve whittled your list of potential Army MOSs down to your top five or top ten choices, your next step is to find out the requirements for each MOS.  Find out what scores you need on your ASVAB and if there are any medical restrictions (example: 20/20 vision) that might keep you from doing that MOS.  Cross off the MOSs that you are not eligible for and whittle your list down to your top three  to five choices.

# 5 Retake Your ASVAB Test If Needed

The next step in the process is to retake your ASVAB test, if needed.  For instance, if your ASVAB score is too low for all of your top three to five choices, I would take another test.  Get an ASVAB study guide and put a lot of effort into raising your score.  It’s worth a few weeks of sacrifice to prepare and retake the test.

# 6 Go to Your Recruiter/MEPS with a Game Plan

Once you’ve done the steps mentioned above, it’s now time to go to your recruiter and visit MEPS. Assuming you’ve passed all of the medical tests and are medically qualified to join the Army, you are now ready to enlist.  Since you did all of your prep work ahead of time, you can now choose the MOS you desire (assuming there is availability in the Army).  In many cases, availability for jobs can change on a day-to-day basis.  To the best of my knowledge (please verify with your recruiter) you have 30 days from the time you finish your MEPS processing to actually enlist.  You might want to wait a week or two or three until the job you want opens up.  Whatever you do, don’t be pressured into enlisting into a MOS that doesn’t interest you.

Additional Considerations

Let’s suppose you’ve followed the steps mentioned above, but you just can’t decide what you want to do with your life.  That’s fairly normal.  If that’s the case, just about any MOS will do.  I should also note that most Soldiers will get an opportunity at some point in their career (after their initial enlistment) to get an additional MOS.  So even if you end up with a MOS that you don’t enjoy all that much, you won’t be locked into it forever.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  This is my six step process on how to choose the right Army MOS when you first enlist in the Army.  I hope you found the information helpful and I hope that you will spend a considerable amount of time to think through the process and determine what you want.

What are your thoughts?  What tips or suggestions can you recommend for choosing the right Army MOS?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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11 thoughts on “Which MOS to Choose When You First Enlist in the Army: Tips for Picking the Right MOS”

  1. It’s good to remind people that even if you end up in an MOS you don’t like, you’ll probably get the chance to get an additional MOS. For a young person entering the Army, this means you can be paid to learn and develop expertise in more than one trade or career.

  2. It would be great if recruiters utilized Chuck’s blog and the many great articles here. It may help newbies choose an MOS they will be interested in and they will want to stick with. I believe if these steps were taken, more soldiers would stay until retirement instead of always looking for that day they can just walk away. I think everyone should show a recruiter this site.

      1. I always preached, and even harped to all 3 of my children that they really need to consider strongly what they want to do in life. Whether it is in the military or in civilian life, teenagers need to realize that their decision will be a lifelong commitment.

        When it comes to the ASVAB test, I recommend studying for it. There are many programs that offer study materials. Maybe Chuck has some here. He will surely chime in and let us know. If he doesn’t maybe he knows some great programs for studying for this test.

        Your MOS should not be taken lightly. It is for life.

  3. One statement you made stands strong here Chuck. “Don’t be pressured to take an MOS you don’t think you will like.”

    Personally, I don’t know how recruiters are these days, but in the early 1980’s when I joined, recruiters would say and do anything just to get you in. They were worse than some used car salesmen. I was downright lied to and there was no backing out once I was in Ft Benning.

    Follow Chucks advice, and you will be setting yourself up for a great life in the service of your choice.

      1. I believe that it is also very, very important to consider that you may not be in the military until retirement. I believe that considering an MOS with good education and experience for civilian life is also very important. It is wise to see what types of civilian careers coincide with the MOS you choose. If you were to leave the Army, what will be the odds of you getting a job in that field?

        I believe that it is also wise to discuss it with your spouse or mate. Maybe your parents or a good friend. Get some opinions, because they may be able to help you choose an MOS that is right for you.

  4. I want to add to my above comment that when I joined the USAF I wound up doing a job that I had never even considered doing before I joined.

    I had a two year electronics degree and wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in that field and wound up working as a hydraulic mechanic on C-130’s.

    That job was actually fine with me for the time I was in and I wound up using my experience with both in the civilian world when I left the Air Force. It has been good to know both fields pretty well.

    It is ok to go into a field that you have never worked in before when you join the Army. Different experiences are going to be good for anybody. You become well rounded and confident through different experiences.

  5. You make excellent points here. It is way too hard to know what job to pick when you join the Army.

    You listed some things here that need to be thought about. Some people know exactly what they want, and some have just not thought much about it.

    You have given everybody a way to think it through.

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