7 Differences Between Military and Civilian Life

7 Differences Between Military and Civilian Life

To some, military life is one filled with conflict and war, while civilian life represents freedom. However, a veteran who has made the military transition to civilian life and conquered both worlds can easily distinguish the difference between military and civilian life, without mention of the terms war or freedom. Our latest Empire Resume article will discuss some of the key differences of life in the military and life in the civilian world and compare the two.

There are several differences between military and civilian life. The differences include the following:

  • Individuality and Responsibility
  • Living and Housing
  • Career, Employment and Job Security
  • Laws
  • Healthcare
  • Educational Benefits
  • Retirement

While there are many more, we believed these 7 differences between military and civilian life are the most essential and will provide the most value for you, our veteran readers.

1. Individuality and Responsibility

In an article with Task and Purpose, The Hardest Part of Leaving the Service is Seeing Yourself as More than Your MOS, Carl Forsling said, “The day you join the military is the day you stop being an individual.”

Military members are military members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week whether they are in uniform or not. For this reason, they are held to a higher standard.

When a person enters military service, they become a part of something that’s bigger than themselves, much like a fraternity or sorority.

A military serviceman or woman lives with a higher purpose because each person is a part of a unique mission, be it the mission of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard.

Each branch of the military carries its own set of values and principles, but overall, the military, as a unit, is built on a foundation of:

  • Protecting
  • Serving
  • Community

The military ingrains and adopts a heavy framework of teamwork and mission first mindset on its members. Veterans often refer to the military as a brotherhood and sisterhood where camaraderie prevails and is the norm.

In the military, you’re never alone. This is a key difference between life in the military and the civilian world. Although there are organizations and groups in civilian life, it functions in a every man for himself mentality.

2. Living and Housing

Living and housing is another difference between the military and civilian life. Military members are given housing allowance or BAH and have the option of living on base, post or barracks.

Although military housing varies by rank, location, and family situation, most new members start their military careers on base, according to Today’s Military.

This is a major difference because life on the military installation is simplified for military members. Everything that a service member could possibly need or want is located on a military installation such as:

  • Grocery Store
  • Medical Facilities (dentist, clinics, etc.)
  • Police and Fire Department
  • Hair Salons and Barber Shops
  • Wine, Liquor and Spirit Stores
  • Entertainment (bowling alley, movie theater, etc.)
  • Mall or Shopping outlets
  • Bus Transportation

A military installation is like its own town or city. A military member does not have to leave the military installation, as every aspect of life is readily available and easily accessible.

On the other hand, in the civilian world, resources are spread out. Driving 30 minutes to an hour across town to go to a movie theater is a great possibility in the civilian world.

3. Career, Employment and Job Security

7 Differences Between Military and Civilian Life

The career and employment options are unique in the military. No civilian job will offer the types of jobs the military provides. Although, a veteran job finder will do well to learn how to translate military skills to civilian terms to be prepared for his or her job search.

Empire Resume specializes in helping veterans transform their military experience, skill, and achievements into a compelling civilian resume that generates results.

When you’re ready to begin your career search, we can transform your military resume to get you the civilian job you deserve.

The job and career titles differ in both worlds. Occupations in the military consists of:

  • MOS codes
  • Job names
  • Ranks

The civilian employment world has industries. Within those industries, professional titles are found within those industries. These professional job titles can be found throughout the United States and even abroad.

However, employment in the military is dissected into divisions such as brigades or wings. For example, an Army helicopter pilot, has the possibility to be stationed at Fort Bliss, TX, in the Combat Aviation Brigade.

Additionally, the Air Force has the 72nd Air Base Wing out of Tinker Air Force Base. The 72nd Air Base Wing is the largest flying wing in the Air Combat Command.

So, it is safe to say that sometimes, your rank and MOS determines your location of employment in the military. 

As mentioned in a previous blog article, military vs. civilian job security, job security in the workplace is defined as the assurance or guarantee that an employee has about the permanency of employment. Essentially, job security means a guarantee of permanent or long-lasting employment.

There is one aspect of employment that the military and civilian worlds can agree on — guaranteeing employment is something that the military cannot afford to offer, nor can any employer in the civilian workforce. This applies to military friendly employers as well.

4. Laws

The military has its own set of laws that service members must abide by called the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). These laws must be followed on top of the civil and criminal laws of general society.

Remember, military members are held to a higher standard as they protect and serve our country.

The UCMJ is a federal law established by U.S. Congress that defines the military justice system. The UCMJ promotes discipline within the military by being one of the governing authorities for the conduct of its service members.

The UCMJ is the law of the land in the military world and it serves as the basis of justice for the military. In fact, the UCMJ is mentioned in every U.S. Armed Forces oath of enlistment: 

“I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the regulations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The UCMJ is composed of various articles/rules. These articles are the rules or do’s and don’ts of the military. Some of the most common Articles of the UCMJ include:

  • Article 15 – Non-Judicial Punishment
  • Article 86 – Absence Without Leave
  • Article 92 – Failure to Obey and Order or Regulation
  • Article 112 – Drunk on Duty
  • Article112a – Wrongful Use, Possession of Controlled Substances
  • Article 134 – Fraternization

For more information on the Articles of the UCMJ, review another governing authority of the military justice system Manual for Courts-Martial. The 2019 edition and its previous versions are available for viewing at the Library of Congress.  

5. Healthcare

7 Differences Between Military and Civilian Life

Healthcare or medical benefits in the military are second to none. Military members and their families are covered through TRICARE, free of charge. Active duty military members and their families are eligible for this medical benefit.

TRICARE comes in different plans including:

  • TRICARE Prime
  • TRICARE Young Adult
  • TRICARE Select
  • TRICARE for Life

The military provides a primary care manager (PCM) for each family member. The PCM is the military’s healthcare professional that provides medical treatment such as annual checkups. Appointment scheduling through the military healthcare system is simple and online options to make appointments is even provided.

Active duty military members can get dental care at dental clinics on military installations. If family members elect to get dental care, they can purchase the TRICARE Dental Program.

When a service member stays in the military for 20 years or more, they will receive healthcare even during retirement. Finally, many veterans are eligible to use VA healthcare benefits, but they oftentimes, aren’t aware of it.

In contrast, those in the civilian sector must find their own dentist, medical practitioner and medical facility, pay for health insurance, and make co-pays. The military provides all these benefits to its service members.

6. Educational Benefits

The military educational benefits offered are one of the most attractive benefits the military offers, according to Military.com.

Many veterans have access to these educational benefits:

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill
  • The Montgomery GI Bill
  • The Tuition Top-Up Program

Each of these military education benefits help offset the cost of attending school to further a service member’s or veteran’s education.

The military even offers scholarships and financial aid for spouses of military service men and women.

Each educational program has its own set of guidelines, steps to take, and requirements that must be met in order to use them. Many people don’t know how to use them, even though they’ve attended the Military Transition Assistance Program

In the civilian world, a person can apply for scholarships and grants to help offset the cost of their educational ventures. Additionally, a civilian employer may offer tuition assistance where the employee pays for the classes and the company provides reimbursement. And, rarely do you hear an employer paying for the employee’s spouse’s educational goals.

7. Retirement

Retirement and pension options also differ in the military and civilian world. Military members can contribute to their retirement savings by using a Thrift Savings Plan. Only employees of the government can use this plan.

In the civilian world, a 401(k) or employer sponsored contribution plan is a benefit provided by companies. Most employers will match the contribution of the employee.

The best part is that the military still offers servicemembers a pension. When a service member stays in for 20 years, they will receive a pension of 50% of their base pay. This amount increases every additional year by 2.5% all the way up to 100% of their base pay if they stay in for 40 years. Talk about an awesome pension!

This is why it is important for service members to consider their separation from the military a major life altering event. Additionally, military men and women should take time to begin planning their transition years before they decide to end their service obligation, whether the service obligation ends voluntarily or involuntarily.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance. 

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3 thoughts on “7 Differences Between Military and Civilian Life

  1. There are seven differences between military life and civilian life. Specifically, these are culture, housing and living, employment and career, education, laws, healthcare, and retirement.

    • Empire Resume says:

      You’re very welcome! Check out our military to civilian blog (under the blog drop down menu) since we publish new articles weekly on all topics related to military to civilian transitioning.

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