How to Get a Job with the U.S. Department of Defense

department of defense employment

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is the branch of the federal government that coordinates and supervises the agencies and activities related to national defense and security. The components of the DOD include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, National Guard, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Combatant Commands.

The DOD employs about 2.9 million people including approximately 950,000 civilians. As a civilian employee of the DOD, you’ll play a direct role in keeping our nation safe while also supporting our men and women in uniform. There are 650 different types of occupations available to civilians at the Department of Defense in the fields of engineering, education, information technology, human resources, and more.

The DOD offers a competitive salary, attractive benefits, top-level training, and room for career growth. It’s for these reasons and more that the Department of Defense appears on Forbes list of America’s Best Large Employers

Are you feeling excited about what the DOD might have in store for you? Then check out these six tips to make sure you have the best shot possible of landing a job at the DOD.

Six Tips for Getting a Job with the Department of Defense


1. Create a Stellar Resume

The very first thing you should do before you start your job search is create a strong resume. Whether you’re applying for an internship, an executive-level position, or any role in between, the DOD won’t consider your application without a resume.

We can create a resume that will help you stand out from the competition. We know how to make sure your resume gets past the Applicant Tracking Systems and into the hands of a human.

If you’re a military veteran or separating servicemember, then you should know that we specialize in military to civilian resumes. We can turn your military experience, achievements, and accolades into a resume that will impress civilian employers. 

2. Be Prepared for a Thorough Background Check

The DOD will complete an extensive background check on any potential employees before they offer them a job.

A background check will include taking your fingerprints, examining your criminal record (if one exists), looking into past addresses, and inquiring about any legal name changes in your history. They’ll also verify your educational and employment history.

Some jobs within in the DOD may require a review of your financial history, including your credit score. DOD officials do this to ensure that you won’t be tempted to steal or sell any secure information to pay off any major debts.

Although the background check process can be time-consuming, you can make things simpler by being prepared. Research your own criminal and financial records to understand what may come up. You may find something minor from your past that you don’t remember that you’ll need to account for.

No matter what happens, be as truthful and as detailed as possible when answering all questions. Never try to hide anything you think will jeopardize your chances of landing the job. If the DOD suspects that you’re trying to hide something, then you definitely won’t get the job.

3. Create a USAJOBS Account

USAJOBS is the government’s official employment site. The purpose of the site is to easily connect jobseekers to federal employment opportunities. If you want a job at the DOD (or any federal job), then you must have a USAJOBS account.

Follow these steps to create your USAJOBS profile. Once your profile is complete, you’ll be able to easily apply to jobs at the DOD or within any federal office or agency.

4. Conduct a Job Search

Now that you’ve got your resume, your USAJOBS profile is set up, and you’re prepared for a background check, it’s time for you to start searching for a job.

You’ll find all open positions listed on the DOD Civilian Careers webpage. There are more than 9,000 open positions right now. The jobs are broken up into 24 different categories so you can search according to your specialty.

If you’re not sure where to start looking, you can take this quick quiz to help discover which jobs at the DOD align with your skills and education.

5. Read Job Descriptions Carefully

The DOD’s job descriptions are often long and detailed. It’s very important that you read the descriptions and make sure that you meet every requirement listed. Some jobs may require that you have excellent organization skills, while others may require that you be able to lift 100 lbs. Some roles in the DOD may require that you have an MBA, while other jobs may simply require a high school diploma. 

If you fail to meet any of the listed qualifications, you won’t be considered for the job. What’s more, if you consistently apply for jobs that you are not qualified for, then the DOD may temporarily or permanently prevent you from applying for future job openings.

6. Take Advantage of Veterans Preference

The DOD recognizes the sacrifices made by service members and their families. That’s why veteran applicants are often given preference over non-veteran applicants for many roles within the DOD.

Learn more who qualifies for the DOD’s Veterans Preference program here. You may also visit the Office U.S. of Personnel Management for additional resources for veterans looking for employment opportunities within the federal government.

Joining ROTC in college and/or serving in the Military Reserves after college may also get you preferential treatment when applying for jobs within the DOD.

The Department of Defense Has Job Opportunities  

The DOD is one of the nation’s largest employers and hires thousands of employees every year.

Getting a job at the DOD certainly isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Follow the steps above to give yourself the best chance at landing a great job at the DOD. If you need assistance at any point along the way, then contact Empire Resume. We’re here to help.

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. Related Articles: