What it’s Really Like to Work on a Military Base as a Civilian

civilian jobs on military bases

For those with military experience, it seems like it’s simple for them to find a job on a military installation. But if you’ve never served in the military, you too can find work in the exciting and fast-paced world of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Military bases have several job vacancies for civilians. That’s why the resume writing professionals at Empire Resume will describe what it’s really like to work on a military base as a civilian.

Consider base housing and essential services on military facilities such as restaurants, gas stations, the Exchange, known as the PX or BX, and barbershop and beauty salons.

So, who do you think work on military bases besides Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors, Coastguardsmen, and Guardians? Civilians of course. Without civilian support, many military facilities would not be able to function properly.

Eligibility Determinations for Working on Base as a Civilian

Working on a military base as a civilian is a lengthy process. Before you even think about searching for a job on base, it must be determined that you are eligible for civilian employment on base. And truth be told, the competition is steep.

There are three ways to be eligible to work on a military facility: a new hire, a transfer or a reinstatement. Many of these come with preferences, which allows employees to bypass some of the hiring process.

Let’s explore each eligibility option:

  • New hire: Never worked for the military as a civilian, but also may be a federal employee, veteran, or dependent (spouse or child) of a military member.
  • Veteran: Those who served in the military.
  • Disabled veteran: Veterans with 30% or greater disability qualify for civilian employment on base.

civilian jobs on military bases

  • Military spouse: Spouses are eligible for federal employment due to relocation, spouses of service members retired with 100% disability rating, and widows of service members killed in action that have not remarried.
  • Family member eligibility: Unmarried children of military personnel stationed overseas who return to the US are often eligible for civilian military jobs. There are other conditions that apply such as the child must be younger than 23. There’s also an overseas requirement of the applicant having served 52 weeks of an appropriated-fund position while overseas.
  • Transfer: If you’re a permanent federal civil service employee and also serve as a non-DOD (Department of Defense) employee, you may qualify for a transfer.
  • Reinstatement: Reinstatements are another way a civilian may qualify for employment. If you’re a former federal civil service career employee, then you have a lifetime reinstatement status. You can only be considered a career employee after having completed three years of continuous service.

Working on base is completely different than working off base as a civilian. Below are some of the differences:

Civilian Job Categories on Base

civilian jobs on military bases

Military bases have many job opportunities from fast food joints to high-paying Civil Service positions. Most civilian employment fall under two categories:

  • Appropriated fund positions

These types of positions are funded by yearly congressional budgets. This money comes from the federal income tax and other federal taxes.

Appropriated funds are used to fund General Schedule or GS positions, like Civil Service jobs, and many of the jobs under the federal wage system.

The GS positions for federal civilian employees are equivalent to military pay grades. They are the white-collar, salaried positions regulated by federal law and administered by the Office of Personnel Management.

GS jobs are assigned a grade level from 1 to 15, according to the minimum level of education and experience needed for the position. For example, GS-1 jobs require no experience or education.

Jobs with bachelor’s degree and no experience may be graded a GS-5 or GS-7. Employees qualify for higher GS levels when gaining work experience. For more information, check out the General Schedule.

  • Non-appropriated fund positions

These types of positions are funded by other agencies not listed in a congressional budget. This money comes from the revenue earned by government agencies, organizations, and departments by means other than taxation.

For example, the State Department charges for passports and use the earnings for other purposes. These funds are known as non-appropriated.

Many entities earn revenue and use the non-appropriated funds to pay for civilian employee salaries and other expenses not authorized in congressional budgets. There is more leniency when it comes to how non-appropriated funds can be used.

U.S. Postal Service work and jobs at an on-base store run by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) are good examples of non-appropriated fund positions.

Outside of these funded positions, private companies who provide support to the military, known as government contractors, often have employment opportunities on military facilities, and the employees are known as contractors as well.

Security Clearance for Working on Military Facilities

civilian jobs on military bases

Many civilian jobs on base require some sort of security clearance. Different jobs require different levels of clearance. For instance, high level jobs require a “Secret” level clearance, while basic jobs may require a background check at a minimum.

Keeping track of your personal history such as your addresses, past employment, and ex-spouse, can be helpful for background checks. You may receive one of three clearances when handling classified information on a military base:

  • Confidential: Unauthorized disclosure could cause damage to national security.
  • Secret: Unauthorized disclosure is likely to cause damage to national security.
  • Top Secret: Unauthorized disclosure will cause grave damage to national security.

No matter whether you’re working with the government directly or with a civilian contractor, you may need one of the above levels of security clearance. You’ll be required to complete a questionnaire and perform fingerprinting.

Other Aspects of Working on Military Base as a Civilian

The military has its own set of rules and guidelines, even for civilians in the working world on base. Below are some other aspects of working on base as a civilian:

  • Understanding military rank

In the civilian world, we address individuals on a first name basis. In the military, service members are addressed by their rank and last name.

It is helpful to have an understand of military rank and be able to identify enlisted members from officers. Use of the classic yes sir or ma’am or no sir or ma’am also applies.

  • Military customs and courtesies

The military is filled with traditions, customs, and courtesies that civilians should take note of. At the end of the day, military bases may play the reveille at the beginning of the duty day and retreat to mark the end of the duty day that precedes the national anthem.

Flags may also be lowered. It’s important, as a civilian, to respect this custom. If you’re driving, pull over and wait until the song stops playing. If you are out walking, you should stop and face the flag, if visible, or face the music.

  • Getting on base and ID card

civilian jobs on military bases

Each day you work on a military base, you will enter through a gate and pass gate security. You will need your ID, which is also your Common Access Card (CAC) used to login to your computer.

Keep in mind that the military police at the gate may perform random vehicle searches which will require you to show driver’s license, registration, and proof of auto insurance.

  • Military time, date, and alphabet

Any civilian working on a military base should familiarize themselves with military time or the 24-hour clock. That way when someone says to be somewhere at 0800 hours, there’s no confusion, because it’s understood that this military time is the equivalent to 8:00 am in normal time.

The military date format is another aspect of working on base to note. The U.S. military normally uses the dd mmm yy format. For example, 03 JUN 21.

Finally, the military alphabet is commonly referred to in everyday military language. This phonetic alphabet solves the dialect problem in regular English and makes it easier for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to communicating.

The U.S. military uses the same phonetic alphabet adopted by NATO. For example, A is for Alpha, B is Bravo, C is Charlie and so on. Learn more at the guide to the military alphabet.

  • Reading documents, publications, and instructions

Military facilities work with a lot of formalities. Civilians will constantly hear reference to a document name or number, a publication or instructions.

While working on base, you should at least read or briefly scan each reference to keep abreast of changes or rules and regulations.

Empire Resume Can Help Get you a Job on a Military Base

civilian jobs on military bases

Empire Resume has helped thousands of candidates land jobs on military bases, including the Department of Defense, with our professional resume writing services.

As company founder, and Air Force Veteran, I’ve worked on military bases with civilians and have a clear understanding of what it takes for you to succeed while working on base.

Without knowing what’s needed in a resume and what hiring managers on base are looking for, it can be difficult to land a job on post. Our resume writing, LinkedIn profile writing, and cover letter writing will ensure the hiring manager give you a second look. Contact Empire Resume today for professional resume writing services that delivers results, guaranteed!

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force 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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1 thought on “What it’s Really Like to Work on a Military Base as a Civilian

  1. Thank you for this information
    I am currently working on my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration and I am looking for a job on the military as a civilian. I love our military and would love to learn more about it. I am too old to be in the military but would greatly appreciate working with the men and women who work so hard to keep us safe. Maybe find me a great partner for life. However I do have my standards. I will probably date a officer if high rank like a Sargent or a major general

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