When to Pick Your MOS: Before or After MEPS?

by | Joining the Military | 1 comment

Deciding on a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is a significant step in your military career. You might wonder whether you choose your MOS before or after the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Understanding this process can help you make informed decisions and set clear career goals.

MEPS plays a crucial role in determining your qualifications for various MOS options. This stage involves medical exams, aptitude tests, and background checks to ensure you’re fit for service. Knowing when and how you’ll pick your MOS can streamline your enlistment journey and align your career path with your skills and interests.

Understanding MEPS and Its Role in Military Enlistment

What Is MEPS?

MEPS stands for the Military Entrance Processing Station. This facility is your gateway to military service. It conducts several evaluations to determine your eligibility. During your visit, you’ll undergo medical exams, take aptitude tests, and complete background checks. These assessments ensure you’re fit for service and help match you with a suitable Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). For instance, a high score on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test can open up opportunities in technical fields.

How MEPS Fits Into the Enlistment Process

MEPS plays a crucial role in the enlistment process. Before you can choose your MOS, which ranges from combat roles to support functions, you must clear MEPS. The process starts with a visit to the recruiter and culminates at MEPS, where your qualifications are assessed. If you pass, you’ll discuss available MOS options. Based on your results and the military’s needs, you’ll receive potential assignments. So, MEPS acts as a filter, ensuring you’re both physically and mentally ready for the demands of military life. This step is essential for aligning your skills and interests with the right career path in the military.

Exploring the Timing of Choosing Your MOS

Picking your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is a critical step in shaping your military career. Understanding when this choice occurs can significantly impact your journey.

Factors Influencing When You Pick Your MOS

Several factors influence the timing of selecting your MOS. Typically, you choose after completing the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) process. At MEPS, you undergo several evaluations:

  • Medical Exams: Ensuring you’re physically fit for service.
  • Aptitude Tests: Assessing skills and capabilities, including the ASVAB test.
  • Background Checks: Confirming eligibility and suitability.

These evaluations determine the range of MOS options available to you. High ASVAB scores expand your choices to technical fields like engineering or intelligence.

How Branch Requirements Affect Your Choice

Each military branch has distinct criteria for MOS selection. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all have specific needs based on operational requirements. For instance:

  • Army: Prioritizes combat roles alongside technical and support functions.
  • Navy: Focuses on seafaring and specialized technical tasks.
  • Air Force: Emphasizes aerospace and cyber operations.
  • Marine Corps: Integrates combat readiness with specialized roles.

Branch-specific needs influence when and how you pick your MOS. The Army may allow you to list preferred MOS options before MEPS, but the final choice often happens post-processing based on your MEPS results.

Understanding these aspects ensures you align your strengths and interests with the right military career path.

MOS Selection and Its Impact on Your Military Career

Selecting your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is a pivotal step that directly influences your military career trajectory. Making an informed choice ensures alignment with your skills and future aspirations.

The Importance of Your MOS

Your MOS determines your role, responsibilities, and the skills you’ll develop throughout your service. Each MOS has unique requirements and offers different experiences. For example, a Combat Medic Specialist (68W) differs significantly from a Cyber Operations Specialist (17C). Understanding the demands and rewards of each MOS helps you find a match that keeps you engaged and motivated.

Long-Term Career Implications

The MOS you select shapes your career path within the military and beyond. Certain specialties provide transferable skills valuable in civilian careers. For instance, the training and expertise gained as an Information Technology Specialist (25B) are highly sought after in the civilian tech industry. An MOS selection aligned with your long-term goals maximizes future opportunities, both in and out of uniform.

Personal Experiences and Advice

Drawing from personal stories and tips helps you grasp the practical side of choosing a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

Stories from Service Members

Several service members share differing tales about picking an MOS. Some chose their MOS after the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) process, basing decisions on available options. For instance, a former Combat Medic Specialist recounted choosing his role due to family tradition and the need for medics at the time. Conversely, an Information Technology Specialist opted for an MOS before MEPS, ensuring alignment with his tech background.

One Rifleman noted that choosing his MOS post-MEPS gave him a wider array of options, seeing which roles he qualified for through testing. On the other hand, a Cyber Operations Specialist highlighted the benefit of deciding early—researching specialties and focusing on what best matched personal skills and aspirations.

Tips for Making an Well-informed choice

To make informed decisions, consider these tips:

  1. Conduct Thorough Research: Investigate each MOS’s details. Understand requirements, benefits, and future civilian applications. For example, Cyber Operations (17C) often lead to cybersecurity careers.
  2. Talk to Veterans: Seek advice from those who’ve served. Their insights on daily tasks, challenges, and long-term opportunities can clarify which MOS might suit you.
  3. Consider Your Interests: Align MOS choices with personal interests and strengths. An IT enthusiast might find Information Technology Specialist (25B) rewarding compared to another that doesn’t match their skill set.
  4. Evaluate Long-term Goals: Think beyond your military career. Choose an MOS that aligns with future ambitions, like a Combat Medic Specialist becoming a paramedic.
  5. Be Open to Counseling: Liaison officers and career counselors provide valuable guidance, helping weigh your options effectively pre- or post-MEPS.
  6. Learn from Others: Read stories from service members who made their choices both before and after MEPS. Their experiences can shed light on the pros and cons.

Personal experiences and informed advice serve as indispensable resources for making the best MOS choice, setting the stage for a fulfilling career.


Choosing your MOS is a pivotal step in shaping your military journey. Whether you decide before or after MEPS, the key is to make an well-informed choice that aligns with your skills and long-term goals. Leverage available resources, seek advice from experienced service members, and thoroughly research each specialty. Your choice can significantly impact both your military career and civilian opportunities, so take the time to ensure it’s the right fit for you.


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