Transitioning From Military to Civilian Life

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Despite the efforts of many civilians around the world, it has become increasingly difficult to protect civilians from the effects of conflict. The number of armed conflicts is growing, with increasing consequences for civilians’ livelihoods, housing, governance and food and water security. In these circumstances, finding better ways to protect civilians must remain a top priority.


A civilian is a person who does not serve in the military, whether enlisted or commissioned and has received zero military weapons training. The term is a generalization that covers a wide range of people, from the private who owns a gun and is legally allowed to fire it without restriction to those who have extensive military weapons training and have a specific job in the field such as urban sweeps, snipers, or machine-gun crews.

For military veterans, the transition to civilian life can feel like a huge leap in terms of rules, expectations, and culture. It is important to remember that everyone has been there once before, and it will take time to adjust to the new norms. It is also important to reach out to resources that help manage finances, find jobs, and support educational endeavors.

One of the biggest differences between civilian and military life is that there are fewer strict rules for how to carry yourself in the workplace. While military life requires you to be on time, live up to presentation and work standards, speak to others in a particular tone of voice and respond to commands with specific rules, these things are not followed as strictly in the civilian workforce. This can cause some stress and frustration when adjusting to the civilian life.

It is also important to remember that in the civilian sector, rank is irrelevant. Using military forms of address such as sir or ma’am, or addressing co-workers by their rank can make civilian colleagues uncomfortable and is considered offensive in most places. Depending on the workplace culture and geographic location, civilians often prefer to be addressed by first name.

When it comes to career advancement, civilians are typically given the opportunity for more promotions and salary increases than military personnel receive. The amount of time a veteran has been in the workforce is also an advantage, as it gives them the option to seek positions that may be more challenging or rewarding.

When preparing for the civilian workforce, it is recommended that soldiers attend the Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP). The program assists transitioning soldiers, family members, Army retirees and Department of Army civilians with their career goals. For more information, visit SFL-TAP.