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This is NOT an official Army-sanctioned webpage. This is just an NCO trying to help other Soldiers out. Whatever my opinions are on here are not to be considered the opinions of the Army, or even considered fact. All information presented should be double-checked with your CLPM and Retention NCO/Recruiter, or double-checked in the Army Regulation or message provided. Despite my best efforts and collaboration with other NCOs, I am sometimes wrong and you shouldn't base your enlistment/re-enlistment solely on what I have to say, but rather use this information as a base for your research.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How do I become a linguist? (Part 3 - Picking the right job)

Now that you have successfully navigated the DLAB as well as filled out your security questionnaire , you probably want to know what job you should choose to be a linguist in the Army, right?

Well I can tell you my preference is obviously 35M, because that's what I am. However, let's take a step back and review your options. I will create an entire post about being a 35M later on, but let's look below to see what your options are, depending on if you are just joining the military or if you are already in (click on an MOS to open a new page with the official requirements for the MOS):

If you have questions, please feel free to visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

MOS options for new Soldiers:

35P - Cryptologic Linguist - This is going to be your best, sure-fire bet to become a linguist in the Army. 35P is language dependent, meaning you MUST be a linguist to hold this job title. With this job you are usually using your language to interpret foreign language intercepted transmissions. The job requires a TS/SCI clearance and the majority of the information about the MOS is classified.

09L - Interpreter / Translator - If you natively speak a Middle Eastern language such as Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, etc, this job could be for you. Your entire job is to use your fluency in your primary language to interpret for the military. This is not a job that someone that learned Spanish, for example, in college would apply for. This would be for someone whose family moved to the United States from Iraq and they speak Arabic as their first language.

18X - Special Forces Enlistment Option - This is a difficult option and doesn't exactly make you a great linguist. This option will allow you to enlist in the military and go through infantry training, and eventually become a member of the Green Berets (Special Forces). Upon completion of the arduous training already required, you will then be given about 6 months of language training and be required to be proficient to at least a 0+/0+ level. The only issue being is, 0+/0+ is not even considered passing for a true linguist (2/2 is considered the minimum), where the numbers assigned reflect the ability to read/listen in the target language. Nevertheless, it's still a valid option so I listed it.

38B - Civil Affairs - Yet another MOS that gets some language training, but it's jammed into only 20 weeks which means you won't be fully proficient. It's possible in the future you could receive even more language training and become more proficient. This is still classified as a language-dependent MOS though, so you will get some language training. If you are or know a 38B and wish to contribute more to this blog post, please leave a comment at the bottom and let us know more about their language abilities.

Unfortunately those are really your only options if you are a civilian looking to join the military, and two of the three jobs are not usually something that is accessible to a new recruit.

MOS options for current Soldiers:

In addition to the options above...

180A - Special Forces Warrant Officer - This is another job similar to those listed above. This job requires that you have been in the Special Forces already for a minimum of three years and have a 1+/1+ proficiency in a foreign language. It should be noted once again, however, that 1+/1+ isn't even enough to get you Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus, you must have a 2/2.

350Z - Attache Technician - An attache technician works directly with the Defense Attache Office and must already be a 2/2 in the foreign language to qualify. In addition, they must already hold the ASI "7" and must have at minimum three years working for the Defense Attache already. This is not an easy MOS to get into.

352P - Cryptologic Language Analysis Technician - This job is the Warrant Officer equivalent of 35P. Since you must be a 35P and a linguist already, this isn't necessarily a choice to BECOME a linguist.

35M - Human Intelligence Collector - This is a job that used to be language-dependent and is the job I love with all of my heart. Those 35Ms that were trained previously at DLI in a foreign language are required to maintain proficiency. New 35Ms are required to take a DLAB but are not required to know a foreign language, although there is talk of bringing this requirement back in the future or using DLI as a re-enlistment incentive for first-term 35M Soldiers. Currently, 35M first-term Soldiers have the lowest retention rate out of any Military Intelligence MOS according to the Office of the Chief, Military Intelligence in a briefing I received in October of 2010. Currently this job is language-capable, meaning that if you speak a foreign language and are slotted in an MTOE position with an L next to your coded billet, you can get paid Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus. Stay tuned as my next post will be all about being a 35M.

351M - Human Intelligence Collector Technician - This job is the Warrant Officer equivalent of 35M and has the same requirements.

35L - Counterintelligence Agent - This is a difficult job to get a language in. Most of the 35L I know that went to DLI to learn a language are in the Army Reserves and Army National Guard and filling a language coded billet in their units. I have never met an active duty 35L with a language that wasn't a native speaker. In addition to not naturally having a language, 35L is an application-only MOS, and only open to SPC(P) and above. For more information on the recruiting process use your CAC card to log into (Intelligence Knowledge Online portal) and look about halfway down the first page on the left column. If you contact me via your AKO email I can also put you in contact with a local recruiter at your current Army installation.

351L - Counter Intelligence Technician - This job is the Warrant Officer equivalent of 35L and has the same requirements.

351Y - Area Intelligence Technician - This is one linguist job in the Army that I have no idea what it is. Information is very limited, so it could be more of a "hush hush" job. If you have more information about this job, please leave a comment below.

37F - Psychological Operations - Active duty Soldiers may apply for this MOS, and are required to attend airborne school (almost guaranteeing you a permanent spot at Ft. Bragg, NC) and 4-6 months of language training. Once again you will most likely not be a fully proficient linguist as a 37F because the language training is not the full, intense experience. In addition Reserve and National Guard Soldiers are not required to attend airborne or language training.

35N - Signals Intelligence Analyst - This is another one of those MOSs that is only language-capable, not language-dependent. So getting to DLI would be unlikely (but possible) and to get paid if you were a native linguist without attending DLI you would have to be slotted in a linguist MTOE position.

48 Series - Foreign Area Officer - This is a language coded MOS open only to officers, and not to new officers (you must hold the rank of CPT or above in most situations). You are a full blown linguist and are assigned based on your area of expertise and language. There are quite a few 48 series MOS (48B/C/D and so forth), with each MOS being a different language. For example, 48B is Latin America (Spanish, Portuguese), and 48C is Europe (Albanian, German, Russian, etc etc).

NOTE: In addition to those above, officers in the 18 (Special Forces), 37 (Psychological Operations), and 38 (Civil Affairs) Career Management Fields (CMF) can also be linguists.


That's all I can think of for now. I would love to hear your comments if you feel that there are MOSs I left out, or your experiences as a linguist in ANY of these MOSs. I can't make this blog a success without input from other Soldiers!


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for posting all this information in a readable way.

    I am looking to change my MOS, and you have given me some ideas (thinking 35M or Psy Ops). I'd appreciate some feedback on my situation, too, if that's possible.

    I'm a 41 year-old 42R (Army Bandsman) SSG in the reserves since 4/1/3 and on active duty since 8/15/10 (so, I have "8 years in").

    My GT is 130.

    My APFT is always for some reason exactly 254, regardless of how I do in any individual event.

    I have a secret security clearance, a law degree from Tulane and a law license, but have been unsuccessful in applying to JAG.

    I studied Japanese in college, earning an "area of emphasis (something short of a minor), and I have taken 2 semesters of Korean.

    And I just got a 137 on the DLAB.

    With all that in mind (and assuming I know every little about intel and linguist MOS's), can you offer any suggestions on how I might somehow exploit this opportunity to get a commission, enhanced post-military career opportunities and/or a year and a half in Monterey, CA?

    I greatly appreciate any insights or guidance.

    Thank you very much.

    Yours truly,

    Sergeant Strummy

  2. Well just as general military advice, you could apply for OCS with your college background. The problem with being an officer and a linguist is that almost all of your opportunities are either a) sort of a half linguist, in that you just get enough to get by but not the full time at DLI, or b) require that you hold the rank of MAJ/CPT or above, and you can't be commissioned above the rank of 2LT unless you are joining the medical program or some other special circumstances.

    If you are in the reserves, I suggest talking with your reserve career counselor or an Army recruiter to see what MOS are even available.

    Lastly, I'm not going to tell you what you can and cannot do, but at 41 years old, going PSYOPs might be difficult. I obviously don't know you well enough to judge your physical fitness, but the military is like professional sports...when you get to be in your 30s and 40s, you are definitely on the downhill slope of a career that was very physically intense. Jumping out of airplanes consistently as a 37F is not something I would recommend, but that's just my personal opinion. If you feel you are up to it, I wouldn't hold you back. Remember, though, that most 37F do not get the full DLI experience.

    35M is also not language dependent which is another obstacle for you.

    Your best bet would be to reclassify into MOS 35P if you really want a full language. You can read the article I just posted today about reclassifying via voluntary reclass (assuming you aren't in your reenlistment window) or the one I posted a few days ago about reenlisting in the BEAR program if you are.

    Hopefully that will be some help. Feel free to email me as well (link in the upper right corner), and thanks for taking the time to respond to one of my blog posts.

  3. Greetings,

    I'm a current 38B, for the past 14 years. I got to DLI in 2007 for German and I'm currently the CLPM for my unit, however I'm still trying to get the class for it. Scheduling conflicts being the biggest obstical, maybe next month. I do know how to get soldiers in for the DLPT and DLAB, that's the easy part.

    Currently 38Bs don't get language training during IET, at least for the reserve soldiers, we mostly only get a short introduction to the target language before deployment. Considering we're about 95% of the CA force you can say that about all CA. I do know that we are eligible for FLPB for any language it's offered for. We have three others that have gotten FLPB at some point. One a native French speaker and two others DLI trained Arabic.

    In CIvil Affairs, language training is available, you just have to push for it. The Command is making a big push to increase that asset and has a huge budget that's not being used.

    Unfortunately, I also discovered the difficulties with getting FLPB extensions, in 2008 while in Iraq, my certification expired, and even though I had the regulation, and all paperwork ready, no one at my unit had any idea what to do. That was when we did not have a CLPM designated. Upon return to home station, no one knew how to arrange a test to rectify. It took 16 months for that to happen, even with asking every week for that to happen.

    I will not allow this to happen to another soldier, no one should lose $3200, because of incompetence.

    We do have to maintain the 2/2 level for pay, but any soldier who gains any level of proficiency is eligible for refresher training. So a 1/1 DLPT score can get more training.

    If you have any other questions about CA just let me know.

    1. Thanks for the info Eric. I'm currently an Active Duty SGT and am putting together my CA packet for reclass. I was wondering how things work on the daily for the other 5%. I've been doing my research on CA but being here in Germany at my current location, there aren't any CA guys here that I know of to talk about it. I'm ery interested in foreign cultures and languages which draws me to the MOS. I know they pretty much go through the same language training as SF does. Also being active duty in CA, would that give me more opportunities to go to other schools as well(i.e. pathfinder, SERE, ranger, etc)? What are the day to day duties like for CA as well.

      I appreciate anything you have to say.
      Thank you.

    2. Thanks for the info Eric. Im an active duty E5 and I'm currently putting together a CA packet. What can you tell me about their day to day duties? Do they get many opportunities to go to other schools like SERE and Pathfinder and things like that? Also since they fall under USASOC (95th that is), do they work and train with SOF a lot? I appreciate anything you have to say.

      Thank you.

  4. Eric, thanks so much for the insight.

  5. where's your post about being a 35m??
    Just curious! I can't seem to find it D:

  6. That was very helpful thank you for posting this blog, as you know how difficult it can be to get info about these secluded MOSs. Thank you!!