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The designation "specialist" in the U.S. Army refers to an enlisted soldier's rank, rather than to one type of job. The duties of an Army specialist depend on the assigned Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS.
There are nine enlisted Army ranks, or pay grades. They are labelled E-1 through E-9. Each rank also has a name, starting with Private (E-1) and ending with Command Sergeant Major (E-9). A soldier with the rank of E-4 is called a specialist. The abbreviation for specialist is SPC. The rank is equivalent to Senior Airman in the Air Force, Petty Officer Third Class in the Coast Guard and in the Navy, and Corporal in the Marines. Movement up the ranks from Private depends on performance, test scores, time in the pay grade and needs of the service. To become a specialist, you must have a minimum of two years of military service and a record of good performance of assigned duties and responsibilities.
Every job in the Army is assigned a code number indicating the MOS. A wheeled vehicle mechanic, for example, is 63B. A saxophone player in the Army band is 02L. A metalworker is 44B. A dental assistant is 68E.
Specialists are recognized as experts in their specialized field. They may supervise small groups of soldiers of lower rank.
To enlist in the Army, you must have a high school diploma. A GED is also acceptable, but opportunities may be more limited. You must be between the ages of 17 and 35, and be a U.S. citizen who speaks, reads and writes English fluently. You'll need to achieve the minimum score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a multiple-choice exam that helps identify your best fit for a job in the Army. Finally, you'll have to pass a physical to ensure you are fit for duty.
Requirements for enlistment can change, depending on the needs of the military. It is best to talk with your local Army recruiter to learn about current guidelines and opportunities.
An Army specialist's work environment depends on the MOS. Specialists work in hospitals, clinics, dining facilities, motor pools, recreational facilities, airfields, offices, construction sites and other settings, both indoors and outdoors. Some jobs are similar to those performed in civilian life, while others are particular to the military. Duties and responsibilities for each MOS are delineated according to rank. Specialists report to senior enlisted personnel with the rank of sergeant.
Salary and Job Outlook
The monthly base pay for an Army specialist ranges from $2,088.90 to $2,535.60, depending on length of service at that rank. That translates to $25,067 to $30,427. Specialists receive a housing allowance, which varies according to the cost of living in the area to which they are assigned. They also receive medical, dental and vision benefits. Specialists can receive extra pay for drill duty or hazardous duty. There may be re-enlistment bonuses available, depending on a soldier's MOS and the needs of the military.
The number of recruits needed varies from year to year, according to several factors. The size of the military changes depending on whether the nation is at war or at peace. It depends on the federal budget, allotment for military spending and the state of the economy overall. When unemployment numbers are high, there tend to be more people trying to enlist in the armed forces.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics only makes employment projections for civilian jobs. Nevertheless, the bureau predicts that opportunities in the military should be good through at least 2026.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.