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How to Read Military Time

By Edited Jun 11, 2015 0 0

Not everyone knows how to read military time. With such a busy society, it is easy to see how many professions may want to shift from a standard time format, to a 24-hour military time format, if they haven't already. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I began working with a long time registered nurse that I realized the difficulty that some had with mastering what was always, to me, a fairly simple format to grasp and understand. Even with over 20 years of nursing experience under her belt, she still couldn't resist the urge to constantly peak off a 'cheat sheet', especially while entrenched in a rather lengthy nursing home medication administration pass.

Military Time Equivalent Chart

Learning how to read military time can really be a blessing, as well as, significantly cut down on wasted time that could otherwise be utilized more effectively by being actively engaged elsewhere. While a few seconds missed here or there may not seem like a lot, it's cumulative effects, over time, can really be streamlined, if only professionals, regardless of their industry, could master such a skill. Unfortunately, learning how to read the 24-hour, military time, format, can be really quite a tedious and daunting task, especially if these principles aren't laid out in a way that is easily comprehensible.

As a longtime soldier, as well as, a practicing nurse, military time has become so embedded in my mind that reading it, and living by it, has become almost second nature. While these are professions that immediately demand the use of military time, don't be surprised if you see our society's many industries gradually gravitate towards this military time format standard. Before proceeding to read the remainder of this Info Barrel article, it is important for you to know that military time is unique, from the regular time you are familiar with, in that it reads the hours as 1 to 24, straight through, rather than dividing it into 2, 12 hour, segments.

Things You Will Need

The Below Step(s) will Help You Master How To Read Military Time!:

Step 1

Circular Military Clock Time Equivalents
With each portion of a regular clock, or watch, divided into 12 hour segments spanning a complete circle, this type of clock immediately warrants the need to read time in the way you are accustomed to doing it. For every complete revolution that your short hour hand makes from the 12 o'clock position to the 12 o'clock position, that is considered half a day (12 hours). Similar occurs when your long minute hand goes completely around this circle, which automatically notifies the user of a new hour that is accumulated.

It is important to realize that military time, or the 24-hour format, is essentially the same thing as the regular time you are accustomed to using, at least until you hit mid-day.
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Step 2

Reading Military Time
In this step, you will want to make a metal note (or a physical note, or both) about how military time actually begins. The 24-hour, military clock, format always begins with 0000, or otherwise known as 2400. While it may seem slightly confusing, both readings are essentially the same thing, with the culmination of the military day occurring at "twenty-four-hundred" prior to the immediate onset of a new day.

Grasping this progression of time is a little different, and, for some reason, people have become so accustomed to using the standard time format that they may have difficulty immediately understanding this concept. In the 24-hour, military time format, time is essentially more fluid and progresses in a way that is actually more natural than what many are accustomed to. From 0000 to 2400, military time is read strait through, whether the time be 0017 or 1643.
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Step 3

Another Military Time Clock
In this step, it will be easy to see that half of what you are normally accustomed to doing, with standard military time, is almost exactly the same. All of your 'A.M' hours are essentially the same when converted to the military time, 24-hour clock, format. For example 3:00 A.M. would be 0300, which is read "Zero (or Oh) three-hundred". This progression of time is very similar to what many are accustomed to doing already, and, it provides a solid foundation for the remaining steps of this how to read military time process.
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Step 4

Military Time Equivalent Chart
Many people, when initially learning how to read military time, may find it greatly beneficial to take out a sheet of blank loose-leaf paper and actually write out the military time as it refers, exactly, to standard time. Often, this sheet produces two separate, yet parallel and aligned, lists of time on either side of your paper. While being read from top to bottom, this sheet can be carried around and will help the user immediately reference the equal military time that equates to the given standard time format.

Even though this method is effective in serving as a bit of a 'cheat-sheet', there are many people who become reliant on it. Unfortunately, to see these sheets taped all over the place, especially in nursing, is not so unfamiliar. While it does serve to jog one's memory, always having to reference an external sheet to find out what the military time is, can really be a time-consuming and lengthy process. Often times, I wonder, if just learning how to read military time effectively would simply be the better approach in terms of organizational efficiency and time management.

Step 5

The major difference between reading military time, as opposed to standard time, occurs after all the morning hours have passed. Rather than begin an entirely new twelve hour segment, military time isn't divided in such a way. Instead, when 12:00 (noon) is reached, military time continues to ascend. This is precisely where the military time format appears to be more 'naturally' occurring, at least to me. For this reason 1:00 (1 o'clock) PM would be equivalent to 1300 (thirteen hundred hours) on the military clock time format.

Likewise, 1700 (seventeen hundred hours) would be 5:00 (5 o'clock) PM with using the standard clock format to read time. Once again, it will be when you read past 12:00 (noon) that your 'cheat sheet' will come in the most handy in aligning specific standard times to their equivalent military clock format times.

Step 6

While there are several methods that can be applied to best determine afternoon hours, there is one that I find particularly useful, and the most easy to understand. In determining all afternoon hours, you can simply do this by subtracting 1200 from any and all military times.

For example, if you were told to administered a medication, or prepare for a meeting, at 1700 (seventeen hundred hours), you can determine standard time format by simply subtracting 1200. In application this would mean that 1700 minus (-) 1200 would equal 5:00 PM in standard time.

You may also be required to convert standard time to military time, rather than the inverse. When doing this, you can simply add 1200 to whatever standard time it is that you are working with. For example, 9:00 PM standard time would be equal to 2100 military time because 9:00 plus (+) 1200 is equivalent to 2100.

For some reason, many industries and professions that have become accustomed to using a standard time format, oftentimes find it difficult to learn, and apply, a 24-hour military clock format. Those people may gravitate towards a 'cheat sheet' that provides them with a reference, of sorts, in order to quickly find the equivalent times between the 24-hour military time format and standard format. One should be cautious; however, because any 'cheat sheet' may become easily relied upon so much that the fundamental skill underlying how to read military time may becomes completely lost in the business of daily routine.

Tips & Warnings

You can use a 'cheat sheet', but don't become over reliant on it.

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