The medal is a silver oval, 38mm high and 32mm wide, with an image of the monarch on the obverse and the words "For Service in the Volunteer Reserves" on the reverse, above a sprig of oak leaves and acorns. The medal is suspended from a ribbon that represents each of the services (narrow stripes of navy blue, red and sky blue, for the Navy, Army and Air Force, respectively) separated by a thin strip of yellow from dark green bands (representing the Reserves) on either side. Members of the Honourable Artillery Company receive the same medal but with their own ribbon.
The VRSM is awarded after 10 years service in the reserves, although service in the regular forces before joining the reserves may count towards the qualifying period. It should be noted however that a maximum of five years regular service can be counted and this service is counted as half qualifying time IE five years regular service counts as two and a half years service towards this medal. A clasp is awarded for each additional 5 years of service. Unlike earlier decorations, a recipient is not entitled to post-nominal letters.