When it comes to learning about the Military, knowing where to start your research may seem daunting. Don't worry — we're here to help. The first steps to considering service include understanding the Military's basic entrance requirements, exploring the different Service branches and deciding between enlisted and officer career paths.
First things first: Before choosing a Service branch, a potential recruit has to meet the Military's basic entrance requirements. (Each Service has different requirements, but some apply to the Military as a whole.) They include factors such as age, education level, physical condition and U.S. citizenship status.
The Military is comprised of 12 branches: five Active Duty and seven part-time duty. Active-duty service members are full-time members of the Military. They are employed either domestically or overseas.
Part-time service options fall under two types: Reserve and National Guard. These service members have civilian careers and train one weekend out of each month at a unit located nearby. Part-time service members participate in an annual two-week program that allows them to utilize all of the training they received throughout the year.
The choice between enlisting or becoming an officer makes a significant impact on the type of experience and training a new recruit receives. Learn the key differences between the two below.
Enlisted service members make up the majority of the Military and perform much of the hands-on work. To enlist, an individual must be 18 years old, or 17 with parental consent. He or she must also have graduated from high school, although a General Education Development (GED) certificate is sometimes acceptable.
Officers are the managers of the Military, planning and directing operations or acting in professional roles in fields such as law and medicine. Officers have generally completed a four-year college degree or greater before serving and are commissioned into their positions, though it is possible to advance through the enlisted ranks and complete officer training later.
After deciding which Service branch and service type they're interested in pursuing, the best way for someone to get answers to any questions they have about the Military is to meet with a recruiter. On our recruiting page, learn how to contact a recruiter, what to expect when you arrive, and suggestions for questions to ask during your visit.
Once a person has talked with a recruiter, carefully considered their options and made the informed decision to serve their country, their next step depends on their type of service. Enlisted service members attend the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). There, recruits receive a physical exam and take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, which helps determine their career path. Finally, they take the oath of enlistment.
If a potential recruit wishes to become an officer, the time from deciding to join to being commissioned and entering the Military will vary. Factors include his or her level of education and the type of experience they'd like to have during their training. Recruits should explore each officer path to get an idea of the length of the joining process for each.
Get an inside look at the entry process with highlights from our Joining Videos page.
Schedule a meeting with a recruiter and learn what to expect from your visit.
Get a free DVD and magazine, plus additional information from each Service, sent to your home.
View answers to commonly asked questions about the Military.
Once someone has committed to serving in the Military, it's time for them to get the training they need to succeed.
Narrator: Life is about choices. The small ones we make every day. Get up early, or sleep in? Spend time with friends, or study?
Then there are the big choices. Like your future after school. Go to college? Get a job? Maybe even start a family. You're at a crossroads. The key is to find the right path for you.
To hundreds of thousands of men and women, joining the Military was that choice. The one that mattered. The Military is full of opportunities for those with ambition. Lifelong careers. Paid education. Experiencing the world. For those who wish to commit to something bigger than themselves, it's a calling. And when they look back at those choices — they realize in service, they can have them all, too.
If you're considering joining, do the research. Ask questions of people who are there to help. Choose a Service branch which fits your personality -- who you are and what you represent. And when you make that leap, when you enlist or join as an officer, you'll be ready. It's your path. And it's just the beginning to a whole new future.closeX