Joining the military can be a life-changing experience. There are many reasons why young people around the U.S. give an interest in the Armed Forces. No matter what the reason is, pursuing a military career requires good preparation.
Enlisted members are the majority of the military workforce. They will receive training in a job specialty and do most of the hands-on jobs. Generally, you’ll have to register for four years of active duty and four years inactive. Once you’ve finished your active duty time, you can either extend your contract or re-enlist if you want to continue serving.
Meanwhile, a much smaller part of the workforce is officers. To join as an officer, you typically must hold a four-year college degree and finish an officer program. You have to compete for promotion to upgrade your career. Most officers are managers who would play the role of planning and directing operations. Other professionals are doctors and lawyers. Officers often get paid more than enlisted members and also enjoy certain other benefits.
You can join as an enlisted member and attend officer training later.
The U.S. military has six branches of service: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Space Force. The requirements to join are similar for all those ones. The biggest differences are in age limits, test scores, and fitness levels. Men and women have to meet different fitness requirements. Besides the requirements listed here, each branch may have other requirements.
You can read more details about the enlisted requirements for each branch here:
- Joining the Marines
- Joining the Air Force
- Joining the National Guard
- Join the Army
- Joining the Coast Guard
- Joining the Navy
Age requirement for Enlisting
You must be 17 or older to enlist in any branch of the active military. The oldest age you can be to enlist for active duty in each branch is:
- Coast Guard: 31
- Marines: 28
- Navy: 39
- Army: 34
- Air Force: 39
- Space Force: 39
Educational and Testing Requirements for Joining the Military
You are required to take the ASVAB test. The ASVAB has 10 subtests.
- Your scores on four of those determine your Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score. This score shows which branch(es) you may join. Each branch has its own lowest score for joining.
- Your scores on those 10 subtests determine which job specialties you qualify for.
Besides, you must have a high school diploma or a GED to enlist. The services accept only a small number of people with GEDs each year. You also can increase your chances of qualifying with a GED by:
- Earning some college credits and/or
- Scoring well on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT)
Health and Fitness Requirements for Joining the Military
You are required to pass a military entrance medical exam. This contains a physical exam, hearing test, vision test, and height/weight measurements.
Each service has its own physical standards and fitness requirements, depending on the demands of its mission. Even in the same branch, some jobs are tougher or have extra requirements.
Steps for Joining the Military
Once you know which branch(es) you’re considering, you should contact a recruiter. Your recruiter will give you an overview and answer your questions about that service. If you’re interested in joining as an officer, the recruiter would also explain any options you may be eligible for.
If you decide to enlist, you would have to report to a military entrance processing station (MEPS). It would take you a day or two to finish pre-enlistment steps, including taking the ASVAB, having a physical exam, meeting with a career counselor. Then you’ll receive orders for basic training. If you enroll in a delayed entry program, you’ll go home and get orders for basic training within a year.
Contact a Recruiter or Apply Online
- Air Force Active Duty: 1-800-423-USAF (1-800-423-8723)
- Air Force Reserve: 1-800-257-1212
- Air Force National Guard: 1-800-TO-GO-ANG (1-800-864-6264)
- Army Active Duty & Army Reserve: 1-888-550-ARMY (1-888-550-2769)
- Army National Guard: 1-800-GO-GUARD (1-800-464-8273)
- Navy Active Duty and Reserve: 1-800-USA-NAVY (1-800-872-6289)
- Marine Corps Active Duty and Reserve: 1-800-MARINES (1-800-627-4637)
- Coast Guard Active Duty and Reserve
- Contact an Air Force recruiter: 1-800-423-USAF (1-800-423-8723)
U.S. Military Branches
We provide you an overview of the six service branches of the U.S. armed forces you need to know before joining the military:
- U.S. Air Force (USAF), part of the Department of Defense (DOD), is responsible for aerial military operations, defending U.S. air bases, and building landing strips. Service members are considered as airmen. The reserve components are Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.
- U.S. Army (USA), also a part of the DOD, is the largest of the five military branches. Its responsibilities are major ground combat missions, especially operations that are ongoing. The Army Special Forces unit is referred to as the Green Berets for its headgear. Service members are considered soldiers. The reserve components are Army Reserve and Army National Guard.
- U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It handles maritime law enforcement, including drug smuggling. It’s also responsible for maritime search and rescue and marine environmental protection. It also secures ports, waterways, and coasts. Service members are considered as Coast Guardsmen, nicknamed Coasties. The reserve component is Coast Guard Reserve.
- U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), also part of the DOD, provides land combat, sea-based, and air-ground operations support for the other branches during a mission. This branch’s duty also includes guarding U.S. embassies around the world and the classified documents in those buildings. Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) members are referred to as Raiders. All service members are considered Marines. The reserve component is Marine Corps Reserve.
- U.S. Navy (USN) The Navy, part of the DOD, plays the role of protecting waterways (sea and ocean) outside of the Coast Guard’s jurisdiction. Navy warships provide the runways for aircraft to land and take off when at sea. Navy SEALs (sea, air, and land) are the special operations force for this branch. All service members are considered sailors. The reserve component is Navy Reserve.
- U.S. Space Force (USSF): The Space Force is a new service, founded in December 2019 from the former Air Force Space Command. The Space Force falls within the Department of the Air Force. It organizes, trains, and equips space forces to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force.
That’s all the basic information you should know for joining the military. Hope you reach your desire soon!