Military Workers, Enlisted


Employment Prospects


The U.S. government employs the military. More than 1.3 million active duty personnel served in the armed forces as of June 2019, with 468,783 in the Army; 330,949 in the Navy; 327,039 in the Air Force; 186,814 in the Marine Corps; and 41,250 in the Coast Guard.

Starting Out

A military recruiter is the person to contact for those wanting to enter the armed forces. To start out in any branch, you will need to pass physical and medical tests, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam, and basic training. Visit to locate a recruiting office near you.

Advancement Prospects

Each military branch has nine enlisted grades (E-1 through E-9) and 10 officers' grades (O-1 through O-10). The higher the number is, the more advanced a person's rank. The various branches of the military have somewhat different criteria for promoting individuals; in general, however, promotions depend on factors such as length of time served, demonstrated abilities, recommendations, and scores on written exams. Promotions become more and more competitive as people advance in rank. On average, a diligent enlisted person can expect to earn one of the middle noncommissioned or petty officer rankings (E-4 through E-6); some officers can expect to reach lieutenant colonel or commander (O-5). Outstanding individuals may be able to advance beyond these levels.

Tips for Entry

Visit to learn how to join the military.

Talk to family and friends to find out if they have served in the military, or know someone who has, to learn more about their experience.

Visit to learn more about career paths in the military.

Read Futures Magazine ( to learn more about the military.