Military Workers, Officers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Your educational preparation will depend to an extent on your career goals. You need a college education to be a military officer. Take classes in mathematics, including advanced classes such as algebra and geometry, and science. Computer science classes are helpful also since many positions require technical skills. History classes, government classes, and classes covering geography provide a good foundation. Strong communication skills are needed so take English and writing classes. Foreign language classes may expand job opportunities. Also be sure to take physical education classes throughout high school. You are required to pass physical and medical tests when you apply to the service, so you will need to be in good physical condition.

Postsecondary Training

Your postsecondary training will depend on your career goals. If you wish to enter the military right after high school, you will take the path of enlisted personnel. You will agree to an enlistment contract, pledging time to the service—usually eight years. Depending on the branch you join, you may spend between two and six years on active duty and the remaining amount of the eight years in reserves. You must pass medical and physical tests as well as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam. Basic training comes next and will last between eight and 13 weeks. During this time you will have classroom study, physical training, and training in military skills and protocol. After basic training, and depending on your skills and performance, you may be assigned to a job that calls for on-the-job training or be assigned to a job that requires further technical training. This training may last from 10 weeks up to a year, depending on the position. Many people combine this training with courses they take when off duty to work toward a bachelor's degree. Many enlisted personnel have at least some college-level education and most officers have a bachelor's degree. A select few enlistees are chosen for officer training after completing basic training. They receive additional military training.

If you wish to attend college after high school, you have a number of options available. You may want to attend one of the four service academies: the U.S. Military Academy (for the Army), the U.S. Naval Academy (for the Navy and the Marines), the U.S. Air Force Academy (for the Air Force), or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (for the Coast Guard). Competition to enter these schools is intense; an excellent academic background, involvement in community activities, and leadership qualities are among the requirements. Most applicants also need a nomination from an authorized source, which is usually a member of the U.S. Congress. Graduates from these academies receive a bachelor of science degree, and are then required to spend a minimum of five years on active duty, beginning as a junior officer.

Another option is to attend a college or university that has a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program. In an ROTC program, students take courses in military instruction in addition to regular college course work. After graduation they may serve as an officer on active duty for a required amount of time. Some graduates are allowed to serve in the Reserves or National Guard.

A third option for college graduates is to attend Officer Candidate School or Officer Training School. Upon completion of one of these programs, graduates enter their military branch as officers and must serve for a required period of time.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The military does not offer certification or licensing for many jobs that require these credentials in the civilian sector. If you train in the military for a certain job and plan to transfer skills to an equivalent job in the civilian sector, find out first what additional training and/or certification or licensing is needed in the civilian workforce.

Other Requirements

All military branches require U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status (green card). To enter the Army, Navy, and Air Force, you must be at least 17 years of age. The maximum age to enter the Army is 35; the Navy, 34; the Air Force and Coast Guard, 39; and the Marine Corps, 29. (The maximum age limit is subject to change depending on such factors as the nature of the military service and the demand for recruitment.) You also cannot have a criminal record. Height, weight, and vision standards vary by military branch.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

To enter the armed forces as an officer, you must attend one of the four service academies: the U.S. Military Academy (for the Army), the U.S. Naval Academy (for the Navy and the Marines), the U.S. Air Force Academy (for the Air Force), or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (for the Coast Guard); enroll in the Reserve Officers Training Corps; or enroll in Officer Candidate School or Officer Training School.

Anyone entering the military should be prepared for a regimented lifestyle. Successful military officers have management and leadership skills, communicate clearly and effectively, and have expertise in the occupation in which they work. They are quick thinkers, able to effectively and efficiently solve problems as they arise. They are also adaptable to changing situations. The job can require relocating to different parts of the country or world, so a flexible attitude is also required. Officers are always training and learning new skills as they advance through the ranks.