Join the Military as an Enlisted Member
Enlisted members make up most of the military workforce. They receive training in a job specialty and do most of the hands-on work. Usually, you’ll sign up for four years of active duty and four years inactive. After you’ve completed your active duty time, you can either extend your contract or re-enlist if you want to continue serving.
Officers make up a much smaller part of the workforce. To join as an officer, you typically must have a four-year college degree and complete an officer program. You compete for promotion to continue your career. Most officers are managers who plan and direct operations. Others are professionals like doctors and lawyers. Officers get paid more than enlisted members and enjoy certain other benefits.
You don’t have to join as an officer to become one though. You can join as an enlisted member and attend officer training later on.
Requirements for Joining the Military
The U.S. military has five branches of service: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. The requirements to join are similar for all five. The main differences are in age limits, test scores, and fitness levels. Men and women meet different fitness standards. Besides the requirements listed here, a branch may have other requirements.
Age Limits for Enlisting
You must be at least 17 to enlist in any branch of the active military. The oldest you can be to enlist for active duty in each branch is:
- Coast Guard: 31
- Marines: 28
- Navy: 39
- Army: 34
- Air Force: 39
Some branches have different age limits for their part-time Reserve and National Guard. Visit each service's recruiting website for its part-time age limits.
Requirements for Enlisting If You Are Not a U.S. Citizen
You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to enlist in the military, but you may have fewer options. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must:
- Have a permanent resident card, also known as a Green Card
- Currently live in the U.S.
- Speak, read, and write English fluently
Educational and Testing Requirements for Enlisting
You must take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. The ASVAB has 10 subtests.
- Your scores on four of those make up your Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score. This score determines which branch(es) you may join. Each branch has its own lowest score for joining.
- Your scores on all 10 subtests determine which job specialties you qualify for..
You can prepare for the ASVAB by taking sample questions.
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 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 Enlisting
You must pass a military entrance medical exam. This includes a physical exam, hearing test, vision test, and height/weight measurements.
Each service has its own physical requirements and fitness standards. These depend on the demands of its mission. Even within the same branch, some jobs have tougher or extra requirements.
Steps for Joining the Military
Start by doing some research about your options for joining the military. Learn about the five active-duty branches and their part-time counterparts. Know the main differences between officers and enlisted members.
Once you know which branch you’re considering, contact a recruiter. A recruiter will give you an overview and answer your questions about that service. If you’re interested in more than one branch, contact a recruiter for each. If you’re interested in joining as an officer, the recruiter will explain any options you may be eligible for.
If you decide to enlist, you will report to a military entrance processing station (MEPS). You’ll spend a day or two completing pre-enlistment steps. These include taking the ASVAB, having a physical exam, meeting with a career counselor, and if you’re accepted,taking the oath of enlistment. From there you’ll receive orders for basic training, usually to start within a few weeks. If you enrolled in a delayed entry program, you’ll go home and get orders for basic training within a year.
Contact a Recruiter or Apply Online
- Active duty & Reserve: 1-888-550-ARMY (1-888-550-2769)
- National Guard: 1-800-GO-GUARD (1-800-464-8273)
- Active Duty: 1-800-423-USAF (1-800-423-8723)
- Reserve: 1-800-257-1212
- National Guard: 1-800-TO-GO-ANG (1-800-864-6264)
- Active Duty and Reserve: 1-800-USA-NAVY (1-800-872-6289)
- Active Duty and Reserve: 1-800-MARINES (1-800-627-4637)
All branches of the Armed Services offer a delayed-entry program allowing candidates to postpone entry to active duty for up to one year after enlisting. High school students can enlist during their senior year and enter service after graduation. Others may delay entry because their desired job training is not immediately available or because they need time to arrange their personal affairs.
The military distinguishes between enlisted and officer careers. Enlisted personnel make up about 82 percent of the Armed Forces and carry out military operations. The remaining 18 percent are officers—military leaders who manage operations and enlisted personnel. About 8 percent of officers are warrant officers, who are technical and tactical experts in a specific area. Army aviators, for example, make up one group of warrant officers.
Enlisted personnel typically do the following:
- Participate in, or support, military operations, such as combat or training operations, or humanitarian or disaster relief
- Operate, maintain, and repair equipment
- Perform technical and support activities
- Supervise junior enlisted personnel
Officers typically do the following:
- Plan, organize, and lead troops and activities in military operations
- Manage enlisted personnel
- Operate and command aircraft, ships, or armored vehicles
- Provide medical, legal, engineering, and other services to military personnel
Types of Enlisted Personnel
The following are examples of types of occupations for enlisted personnel:
Administrative personnel maintain information on personnel, equipment, funds, and other military-related activities. They work in support areas, such as finance, accounting, legal affairs, maintenance, supply, and transportation.
Combat specialty personnel train and work in combat units, such as the infantry, artillery, or Special Forces. For example, infantry specialists conduct ground combat operations, armored vehicle specialists operate battle tanks, and seamanship specialists maintain ships. Combat specialty personnel may maneuver against enemy forces and fire artillery, guns, mortars, or missiles to neutralize them. They may also operate various types of combat vehicles, such as amphibious assault vehicles, tanks, or small boats. Members of elite Special Forces teams are trained to perform specialized missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.
Construction personnel build or repair buildings, airfields, bridges, and other structures. They also may operate heavy equipment, such as bulldozers or cranes. They work with engineers and other building specialists as part of military construction teams. Some construction personnel specialize in an area such as plumbing, electrical wiring, or water purification.
Electronic and electrical equipment repair personnel maintain and repair electronic equipment used by the military. Repairers specialize in an area such as aircraft electrical systems, computers, optical equipment, communications, or weapons systems. For example, weapons electronic maintenance technicians maintain and repair electronic components and systems that help locate targets and help aim and fire weapons.
Engineering, science, and technical personnel perform a variety of tasks, such as operating technical equipment, solving problems, and collecting and interpreting information. They perform technical tasks in information technology, environmental health and safety, or intelligence:
- Environmental health and safety specialists inspect military facilities and food supplies to ensure that they are safe for use and consumption.
- Information technology specialists manage and maintain computer and network systems.
- Intelligence specialists gather information and prepare reports for military planning and operations.
Healthcare personnel provide medical services to military personnel and their family members. They may work as part of a patient-service team with doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals. Some specialize in providing emergency medical treatment in combat or remote areas. Others specialize in laboratory testing of tissue and blood samples; maintaining pharmacy supplies or patients’ records; assisting with dental procedures; operating diagnostic tools, such as x-ray and ultrasound machines; or other healthcare tasks.
Human resources development personnel recruit qualified people into the military, place them in suitable occupations, and provide training programs:
- Personnel specialists maintain information about military personnel and their training, job assignments, promotions, and health.
- Recruiting specialists provide information about military careers; explain pay, benefits, and military life; and recruit individuals into the military.
- Training specialists and instructors teach military personnel how to perform their jobs.
Machine operator and repair personnel operate industrial equipment and machinery to make and repair parts for a variety of equipment and structures. They may operate engines, nuclear reactors, or water pumps, usually performing a specific job. Welders and metalworkers, for example, work with various types of metals to repair or form the structural parts of ships, buildings, or equipment. Survival equipment specialists inspect, maintain, and repair survival equipment, such as parachutes and aircraft life-support equipment.
Media and public affairs personnel prepare and present information about military activities to the military and the public. They take photographs, make video programs, present news and music programs, or conduct interviews.
Protective service personnel enforce military laws and regulations and provide emergency responses to disasters:
- Firefighters prevent and extinguish fires in buildings, on aircraft, and aboard ships.
- Military police responsibilities include controlling traffic, preventing crime, and responding to emergencies.
- Other law enforcement and security specialists investigate crimes committed on military property and guard inmates in military correctional facilities.
Support service personnel provide services that support the morale and well-being of military personnel and their families:
- Food service specialists prepare food in dining halls, hospitals, and ships.
- Religious program specialists assist chaplains with religious services, religious education programs, and related administrative duties.
Transportation and material-handling personnel transport military personnel and cargo. Most personnel within this occupational group are classified according to the mode of transportation, such as aircraft, motor vehicle, or ship:
- Aircrew members operate equipment on aircraft.
- Cargo specialists load and unload military supplies, using forklifts and cranes.
- Quartermasters and boat operators navigate and pilot many types of small watercraft, including tugboats, gunboats, and barges.
- Vehicle drivers operate various military vehicles, including fuel or water tank trucks.
Vehicle and machinery mechanical personnel conduct preventive and corrective maintenance on aircraft, automotive and heavy equipment, and powerhouse station equipment. These workers specialize by the type of equipment that they maintain:
- Aircraft mechanics inspect and service various types of aircraft.
- Automotive and heavy-equipment mechanics maintain and repair vehicles, such as Humvees, trucks, tanks, and other combat vehicles. They also repair bulldozers and other construction equipment.
- Heating and cooling mechanics install and repair air-conditioning, refrigeration, and heating equipment.
- Marine engine mechanics repair and maintain engines on ships, boats, and other watercraft.
- Powerhouse mechanics install, maintain, and repair electrical and mechanical equipment in power-generating stations.
sources - usa.gov , US Bureau of Labor Statistics