An officer is a servicemember in a position of authority. Officers are the leaders of the Military, supervising and managing activities in almost every occupational specialty. Unlike the enlisted joining process, becoming a military officer requires extra training, education or expertise. In exchange for the increased responsibility, officers receive superior benefits and excellent credentials valued by both military and civilian employers. And for someone with a four-year college degree it can be the real-world experience necessary to advance a career.
There is more than one kind of officer in the Military, and all of them are in positions of leadership.
A third position of authority you may have heard of is noncommissioned officers or NCOs. Despite the title, NCOs are actually higher-ranking enlisted personnel.
Just as there are different types of officers, there are different ways to become one. Where you are in your education and career will help determine the best route for you.
This program helps turn college graduates with no prior military training into military officers. It is also the way for an enlisted servicemember with over 90 hours of college credit to advance to commissioned officer.
Requirements and training vary based on Service. Find out what it takes to become an officer by exploring the OCS/OTS websites for each of the Armed Forces:
The Military offers direct commission opportunities to trained professionals in fields such as medicine, law, engineering or religion. Direct commission officers typically earn a higher entry salary due to their expertise and may be required to either participate in an indoctrination course or Basic Training (similar to enlisted Basic Training), depending on the Service.
The ROTC is the most common way the Military accepts officers. Offered at more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the United States, ROTC is an elective curriculum that prepares young adults to become officers in the U.S. Military.
Service academies combine general education with special military training. While Service academies can be extremely hard to get into, once accepted, attendees receive full benefits, a full four-year scholarship and upon graduation, a commissioned officer rank.
For more information about specific Service academies, visit the following websites:
Senior Military Colleges (SMCs) offer a variety of majors, valuable leadership training and financial aid packages for eligible students. Those who attend SMCs participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), but cadets at SMCs are not required to serve in the Military after graduation, unless they have received ROTC scholarships. If they do choose to serve, they will become commissioned officers.
Explore individual Senior Military Colleges:
Warrant officers are highly skilled, technical and tactical leaders who specialize, throughout an entire career, in one specific area. Although warrant officers make up only a small portion of the Armed Forces, they hold a great deal of responsibility. Only the very best enlisted personnel, typically with five to eight years’ experience in a specific technical field, are selected to become warrant officers. Enlisted servicemembers – and on rare occasions, for specific fields only, civilians – have to apply to become warrant officers, and at minimum meet the following requirements:
If the preceding requirements are met and a candidate’s application is accepted, he or she may attend Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS). Upon completing WOCS, he or she is appointed as a warrant officer.
The benefits of becoming an officer in the Military are far-reaching. Tangible benefits include increased salary and better housing. And the intangible benefits are perhaps of even greater value. Leadership development, management and increased real-world experience are some of the immeasurable qualities of becoming a military officer. Such characteristics can prove helpful in both the Military and professional civilian work forces.