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Common Military Questions

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What qualifications must I meet in order to join the Military?

In general, the Services require U.S. citizenship or permanent residency (i.e., a green card if a noncitizen), a high school diploma or equivalent and good health. Officer candidates typically have a four-year college degree or greater. Enlisted recruits must also achieve minimum scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

Each Service has its own requirements for weight, height and maximum age, although you must be at least 18 (17 with parental permission) to join. Some job specialties have additional standards, and some qualifications may be waived on a case-by-case basis. To see if you're eligible, discuss these details with a recruiter.

Entrance requirements (Today's Military)

I'm not sure which Service I'd like best. How do I decide?

Each of the Services has its own character and spirit. Before choosing, it's best to talk to people who have had firsthand exposure to the Military. One of the best ways to determine which Service would be the best fit for you is to find friends or relatives who have been in the Military and ask them about their Service's values, missions and opportunities. If you do not know anyone who has served recently, you may want to look up each branch online.

You should also visit local recruiters who can help match your abilities and interests to current active-duty openings in their Service. It's fine to schedule an appointment just to learn more; visiting a recruiter does not obligate you in any way. Don't forget to ask about opportunities in the Reserve and National Guard if you're more interested in serving part time and close to home.

Types of Military Service

How do I go about joining the Military?

Once you've done your research and have a sense of which Service and opportunities are right for you, it's time to talk to a recruiter. Above all, recruiters are there to answer your questions. They will be positive, but honest; so don't be afraid to ask anything and everything. You can bring a friend, parent or guardian along with you if that makes you more comfortable. Also remember that there's no problem with taking more than one visit to ensure you have all the information necessary to make an informed decision.

Contact a Recruiter (Today's Military)

Selective Service System (official site)

How do I find a recruiter?

The best way to find the nearest recruiting location is through the individual Services that might interest you. Recruiters from multiple branches may share a location, and you should feel encouraged to speak to more than one to compare opportunities.

Contact a Recruiter (Today's Military)

How long do I have to serve if I join?

Most first-term enlistments are four years of Active Duty, followed by four years in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). In the IRR, you don't train, and you live at home maintaining a regular job, but you may be called to duty, if necessary, until your term expires. Some service branches also have an annual muster requirement to check in on basic health and fitness. Service commitment really depends upon the Service and the career to which you're applying. A local recruiter has all the details you'll need about terms of service.

Contact a Recruiter (Today's Military)

What's the Post-9/11 GI Bill worth?

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most comprehensive education-benefits package since the original GI Bill was signed into law back in 1944. Veterans who have served after Sept. 10, 2001, and all new active-duty service members are eligible for the enhanced package. The bill also gives Guard and Reserve members who have been activated for more than 90 days since 9/11 the same benefits.

Different factors play into how much each service member receives from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. These factors include:

  • College tuition and fees
  • Housing allowance
  • Allowance for books and supplies ($1,000 per year)

The actual benefit amount varies based on a service member's total length of service. However, these benefits are payable for up to 15 years following a member's honorable discharge or retirement from service. So you can use them right away, or save them for later—it's your choice.

In addition, the Department of Defense offers the option of sharing these benefits with family members. A service member can choose to transfer all or part of his or her earned benefits to a wife, husband or child (including stepchildren).

More on the GI Bill (Dept. of Veterans Affairs)

What other higher-education support programs are there in the Military?

From financial help to facilitating credit transfers, there are several higher-education support programs in the Military. These programs can assist you before, during and after a service commitment. Examples include the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), Tuition Assistance, testing programs and military school credit.

Explore the Military’s college assistance programs

How is ROTC different from other college programs?

ROTC provides a unique learning environment that involves classroom studies and hands-on training and leadership situations. For the latter, you might find yourself leading fellow ROTC classmates through “adventure training,” such as river rafting or a climbing course, or solving tactical problems using a diverse set of problem-solving skills. This combination of skills training and leadership can be invaluable for any future career, especially one that involves leading and motivating others.

For example, while learning to become an officer in the ROTC program, you are interacting, socializing and learning alongside cadets with diverse backgrounds, experiences, political ideologies and goals. Leading through these dynamics on campus develops team building, negotiating and consensus-building skills. Officers leverage these skills to help establish democratic systems, govern and secure themselves, and institutionalize freedom and human rights.

Does ROTC count as military service?

The years completed in college (or in high school with JROTC) do not count toward a military commitment. Instead, the first two years of ROTC are counted as college-elective hours. Those individuals who enroll in ROTC and accept a scholarship do commit to military service after graduation. 

Learn more about ROTC programs (Today’s Military)

What kinds of job training can you get in the Military?

The U.S. Military trains enlisted service members in their specific fields during programs called "A" school or Advanced Individual Training (AIT). A network of skill training schools prepares service members for the many positions the Services need to fill, including roles in IT, health care and security, to name a few.

Explore career opportunities

Can I choose my job specialty after Basic Training?

The Military will make every effort to match your interests and aptitudes with its needs. However, job assignments are ultimately made based on Service needs, as well as individual skills and test scores.

How much do you make in the Military?

Salary in the Military provides a comfortable lifestyle with pay that competes with most civilian careers. Military compensation is a combination of base pay, allowances (for housing, food, etc.) and special pays (for certain job details). Base pay can be considered your core salary to which everything else is added. Your total financial package also includes the value of housing assistance and meal costs. There are also military perks like low-cost life insurance, everyday shopping discounts and more.

In the Military, you receive pay raises based on your rank and how long you have served. Enlisted personnel are typically promoted three times during the first four-year enlistment. Officers are usually promoted twice during the same period.

Explore military compensation (Today's Military)

What travel opportunities are there in the Military?

There are many opportunities to travel the world in the Military. Your first step after Basic Training will most likely be your job training school, followed by travel to your first duty assignment. You can even volunteer for overseas duty if you want to see more of the world. The Military has bases in Hawaii, Japan, Germany, England, Italy, Spain and other unique locations. And no matter where they are based, service members have a lot of opportunity to travel throughout the world, depending on their current assignment.

If you're looking to travel on your own, many commercial airlines offer discounted fares for service members. In addition, you can often take a free "hop" on a government airplane when extra seats are available. The Military also operates low-cost rest and relaxation lodges and hotels in Hawaii, Germany—even Disney World—and other popular destinations.

Learn about military travel(Today's Military)

Where can I find out more about each Service branch?

Follow these links for answers to specific questions about each branch.


Army FAQs

Army Reserve Overview

Army National Guard FAQs

Marine Corps

Marine Corps FAQs

Marine Corps Reserve (Today's Military)


Navy FAQs

Navy Reserve Overview

Air Force

Air Force FAQs

Air Force Reserve FAQs

Air National Guard FAQs

Coast Guard

Coast Guard Active Duty FAQs

Coast Guard Reserve FAQs

Space Force

Space Force FAQs

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