Joining the United States Army
Joining 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
Age Limits for Enlisting:
You must be at least 17 to enlist, and the oldest you can be to enlist for active duty is 34.
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
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 if you can join. 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. 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.
Steps for Joining the Military
Start by doing some research about your options for joining the military. Learn about the various job specialties. Know the main differences between officers and enlisted members.
Once you know which job specialty you’re considering, contact a recruiter. A recruiter will give you an overview and answer your questions about that career option. 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.