Serving your country can take many forms, but one historically important way is enlisting in a branch of the Armed Forces. Enlisted members make up most of the military workforce, while officers comprise the other segment. Enlisted personnel receive training in a job specialty and do most of the hands-on work.
What are the military branches?
The U.S. military has six branches of service: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Space Force. They each have similar requirements to join but have certain differences such as 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.
What is the difference between being enlisted and a commissioned officer?
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. 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 do not have to join as an officer to become one though. You can join as an enlisted member and attend officer training later on.
How long are military enlistments?
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.
What are the age limits to join the military?
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: 35
- Air Force: 39
- Space Force: 39
How to prepare for the military
Start by doing some research about your options for joining the military. Learn about the six active-duty branches and their part-time counterparts. Know the main differences between officers and enlisted members. And explore the career fields you can enter for each branch.
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.
- Air Force: 1-800-423-USAF (1-800-423-8723)
- Air Force Reserve: 1-800-257-1212
- Air National Guard: 1-800-TO-GO-ANG (1-800-864-6264)
- Army and Army Reserve: 1-888-550-ARMY (1-888-550-2769)
- Army National Guard: 1-800-GO-GUARD (1-800-464-8273)
- Space Force: 1-800-423-USAF (1-800-423-8723)
UAP supports American servicemembers by generating Presidential, Congressional, and public awareness and funding the legal representation used to fight their legal battles. Your financial support is critical to our success, and most importantly, the success of our Warriors!