Joining the ranks: How to get into the U.S. military

If you are interested in entering the United States military as an officer or enlisted member, there are a number of eligibility requirements to abide by. The rules can be confusing as there are different regulations are governing enlisting and officer programs, but here are basic guidelines to keep in mind.

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To join the enlisted ranks, in general, one must be a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder. Non-citizens must speak, read, and write English fluently and currently live in the country.

In addition, one must be in good health, between 17 to 40 years of age (different branches have different age requirements), have a high school diploma (some offices will accept a GED), and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. In the Air Force and Navy, the minimum test score is 50, while it is 45 for the Coast Guard, 32 for the Marines, and 31 for the Army.

To join as an officer, one must also have attended college. Officers are managers of the military, and most officer programs are very competitive, with many who qualified have master’s or higher degrees.

If there are conditions that may disqualify a specific candidate, a recruiter may ask a military command to overlook them through a waiver, which includes medical, mental health, criminal, education, moral, and age. Note, however, that there are no guarantees that one will obtain a waiver.

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Captain Martin Lloyd Sanders, Ph.D., is an officer in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), where the Surgeon General had appointed him as Chief Scientist. He has had more than 12 years of service in the field of occupational safety and health. Read similar articles here.


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