Careers: Military--Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines, Coast Guard/Explaination of recruiting process?


QUESTION: Enlisting as an officer or soldier, is there a difference? Can you simply explain to me what they mean?
Also, do you get to choose how long you serve in the military? Details and links on these topics would be appreciated.

ANSWER: Hi Kevin, those are some excellent questions.

Yes, there is a difference between enlisting and commissioning as an officer. Notice I say "commissioning" not enlisting for officers. To become an officer, you must have a Bachelors degree. To enlist, you only have to have a high school diploma, or a GED (if a GED, you must complete some other requirements too).

What`s the difference between enlisting and becoming an officer? Good question. Those who enlist go through some form of basic training, and then do training for their specific job. Those who become officers do so from either ROTC, a service academy, OCS (Officers Candidate School), and as an additional option in the Marines, PLC (Platoon Leaders Course). They go through specific officer`s training, different from what enlisted personnel go through.

Enlisted folks are the ones who are the backbone of the military. They follow orders given to them by their superiors, and as they promote, they reach new levels of leadership and responsibility. Officers are like the corporate executives who lead the enlisted personnel.

You can read more about them for each branch of the military:

As far as your next question, the length you serve is dependent on your specific job in the military, but usually, it`s 4 years Active duty, and 4 years in the Reserves. Or you can choose to spend all 8 years in the Reserves. There`s also the Army National Guard, and Air National Guard. You can find all of these requirements in the websites I listed above.

I realize that`s a lot of information, so feel free to ask a followup question if any of this confuses you, or if you think of additional questions.

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QUESTION: Thank you for answering my previous question! Do officers have to serve a higher amount of minimum years compared enlisted soldiers? Or was the 4 years Active Duty and 4 years Reserve in effect for both enlisted soldiers and commissioned officers?

Hi Kevin,

Here`s the way it work for officers:

If you commission via ROTC or OCS, it`s 4 years Active, 4 years Reserves. And before I go further, when we`re talking about serving the other half in Reserves, it`s the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) which means you wouldn`t have to train or go to war unless needed. But there`s also the actual Reserves too. Sorry for the discrepancy.

If you commission through a service academy (for the Army, West Point), then it`s 5 years Active, 3 years IRR.

Of course, some jobs have more time than others. Say you were a pilot, you`d generally have to serve 8 years Active, because of all of the extra training involved.

Feel free to ask a follow up question if needed.

Careers: Military--Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines, Coast Guard

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I can answer any type of questions regarding the military, but more specifically, Marines, Army, and Navy. The Air Force and Coast Guard are subjects I can answer questions about, but my knowledge is rather limited in those fields. I can answer questions regarding history of, rank, structure, etc. I can also answer questions regarding any of the service academies (West Point, Naval Academy, and Air Force Academy, specifically), and Naval ROTC, Naval ROTC-Marine Option, and Army ROTC.


Much research regarding the military, and personal experiences with military. Talking to those in their respective branches has made me even more knowledgeable in the field of military for the branches I didn`t know much about before. Many interviews for research papers and such as well.

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