Military Pathways

Military Service: A Pathway to Education, Experience, and Training

Military service is a pathway to education, skills, paid training, experience, and opportunities for advancement. Whether you are already a member of the military or a civilian looking to join, the five branches of military service (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard) offers many options.

Military Branches

ARMY

Established in June 14th 1775, the Army is the oldest officially established military service. The United States Army uses ground forces such as armored tanks, artillery, helicopters, nuclear weapons, etc. to protect and defend the United States. The Army is also the largest U.S. Military Service with approximately 76,000 officers and 401,000 enlisted members on active duty in 2016.

https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-military-101-3331988

Service Academy

This option is for those people who would like to experience a military environment while getting an education. For the Army, West Point Military Academy would be suiting. Follow the website provided to learn more about West Point Military Academy.

http://www.usma.edu/SitePages/Home.aspx

Direct Commissioning

This option is for civilians who have special skills that are needed in the military and have earned professional degrees. The Army offers Direct Commissioning in the medical department, Judge advocate general’s corps, and chaplain corps.

Army Medical Department

Enter as a commissioned officer and choose from the variety of options such as physician, dentist, nurse, allied health, nurse, and veterinarians.

https://www.goarmy.com/amedd/health-care.html

Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps

This is a highly selective and competitive field in which one can be offered an opportunity to serve in the United States as a member of the judicial branch.

https://www.goarmy.com/jag/about.html

Army Chaplain Corps

This is an option for a chaplain to serve in the Army either as an active duty chaplain or a reserve duty chaplain.

Officer Candidate School (OCS)

This is the training academy to become United States Army Officers, available to qualified enlisted noncommissioned officers and civilians who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. After this 12 week rigorous course, one will be commissioned in the United States Army as a 2nd lieutenant. For more information on requirements, trainings, and paths to become an Army Officer through OCS, click on the link below.

https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/current-and-prior-service/advance-your-career/officer-candidate-school.html

Enlisted Soldiers

Follow the link provided below to learn more about the opportunities you can have as a current or prior service soldier. Opportunities include: Officer Candidate School, Warrant Officer School, and Green to Gold program. Officer Candidate School (OCS): OCS allows college graduates to commission as an Army Officer after rigorous training. Upon completion, they are Army Second Lieutenants.

https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/current-and-prior-service/advance-your-career/officer-candidate-school.html

Warrant Officer School

Warrant Officers are technical experts and have specific technical or tactical specialties and manage and maintain many of Army’s combat systems, vehicles, and networks.

https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/current-and-prior-service/advance-your-career/warrant-officer.html

Green to Gold

If you’re already an enlisted soldier and wish to earn a college degree and become an officer, this option is for you. You can receive money for college through scholarship options and become an officer after you complete your degree.

Army ROTC

High School Students

Talk to your academic advisor during your junior or senior year of high school about the Army ROTC program or find colleges and universities that offer the program. Follow the link provided below to learn about scholarships.

https://www.goarmy.com/rotc/high-school-students/four-year-scholarship.html

College Students

If you’re already in college and are interested in the program, talk to the Army ROTC Enrollment Officer on your campus about joining the program and the incentives available such as a two, three, or four year merit-based scholarship. Speak with your Army ROTC Enrollment Officer on your campus for more information. Click here to learn if your current college or university offers ROTC:

https://www.goarmy.com/rotc/find-schools.html

Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP)

This program allows you to participate in Army ROTC as well as serve in the Army Reserves or Army National Guard. This allows you to experience different opportunities and additional trainings with Units outside of the ROTC program. You will serve as a cadet (officer trainee) while completing college and the ROTC program. Speak with your Army ROTC Enrollment Officer on your campus for more information.

Junior college and graduate students

As long as you have two years remaining in Junior college or graduate school, you are still eligible to join Army ROTC. Just speak to your Army ROTC Enrollment Officer on your campus.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Air Force

The Air Force was established in 1947, making it the youngest military service. The Air Force was primarily part of the Army as support for the ground forces, however during World War II, it showed that air power had more potential than simply supporting ground forces. The Air Force was then later created to defend the United States with the use of fighter aircrafts, tanker aircraft, light and heavy bomber aircraft, transport aircraft, and helicopters. The Air Force had about 69,000 commissioned officers and 288,000 enlisted members on active duty in 2016.

https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-military-101-3331988

Service Academy

This option is for those people who would like to experience a military environment while getting an education. For the Air Force, the U.S. Air force Academy would be suiting. For more information, follow the website provided below.

https://www.academyadmissions.com/

Commissioned Officer Training

This option is for civilians who have special skills that are needed in the military and have earned professional degrees. The Air Force offers Commissioned Officer Training to those who would like to become officers in the healthcare department, judge advocate general corps, or chaplain corps.

Healthcare

In order to provide the Airmen and their families the best healthcare possible, the Air Force constantly seeks to add more healthcare professionals to their team. The healthcare careers include opportunities as a doctor, dentist, nurse, allied health, and administration.

https://www.airforce.com/careers/specialty-careers/healthcare/overview

Judge advocate general (JAG)

As a JAG, you’d provide legal services to the U.S. Air Force and its Airmen. You can enter the JAG career as a licensed attorney, law school student, active duty or reserve officer.

https://www.airforce.com/careers/specialty-careers/jag/overview

Chaplain

Air Force chaplains provide pastoral care and counseling to those of faith and those of no faith. They also support the spiritual resilience of Airmen all over the world. As advocates for our Airmen, they consult with leadership on moral, ethical, and quality-of-life issues.

Officer Training School (OTS)

This is the training academy to become United States Air Force Officers, available to qualified personnel that hold at least a bachelor’s degree. After this nine-and-a-half-week rigorous course, one will be commissioned in the United States Air Force as an officer. For more information on requirements, trainings, and paths to become an Air Force Officer through OTS, click on the link below.

https://www.airforce.com/education/military-training/ots

Enlisted Airmen

Follow the link provided below to learn more about the opportunities you can have as a current or prior service Airman who holds a bachelor’s degree.
https://www.airforce.com/how-to-join/process/enlisted-to-officer

Air Force ROTC

High School Students

When in high school, prepare to apply for Air Force ROTC programs by following the link below and looking at requirements, scholarships, and processes for applying.

https://www.afrotc.com/high-school

College Students

If you’re already in college and are interested in the program, follow the link provided below to learn more about their merit-based scholarships and the ROTC programs.

Enlisted Airmen

If you’re an enlisted airman, you can still become an officer. Follow the link below to learn more about ROTC to earn a commission as an Officer in the Air Force.

https://www.afrotc.com/enlisted-airmen

 

Navy

The Navy was officially established by the Continental Congress in 1775. Navy’s primary mission is to protect the seas and in times of conflict, support the Air Force with air power. Navy uses ships to attack land targets, to transport marines to areas of conflict, and submarines to stealthily attack enemies. The Navy had about 54,000 commissioned officers and 324,000 enlisted members on active duty in 2016.

https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-military-101-3331988

Service Academy

This option is for those people who would like to experience a military environment while getting an education. For the Navy, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis would be suiting. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.usna.edu/homepage.php

Officer Development School (ODS)

ODS is a 5 week course that trains already commissioned officers who would like to further their career in a specific field such as nuclear engineering, chaplaincy, oceanography or health care.

https://www.navy.com/dam/Navy/Navy-IMG/Downloads/pdf/officer/gof-ods-ocs-brochure.pdf

Direct Commission Officer School (DCO)

This course prepares degreed and highly experienced professionals to assume a Navy Reserve Duty Leadership positions in a broad range of critical career focus areas from law, intelligence, healthcare, engineering, and chaplaincy. This 12 day course in Rhode Island will introduce highly experienced professionals to become officers. Follow the link provided below for more information.

http://www.ocs.navy.mil/dcoic.html

Officer Candidate School (OCS)

This is the training academy to become United States Navy Officers, available to qualified personnel that hold at least a bachelor’s degree. After this twelve-week rigorous course, one will be commissioned in the United States Navy as an Ensign. For more information on requirements, trainings, and paths to become a Navy Ensign through OCS, click on the link below.

http://www.ocs.navy.mil/ocs.html

Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps is for students in high school or college that are interested in joining the navy to become an officer while attending college or university. Follow the link for more information as well as locating schools nearby that offer the NROTC program.

https://www.navy.com/joining/college-options/nrotc

 

Undergraduate Officer Pathways

The United States Navy offers other programs that will help pay for schooling and give you a monthly income with no service obligations until you graduate. Once you graduate, you will start your career as a Naval Officer.

Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program (NUPOC)

This program offers students the opportunity to become a Navy Nuclear Officer after graduation. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.navy.com/joining/college-options/nupoc

Civil Engineer Collegiate Program (CECP)

This program offers engineering and architecture majors to become a Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer after graduation. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.navy.com/joining/college-options/cec

Nurse Candidate Program (NCP)

This program offers Nursing students to become Navy Nurse Corps Officers after graduation. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.navy.com/joining/college-options/ncp

 

Graduate and Professional Officer Pathways

This option is available for people who are in graduate school, medical school, dental school, residency, health-care-related-postgraduate programs and graduate-level theological programs.

Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)

This program is for those who plan to or already attend medical school, dental school, or qualifying health-care-related postgraduate program. They can join the Navy and have their tuition paid for and be given monthly living expenses. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.navy.com/joining/college-options/hpsp

Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP)

This program is for those who are finishing medical school, dental school, or qualifying postgraduate school in the medical service. They can join the Navy and have their tuition paid for and receive a monthly salary while in school and other benefits. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.navy.com/joining/college-options/hscp

Financial Assistance Program (FAP)

This program is for those who are medical or dental students who are enrolled in an accredited residency or fellowship program. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.navy.com/joining/college-options/fap

Chaplain Candidate Program Officer (CCPO)

This program is for students who are in the graduate-level theological program and offers them to become a Navy Chaplain. In this program, you can be commissioned as a Navy Officer while you finish your theological studies at an accredited seminary or graduate school. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.navy.com/joining/college-options/ccpo

 

Marine Corps

Often referred to as the “Infantry of the Navy”, the Marine Corps was established in 1798 as a landing force for the Navy, but in 1798 congress established the Marine Corps as a separate service. In the past, Marines focused on amphibious operations as a specialty. In recent years however, Marines have expanded to ground-combat operations as well. The Marines had about 18,000 commissioned officers and 153,000 enlisted members on active duty in 2016.

https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-military-101-3331988

Service Academy

This option is for those people who would like to experience a military environment while getting an education. The Marine Corps’ service academy in linked with the Navy’s naval academy and students accepted into the Naval Academy have an option to choose to become Marine Corps Officers. For more information, follow the link below.

https://www.usna.edu/USMC/index.php

Marine Corps Law Program

In order to become a Judge Advocate General (JAG) lawyer, you must graduate from law school and complete Officer Candidate School (OCS) and officer training at The Basic School. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.marines.com/becoming-a-marine/officer/marine-corps-law-program.html

Officer Candidate School (OCS)

This is the training academy to become United States Marine Corps Officers, available to qualified personnel that hold at least a bachelor’s degree. After this ten-week rigorous course, one will be commissioned in the United States Marine Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant. For more information on requirements, trainings, and paths to become a Marine Corps Officer through OCS, click on the link below.

https://www.marines.com/becoming-a-marine/officer/training.html

Enlisted Marines

Active and active Reserve Marines who are Lance Corporals and above and have earned a Bachelor’s degree, can speak to their chain of command about the opportunity to become Marine Officers. They will complete one ten week training session at OCS.

Marine Sergeants and above who possess a minimum of 12 credits can request for the MECEP (Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program) to become Marine Officers after a 10 week training session at OCS. They must also speak to their chain of command for the opportunity.

Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (Marine Corps Option) is for students in high school or college that are interested in joining the Marine Corps to become an officer while attending college or university. Follow the link provided below for more information.

http://www.nrotc.navy.mil/marine.html

Platoon Leaders Class (PLC)

This option is available for freshman and sophomore college students that must complete two six-week training sessions at OCS. Follow the link below for similar opportunities and to request information.

https://www.marines.com/becoming-a-marine/officer.html

Officer Candidate Course (OCC)

This option is available to college seniors or graduates. They must complete a 10-week training session. When completed, they will be commissioned as Marine Officers and will advance to the Basic School as Second Lieutenants. Follow the link below for similar opportunities and to request information.

https://www.marines.com/becoming-a-marine/officer.html

 

Coast Guard

Through the years the Coast Guard was established as the Revenue Cutter service in 1790, Treasury Department in 1915, Department of Transportation in 1967 and finally as the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. During peacetime, Coast Guard is primarily concerned with law enforcement, boating safety, sea rescue, and illegal immigration control. During conflict, the president of the United States can transfer the Coast Guard to the Navy to conduct variety of missions with ships, boats, aircrafts and shore stations. Being the smallest military service, the Coast Guard had about 7,000 officers and 29,000 enlisted on active duty in 2016.

https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-military-101-3331988

Service Academy

This option is for those people who would like to experience a military environment while getting an education. For the Coast Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy would be suiting. For more information, follow the link provided below.

http://www.uscga.edu/

Direct Commission Officer Program

This program is designed for individuals with specialized education and experience such as aviation, physician assistant, engineering, intelligence, and law. This program also pertains to those who had previous ROTC experience, graduated in the Maritime Academy, or current or former military officer in a different branch.

Direct Commission Aviator (DCA)

Coast Guard aviators will be involved in almost every mission including drug interdiction, immigration, search and rescue, marine environmental protection, marine safety and law enforcement in the maritime environment.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/direct-commission-aviator-dca)

Direct Commission Physician Assistant (DCPA)

Primarily working at Coast Guard clinics, these PA’s will receive a reserve commission after their three year active duty contract. Senior PA’s will have the opportunity for medical administration, instructor positions, and force manager.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/direct-commission-physician-assistant-dcpa

Direct Commission Engineer (DCE)

Coast Guard members and civilians with a baccalaureate degree in command, control, communications, computers, and informational technology field may apply to commission through the direct commission engineer program. This program seeks to provide engineers and technologists with leadership opportunities in program management and system implementation that enable Coast Guard missions.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/direct-commission-engineer-dce

Direct Commission Intelligence Officer (DCIO)

This program is looking for members in the Intelligence Specialist (IS), CGIS Agents, DOD service members, other federal service members and contractors who have accredited graduate and undergraduate programs in intelligence with resume articulating training and work in Human Intelligence, Human Derived Intelligence, collection and reporting, cyber threat analysis, counter-intelligence operations, or cryptology.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/direct-commission-intelligence-officer-dcio

Direct Commission Lawyer (DCL)

Law students in their final year of a JD program and licensed attorneys are eligible to serve as Judge Advocates for the Coast Guard through this program. This program gives an opportunity to practice law in criminal law/military justice, operations, internal activities, civil advocacy, environmental law, procurement law, internal organizational law, regulations & administrative law, legislative support, and legal assistance.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/direct-commission-lawyer-dcl

Direct Commission Selected School (DCSS)

College graduates who have been exposed to military training through ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) or equivalent programs such as military academies while earning an undergraduate degree are eligible for this program. Typically, a broad range of mission fields are available for this program.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/direct-commission-selected-school-dcss-program

Maritime Academy Graduate (MARGRAD)

Graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at the six state sponsored maritime academies are excellent officer candidates for the Coast Guard due to their focused training in maritime industry affairs, marine transportation business acumen, vessel management, and engineering operations, licenses as U.S. Merchant Marine officers, as well as environmental stewardship. Therefore, the MARGRAD program seeks to commission maritime academy graduates into critical service need specialties appropriate to their training and experience.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/maritime-academy-graduate-margrad

Prior Trained Military Officer (PTMO)

Current or former military officers have the opportunity to direct commission into the Coast Guard and serve as an officer. Their duty assignment will be based on prior officer experience.

Officer Candidate School (OCS)

This is the training academy to become United States Coast Guard Officers, available to qualified personnel that hold at least a bachelor’s degree. After this seventeen-week rigorous course, one will be commissioned in the United States Coast Guard as an Ensign. For more information on requirements, trainings, and paths to become a Coast Guard Ensign through OCS, click on the link below.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/officer-candidate-school-ocs

CSPI- Student Loan Repayment Program (CSPI-SLRP)

This program is available for senior undergraduate students or students who have graduated two years of the panel convening date for which they are applying. For more information, follow the link provided below.
https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/cspi-student-loan-repayment-program-cspi-slrp

Wilks Flight Initiative (WiFI)

This program is available for current officer trainees who are in their senior year of their College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative program. This is for those who demonstrate a strong desire to be a part of the flight school in the Coast Guard as an Ensign. For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/wilks-flight-initiative-wifi

College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (Scholarship Program)

This program is for sophomore or junior undergraduate students enrolled, accepted for enrollment or pending acceptance in a full-time Bachelor’s degree program at an accredited college or university designated as a Minority Serving Institute (MSI). For more information, follow the link provided below.

https://www.gocoastguard.com/active-duty-careers/officer-opportunities/programs/college-student-pre-commissioning-initiative