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Requirements for Joining the Military
The U.S. military has five branches of service: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. The requirements to join are similar for all five. The main differences are in 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.
Age Limits for Enlisting
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: 34
- Air Force: 39
Some branches have different age limits for their part-time Reserve and National Guard. Visit each service’s recruiting website for its part-time age limits.
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, also known as a Green 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 which branch(es) you may join. Each branch has its own lowest score for joining.
- Your scores on all 10 subtests determine which job specialties you qualify for..
You can prepare for the ASVAB by taking sample questions.
Steps for Joining the Military
Start by doing some research about your options for joining the military. Learn about the five active-duty branches and their part-time counterparts. Know the main differences between officers and enlisted members.
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.
Contact a Recruiter or Apply Online
- Army Active Duty & Army Reserve: 1-888-550-ARMY (1-888-550-2769)
- Army National Guard: 1-800-GO-GUARD (1-800-464-8273)
- Air Force Active Duty: 1-800-423-USAF (1-800-423-8723)
- Air Force Reserve: 1-800-257-1212
- Air Force National Guard: 1-800-TO-GO-ANG (1-800-864-6264)
- Navy Active Duty and Reserve: 1-800-USA-NAVY (1-800-872-6289)
- Marine Corps Active Duty and Reserve: 1-800-MARINES (1-800-627-4637)
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