Officers are the leaders of the military. After completing your officer training, you become a Second Lieutenant, once again there are exceptions where you come in at a higher rank, typically for doctors, lawyers, etc. A Second Lieutenant outranks all Enlisted members. Even though you don’t have the experience of the senior enlisted members you work with you will be the one they look to when it is time to make the final decision. As you increase in rank your responsibilities will grow and the Senior Non-Commissioned Officers will always be there to help provide feedback and point you in the right direction.
Just like enlisted members, there is a test to help you get placed in your job for certain career fields. The officer candidate test varies by branch. It can be the same test as Enlisted members (ASVAB), while some branches for example have their own tests. All the tests include verbal and math subtests. Some tests include general science subtests while others don’t.
And just like for enlisted members medical physicals are required. Depending on what officer program you apply for multiple military physicals may be required. If you attend an Academy or participate in ROTC an initial physical is required to attend and a final physical is required prior to graduating.
Each branch may have minor variations on how their training is done. I did my best to cover as much as I could, but things are always changing. This information is to help get you on the right path and know your options.
Each branch of the military has its own military academy. Being selected to attend a military academy is a tough and competitive process. To apply to a military academy, you must be a US Citizen, have no dependents (not be married or have children), be at least 17, but under the age of 23 by July 1st of the year, you enter the academy. Along with these 3 standards each military academy has its own physical fitness standards, academic standards, and medical health standards. Most students are encouraged to start the application process in their junior year of high school. You can start the process later as long as you meet the age restriction. Enlisted members are also able to apply to attend their service branch’s academy.
The next critical step in the application process is getting a congressional nomination. A congressional nomination is required for all applicants. You can obtain a nomination from your local congressman or woman, one of your two state senators, or the Vice President of the United States. Each member of congress has its own system to apply so reach out to your representative to find out the process they use. The Vice President is unrestricted by location so you can go to whitehouse.gov to find out how to apply. Getting a nomination is a crucial step to the application process. Without it, your application will not be considered.
Of the 15,000 people who applied to attend a service academy in recent years, only 4,000 were able to secure a congressional nomination or service-connected nomination. Of those 4,000 only approximately 1,000 were selected to attend. Attending a military academy is a great honor and a challenge.
Learn more here.
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)
ROTC is meant to be a four-year program that you complete alongside your degree. In the first two years, you are learning the basics of the military and the history of your branch. You are also preparing for the summer training between your sophomore and junior year. Once you graduate from your summer training you become an upperclassman. And are one step closer to becoming an officer. In the last two years, you continue to learn how to be an officer (ethics, basics of military bases, and more). You also prepare to graduate from college and commission. Then head off for your first military assignment.
ROTC has various scholarship opportunities. High School seniors can apply for a full-ride scholarship to various universities. You can also join ROTC with no military commitment, essentially try out military life (in a modified form) to see if it is a good fit and then compete for an ROTC scholarship. The ROTC scholarship covers various amounts of college tuition, books and gives cadets a monthly stipend that increases with rank.
Each ROTC program varies by school, branch, and location. But you will be required to complete physical fitness each week, pass a physical fitness test at least once a semester, take military classes, and participate in a weekly class for all cadets.
Officer Candidate School
If you already have your degree there are still options for you to become a military officer. One of the most common is Officer Candidate School (OCS) in the Army, each branch has its own name for this program. This program is open to civilians and enlisted members. You can learn more about OCS here.
Health Care, Legal, Ministry roles, and more.
If you are a doctor or lawyer or another specialized career field the military has various programs based on your specialty and the demand of your career field. You should reach out to the military branch recruiter to get information for the specialized program you would like to attend.
Looking for more resources about joining the military.
Check out the Women of the Military Podcast where I interview women about their experience in the military. I also create specialized episodes just for women looking for more information about military service.