Individuals with at least a four year degree are eligible to earn a commission by participating in Officer Candidate or Officer Training School. Those with even more specialized education, such as doctors, lawyers, chaplains, and aviators may be eligible for direct commissions. Requirements, age limits, and service commitments may differ between branches and specialties.


Officer Candidate and Officer Training School

Officer Candidate School and Officer Training School are opportunities for anyone with a bachelor’s degree. This goes for active duty, enlisted members of the military and reservists who have completed a four-year degree, as well as civilians with a bachelor’s degree (who are not eligible for direct commissioning). These schools last between 9 and 17 weeks, depending on the branch of the military. The experience is intended to develop your leadership and management abilities while preparing you to deal with the mental, emotional, and physical stress that comes with being an officer. At the end of the course, you will commission as an officer and accept an active duty service commitment.

The requirements do differ among the branches. More information is available at each of the links below.

Direct Commission

Direct commissioning is available for individuals who have already completed their education and are interested in joining the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Navy as officers. Direct commissions are available for those hoping to serve on active duty and those who are interested in serving in the Reserves or National Guard. Not all fields of study are eligible for direct commissions. Accepted fields differ between branches of the military.

Army Direct Commissioning

Direct commissions are available to individuals with medical, legal, or chaplaincy backgrounds.

  • Within medicine, direct commissions are available for physicians, nurses, dentists, allied health specialists, and veterinarians. Individuals with medical degrees commission as captains, but the service commitment differs among specialties.
  • Individuals with legal backgrounds can commission as Judge Advocate General (JAG) officers. JAG officers accept their commission as a first lieutenant and go on to serve at least four-years on active duty and four years in the Individual Ready Reserve.
  • Chaplaincy, in which you are the spiritual guide and pastor (of any denomination) for a group of soldiers, requires at least a three-year active commitment and five years in the Individual Ready Reserve. Chaplains commission as captains.
    • The Chaplain Candidate Program is an option for people who want to join the military while concurrently completing their studies. Applicants will be commissioned in the Reserves while finishing their education.

Air Force Direct Commissioning

Direct commissions are available to individuals with medical, legal, or chaplaincy backgrounds. Applicants must complete a five-week training program to prepare for becoming an officer in the Air Force.

  • Within medicine, direct commissions are available to the following medical fields: doctors, nurses, dentists, allied health specialists, and health administrators.
  • Individuals with legal backgrounds who commission as JAG Officers incur a four-year active duty service commitment.
  • Chaplains will be commissioned at no higher a rank than captain, depending on their experience and qualifications.
    • The Chaplain Candidate Program is an option for people who want to join the military while concurrently completing their studies. Applicants will be commissioned as second lieutenants upon entry into the program. Following graduation, chaplains may obtain an ecclesiastical endorsement and be reappointed to active duty or in the Reserves or National Guard.

Coast Guard Direct Commissioning

Coast Guard direct commissions are available for prospective officers coming from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Navy Direct Commissioning

Direct commissions are available for individuals with degrees and backgrounds in aviation, chaplaincy, civil engineering, human resources, information professions, information warfare, public affairs, purchasing supply and logistics as well as health care professions including medicine, dentistry, nursing, healthcare administration, healthcare science, and clinical care. Applicants will incur three- to five-year active duty service commitments depending on their field. Each newly commissioned officer will have to attend a five-week Officer Development School.

Page last updated: 02/2017