The choice to enlist in the military is not one that you can make overnight. If you are aware of the benefits and drawbacks to a career in the armed forces and have decided that yes, this is the career for you, then it’s time to contact a recruiter. A recruiter is like a mentor. They will walk you through the entire enlistment process, from helping you determine your occupational specialty to preparing your for the Oath of Enlistment. Read on to learn more.

Enlisting is a simpler process than joining the military as an officer because there is only one path to follow. The first step involves finding a local recruiter for the branch that you are hoping to join. A recruiter will be able to answer any questions you have about joining the service and be able to explain what your role would be within the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy. Your recruiter will also be able to guide you through the process of enlisting. Find your prospective branch’s nearest recruiter by clicking on one of the following links:

The requirements for joining the military are minimal: you must be at least 17 years old (until you turn 18 you must have parental consent to enlist), a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident alien, of good moral character, and have a high school diploma. Each branch has different requirements for the maximum age you can be at enlistment.

Beyond these initial requirements, you will be required to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a multiple-choice skills test that will measure your general knowledge and abilities in math, verbal, science, mechanics and electronics, and logic to determine what positions within your branch you would be most qualified to fill. You will be able to discuss the results of the ASVAB with a career counselor to learn more about what each military occupational specialty entails.

The ASVAB is administered through the Military Entrance Processing Station. Also during in-processing, you will have to submit to a thorough medical examination and a discussion of your medical history. You may be subject to blood or urinalysis tests because the military has a zero-tolerance drug policy and administers tests randomly and frequently. Once the testing is complete, you will meet with a career counselor to discuss the jobs available to you as determined by your score on the ASVAB and to select a career path. Some branches may request that you complete a career interview at this time.

Finally, understanding that you will owe a service commitment (typically four years on active duty and four in the Reserve, but this can differ depending on your branch and position), you will take an Oath of Enlistment and prepare for basic training.

If you are not yet ready for basic training, but are committed to joining the military, you can participate in the Delayed Entry Program, which gives you up to a year to get into shape, finish up high school, or attend to family obligations, among other things, before you are required to report to basic training. Most recruits use this time to get into shape and achieve height and weight standards. During this time you will regularly meet with your recruiter.

Page last updated: 02/2017