What is ROTC? (Reserve Officers’ Training Corp)

ROTC helps college students prepare for military careers? But what is ROTC? Read on to find out.

TCM Staff

14th September 2022

Today’s army officers are often college-educated. With many soldiers holding bachelor’s and graduate degrees, it’s becoming the norm for the military to be well educated. 

If you know you want to serve in the military before you enroll in college, you might benefit from the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corp). Over 1,000 US colleges offer the ROTC to prepare students for a career in the military. But exactly what is ROTC and how does ROTC work? 

We’ll cover the ROTC meaning, and tell you a bit about what ROTC programs offer, including scholarships. And, we’ll share a few colleges with ROTC programs for you to consider. 


What Is ROTC and How Does It Work?

First thing’s first: what does ROTC stand for? ROTC stands for Reserve Officers’ Training Corp. Now, what’s ROTC mean? Through this program, you can take regular college classes in tandem with military science courses. These courses are often required to enlist in the US Army, Air Force, or Navy when you graduate, and cover a variety of topics like military tactics, handling weapons, survival skills, technology, and organization. 

The main benefits of enrolling in ROTC programs are that you’re guaranteed a job in the military upon completion, and the scholarships can cover a large portion of your college cost of attendance — in fact, ROTC  scholarships can completely cover your college expenses in many cases. Keep in mind though that ROTC scholarships are prioritized for students studying business, engineering, and public policy. 

Students interested in joining an ROTC program must meet certain standards for academics and physical fitness. To be eligible for a scholarship, students must meet minimum GPA requirements and SAT or ACT scores established by each service branch and be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 17 and 26, according to official ROTC websites and information from college programs.

ROTC for Army

Since 1936, Army ROTC has provided students with the opportunity to combine world-class leadership and management training along with their respective academic studies. The state-of-the-art curriculum, which consists of a series of classroom and hands-on leadership training experiences, gives students the necessary foundation to serve successfully in positions of responsibility in either America’s Army or the corporate world.

Related: How to Become an Army Officer

ROTC for Navy

The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program was founded in 1926 and the U.S. Marine Corps joined the program in 1932. The naval NROTC program is offered at over 150 colleges nationwide. The Nation's first Marine Corps oriented NROTC was established at The Citadel in 1970.

ROTC for Air Force

Air Force ROTC helps you earn your degree while obtaining the training necessary to become an Air Force officer. Air Force ROTC training includes global and diverse topics, including telecommunications, public services, and aircraft maintenance. 

ROTC Stipends

In addition to the option to have tuition and fees or room and board covered, ROTC cadets also receive a living stipend. According to ROTC officials, that amount can vary by branch and class standing. Here are the various stipends depending on which military branch you’re with: 

  • Army: $420 a month 
  • Air Force: $300-$500 
  • Navy: $250 for junior and $300 for senior year

A stipend for books varies by the branch from $750 to $1,200.

Difference Between ROTC and JROTC

ROTC is dedicated to college students that want to join the military, offering them formalized training and scholarships throughout their college education. 

JROTC is for high school students — a less formal program that resembles more theory in terms of its education than hands-on training. JROTC gives high school students a taste of military service by educating them about military values and customs while aiming to heighten their leadership skills. Moreover, JROTC doesn’t entail a military service commitment. 

Colleges With ROTC Programs

Over 1,000 colleges have ROTC programs. We’ll list a few of them here to give you some ideas:

For more information, check out the US Air Force ROTC locator

History of ROTC

The concept of ROTC in the US was founded by Alden Partridge and was initiated with the Morrill Act of 1862, which inaugurated the land-grant colleges. The federal government wanted these schools to have a curriculum that included military tactics, giving shape to what will be known as ROTC. 

The originating college of the ROTC was called Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont.

Benefits and Drawbacks of ROTC

ROTC poses many benefits, but like any program, there are also drawbacks you should be aware of. 

Benefits of ROTC

  • Generous scholarship benefits that may result in complete tuition and cost of attendance coverage
  • Seamless experience where students can get the best of both worlds — military training and college education and experience
  • Prestigious and honorable program
  • Opportunity to receive ROTC training without having to enlist in military service

Drawbacks of ROTC

  • Legally binding contract for 12 years
  • Expulsion or dropping out of the college program may result in legal action
  • Military service is compulsory under the program under certain circumstances, such as scholarship reception

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. Is There an Age Limit for ROTC?

Yes. To enroll, you must be at least 17 years of age. To receive an ROTC scholarship, you must be under 31 years of age. 

    2. Is ROTC Considered Military?

Yes, successful completion of an ROTC program can secure you a military position upon graduation. 

    3. Do You Get Paid During ROTC?

No, but you can receive a generous scholarship through ROTC. 

    4. Do You Have to Serve After ROTC?

Not always. However, you would have to serve four years if you received a two-, three-, or four-year ROTC scholarship. If you enroll in the ROTC Basic Course in your first two years of college, you don’t have to commit to military service. 

    5. How Many Years of ROTC Do You Need to Become an Officer?

You need a minimum of two years to become an officer. 

    6. Can I Join ROTC as a Junior?

Yes, you can. If you join as a junior after two years of college or if you’re transferring schools, you can join the Basic Camp ROTC. 


Now that we’ve answered your question (what is ROTC), it’s time to decide whether the ROTC program is right for you. Interested in preparing further for a military career? Consider enrolling in an online military college!

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