How to Become Armed Forces

This article provides in-depth information into What is Armed Forces? What Armed Forces do? Degrees for Armed Forces, Steps to become Armed Forces and much more.


What does an army officer do?

Being a member of the armed forces is one of the most dignified careers for one to take up. An officer of the army is typically responsible for carrying out defensive as well as offensive operations in one of the country’s military forces. For the most part, those who join the Armed Forces show great interest in it due to the benefits the careers offer in regards to financial security and medical. not only to seek out wild adventures or to show their patriotism but also for the financial as well as the medical benefits that the careers offer, most prominently the Loan Repayment Program (LRP), provided to highly-qualified members.

The Armed Forces is, in and of itself, a broad category that contains different branches, all of which offer a wide girth of opportunities and responsibilities for their members to explore. In total, there are five service branches:

  • The Army: They are responsible for protecting the grounds of the country. The members of this force are called soldiers and are primarily involved in base security, engaging targets on land, counter-drug operations and support for humanitarian missions and law enforcement.

  • The Navy: They are similar to the army force, but are largely involved in military actions that occur on the country’s oceans and seaways, such as insertion or cover in spec-ops, surveillance and intelligence support, base of operations, training areas and simulations.The Coast

  • Guard: They work differently from the other forces; during peacetime, they would fall under the Department of Homeland Defense, and not the Department of Defense. It is the oldest seagoing service and takes up an array of responsibilities such as small boat and aircraft launch missions, illegal immigrant interceptions, oil/chemical spill responses, and other maritime regulations.

  • The Air Force: They tackle air-based operations including but not limited to cargo transportation, bombing runs, geographical mapping and monitoring, aerospace system maintenance, supply distribution, and even enemy patrol detections. A small percentage of members are qualified to take up the opportunity to fly an aircraft for airborne missions while the rest are responsible for flight support, base affairs and construction.

  • The Marine Force: They collectively support the rest of the infantry forces while maintaining the freedom to carry out their own missions simultaneously. Their operations are largely expeditionary and amphibious, which is why they are considered a ‘rapid-response force’. Unlike the other military forces, the marines are considered the most elite and dangerous. Since they report to the Secretary of the Navy, they have a close relationship with the Navy force.

Steps to become a member of the Armed Forces

Before enlisting in the forces, do consider that it is a big decision to make since you will be making many important decisions when you first sign up. As a new member, you will sign a contract that enlists you to 4 years as an active duty member as well as an inactive member each.

There are three levels to explore in the Armed Forces: Commissioned officers, Warrant Officers, and Enlisted. Generally, the enlisted do not require post-secondary education to apply for the Armed Forces, but both categories of officers require higher education as they will be responsible for the planning, execution and overwatch of many military operations.

It is mandatory for the Enlisted to follow the procedure below if they want to step into the world of the Armed Forces:

Meet a recruiter

The first step is to look for a recruiter, who will help you decide if joining the Armed Forces is really for you since they are most qualified in identifying those factors.

A recruiter will note down your age, education level, criminal history, marital/dependency status as well as your physical condition, all which you are required to satisfy. They will also provide you a mock ASVAB online (which is explained in detail below), which will predict your performance on the actual test. Any evaluations done on the applicants are done in the Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS).

Each branch of the military will have their designated recruiters so you still need to decide what branch you are most interested in and want to pursue and then contact the appropriate recruiter.

Pass evaluations

The evaluations below are a rather straightforward process that is followed almost similarly in all of the career branches.

Gather all your documents

You have to make sure you have all the valid documents to present to your recruiter when they ask for it. This includes, but is not limited to, social security card, state identification card, general documents such as birth certificate, education certificates, education transcripts, and so on. Most importantly, you must present proof of citizenship; Lawful Permanent Residents with a Green Card may also apply but this may provide them with fewer career choices.

Get a background check done

It is necessary for the US Army to conduct a thorough check on the applicant’s background in order to assess their moral and psychological qualities and it is mandatory to pass the check. Those with illegal offenses or felonies in the past, including juvenile offenses, will not be allowed entry into the Armed Forces.

Complete the aptitude test

ASVAB stands for the Army Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. It’s a series of tests developed by the Department of Defense to determine your mental aptitude to enlist and is the main form of academic evaluation by the military. Passing it gives you your results that are valid for two years. It may be done on a computer in the processing station or on paper in various Military Entrance Test (MET) sites or schools or colleges.

Complete all physical tests

You will have to attend a physical evaluation appointment made at the nearest processing station. If you haven’t completed your academic evaluation, time will be allocated for you to complete that later at the station. It’s necessary for you to go through a thorough physical examination that follows standard procedures.

Talk to a counselor

Once you pass all the above evaluations, you will be given detailed explanations on the job opportunities and enlistment agreement by a counselor at the processing station. This process is similar in all of the branches of the military, so it is a straightforward process.

Choose your career path

After you have met all the requirements of the previously conducted evaluations and taken the ASVAB, a counselor will guide you through all the opportunities presented to you along with the enlistment agreement. Note that depending on your ASVAB score, you will choose from a list of jobs that have been identified as best-fitting for you.

As stated before, there are three different levels to approaching the military career:

Commissioned Officers

They are expected to have a sharp mind and a well-rounded education. In order to receive a commission, you must at least possess a bachelor’s degree. Just having a degree is what’s more important and not a particular field of study, however it does help that you possess a STEM-related degree certificate.

You can pursue a career as a Commissioned Officer either by graduating from a military service academy, or by applying for the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, or by applying to an Officer Candidate School (OCS), both of which are explained in detail below.

Warrant Officers

They are highly skilled specialty officers that make up for the technical foundation of the US Army. Intelligence, aviation, and military policing are their prime focus and have some of the most respectable careers that involve training soldiers, organization and advice during missions.

Enlisted

The enlisted fall under non-commissioned forces who take up subordinate roles and are crucial in carrying out the planned operations. Most members of the Armed Forces choose to be enlisted due to the absence of complex politically and strategically charged scenarios in that field of work. The enlisted can work their way up through the ranks and be appointed as officers. Such officers are called Non-Commissioned Officers.

Degrees related to Armed Forces

Specializing in any field can substantially increase your potential value in it. As a highlight, pursuing Military Science can be a great foundation to being an efficient member or open doors to a horde of opportunities for you to explore, such as a position as a civilian personnel.

This degree applies insights from an array of subjects including social and modern science, mathematics, engineering and technology. In addition to that, it emphasizes on logical reasoning, communication, strategy and tactics, and knowledge of military history. It’s available in three different levels:

Associate’s Degree in Military Science

This two-year program is primarily focused on military ethics, history and leadership. It also drives you to hone your skills in core classes such as English, Communications and Mathematics. If you want to prepare your career as a military officer, then an associate’s program is a good place to get an eagle-eye view of it. It even allows students who favour civilian life to pursue entry-level career opportunities in law enforcement and management.

Bachelor’s Degree in Military Science

The four-year program is the ultimate tool for any military enthusiast to understand broad militaristic and historical perspectives and methods, diplomacy and practical application of their leadership skills in the military. This degree also takes previous concepts taught in the associate program and digs deeper into it. As a cherry on top, they can use this degree to pursue a military career as a civilian personnel.

Master’s Degree in Military Science

This degree takes about two years to obtain and largely focuses on pure strategy and tactics and its courses can be considered very interdisciplinary as it adds a lot of mental and moral diligence in the student. The requirements to obtain it can vary between institutes due to their broadness in scope.

Doctorate in Military Science

Students attempting this will be considered an expert in the field of Military Science due to their extensive research on complex topics related to military services, strategies, and history. It may take approximately three years to finish the coursework itself and another two years to finish up with your dissertation. With a doctorate, you will be able to pursue careers that are considered advanced in the context of military services.

ROTC, OCS and Direct Commission

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)

ROTC programs do not require students to pay for any tuition, but they are expected to commit to serving in the military after being prepared for their careers as military officers. If you plan on joining a college not directly associated with the military, then it’s necessary to make sure the college you want to apply to has the ROTC program, as it will prepare you to become an officer.

Marine Corps ROTC programs only exist within the Naval ROTC programs at civilian colleges or at non-Federal military colleges, while the Coast Guard has a different program (called the Direct Commission Selected School Program for military colleges). Enlisted service members may also apply for an Officer Candidate School once they advance through the ranks.

Officer Candidate School (OCS)

You may join an OCS if you already have a four-year degree and would like to become an officer. It will provide you with the tools, knowledge, and skills required to be an officer in the Armed Forces. Each military branch has its own OCS program.

If you are enlisted, then you can advance through the ranks and apply for an OCS to earn a commission. This is also provided by the Army and the Air Force.

Direct Commission

If you already have a degree from a military-oriented course, then it’s possible for you to become an officer through Direct Commission. Officers of this category possess a jack-of-all-trades attribute due to their knowledge on a wide variety of topics, especially in law, medicine, technology and religious studies. In order to be a Direct Commission Officer (DCO), you must hold a degree in your specialization and complete the officer training program related to that specialization.

Concentrations to be in the Armed Forces

In most Military Science degrees, some of the most common concentrations are:

Associate

  • Introduction to Military ScienceThis category will introduce new recruits to the basic concepts of military such as strategy and tactics, warfare, military technology, and defense science.

  • Introduction to Political ScienceThe military is first and foremost a political body, therefore it’s no surprise to see that political science comes under some of the mandatory concepts to learn. They will cover concepts to help new recruits grasp political phenomena, and explore ethical and normative dimensions.

  • Introduction to WWI and WWIIThe world war explores many crucial concepts of militaristic, diplomatic, philosophical, political and economic conflicts that every soldier must learn about.

  • leadership, a soldier must be fit to lead a group when and if the situation calls for it. Their leadership skills will be put to a test and that is emphasized in this degree.

  • Vietnam WarMuch like the world war, the Vietnam War was a complex bundle of conflicts that every soldier must learn about in order to teach them the limitations they must draw according to the concepts of moral and ethics.

Bachelor

  • American Military History - Students examine their military history from a broader perspective. They give presentations on historical topics such as military strategies and interactions in the 20th century.

  • Causes of War - Students learn about the basic historical and theoretical concepts involved in armed and political conflicts through a variety of case studies and historical texts.

  • Peacemaking History - Peacemaking was a difficult terrain to cross post-Cold War, and so in order to prevent such a situation to arise again, it’s important to teach future soldiers and officers what it takes to have a better future by understanding the flaws they made in the past, as their aim is to maintain peace and stabilize any potential political fractures.

  • Leadership and Decision-Making Candidates will find themselves in dire situations in combat situations, and making decisions on a whim can potentially devastate the team as well as the mission. It is crucial to learn how to keep a level and make critical decisions that can potentially save lives, the team and ultimately, the mission. 

  • Modern Security Issues - Students must learn to understand the different concepts of safety and security and explore debates and academic research on the topic, which range from nuclear threat to migration.

  • Officership Students are taught effective planning of complex operations commonly encountered by Army officers. This helps them to lead troops-  more efficiently in different scenarios.

Master

  • Advanced Tactics

  • Advanced Strategic Planning

  • Military Strategy, Thought and Theory

  • Military Research in History

  • Ways of Warfare

  • Strategic Leadership

Doctorate

  • American International Policy

  • Causes of War

  • European Military History

  • Independent Research

  • War and American Society

Job Concentrations to be in the Armed Forces

Enlisted

  • Combat specialty personnel - They work in combat units such as the infantry, artillery, military intelligence, or Special Forces and are largely involved in ground combat operations, armored vehicle operations, and naval warfare. Members of the elite Special Forces are trained to perform specialized missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.

  • Construction personnel - They help repair buildings, airfields, bridges and other structures and utilize heavy or dangerous equipment to achieve some tasks. They work collectively with other engineers and electrical personnel as part of military construction teams.

  • Electronic and electrical equipment repair personnel - They maintain the electrical components used by the military including aircraft systems, computers, optical equipment, weapon systems and so on.

  • Engineering, science and technical personnel - They operate technical equipment, solve technical problems and collect interpreting information, and focus a lot on information technology, intelligence or environmental health and safety.

  • Healthcare personnel - They provide medical services to military personnel and their families. They may work as part of patient-service teams with healthcare professionals, providing emergency services in combat or remote areas, or focus on laboratory testing of samples and maintaining pharmaceutical supplies and patient’s records and other healthcare tasks at the base of operations.

  • HR development personnel - They recruit qualified people into the military, place them in suitable occupations and provide training programs for different kinds of specialists.

  • Administrative personnel - These personnel maintain information on other personnel, equipment, funds, and other military-related activities. They work in support areas, such as finance, accounting, legal affairs, maintenance, supply and transportation.

Officers

Keep in mind that this includes both commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and warrant officers, all of who collectively work together to build a socio-economic balance in the military.

  • Combat specialty officers - They plan and direct military operations, oversee combat activities, and serve as combat leaders. They may also be in charge of armored vehicle operations, artillery systems and whatnot. Naval warfare, submarine warfare, airborne operations and ground operations are also handled by them.

  • Engineering, science and technical officer - Depending on their areas of expertise, each personnel is assigned to a particular field of technology. This may include meteorologists, mechanical engineers, aeronautical engineers, attorneys and other professionals.

  • Healthcare officer - They provide medical services that help maintain or improve the health and physical readiness of the military personnel. Physicians, nurses, surgeons, dentists, psychologists all fall under this category.

  • Protective service officers - They are responsible for the safety and protection of individuals and property on military bases and vessels, and help prepare evacuation or protection procedures to counter or minimise the effects of any possible disasters, calamities or attacks.

  • Media and Public Affairs Officer - They oversee the development, production, and presentation of information or events for the military and the public.

  • Senior Policy Advisor - Policy advisors can provide advice to senior military officers regarding the militaristic and diplomatic aspects of a commander’s responsibilities. This role is comparatively more politically charged, and can be crucial to how changes are made not just to the military but also to the country’s defensive and offensive departments.

  • Military Professor - In order to carry out extensive education within the military, military professors with deep knowledge on military science, politics and history are stationed. It’s one of the most important jobs in the military as it can help prepare fellow soldiers to take up more complex responsibilities and offer more value to their existing roles in the Armed Forces.

Job and Salary Growths

Job Growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2018, interested candidates may look forward to finding adequate jobs through 2028 due to a rise in vacancies for entry-level positions.

During economic booms, the threshold of civilian employment opportunities see an increase. For this reason, expectations in regards to recruitment are difficult to meet. This is especially true during the time of war. However, if the economy begins to plummet, candidates applying for military service may face competition, mostly likely due to the financial and medical benefits offered by the military.

Salary Growth

All personnel are offered compensation for being part of the military in the form of free housing at base, or a housing allowance. Pay bands are the same for all branches. Based on job assignments and/or qualifications, they will receive additional pay. Retirement pay is only offered after 20 years of experience as a military personnel.

Depending on the years of experience, rank and pay grade, a candidate can gain a significant amount of salary particular to their career level.

  • Enlisted: $20,796 per annum as base, increasing up to $101,976 per annum

  • Military Officer: $39,444 per annum as base, increasing up to $197,064 per annum

  • Warrant Officer: $38,556 per annum as base, increasing up to $126,480 per annum

Preparing Yourself to be in the Armed Forces

Get a degree

Technically speaking, specializing in any field can qualify you to be an officer in the Armed Forces. If the field you specialize in does not involve any form of military education, then you may be required to take additional steps, such as the aforementioned ROTC or OCS opportunities to make up for it. There is a preference for STEM graduates, therefore it’s encouraged to excel in a field related to it. Unrelated to how it can provide growth in the military itself, it provides you with more security and benefits in the long-term aspects of your career, should you choose to take a different route.

In order to get an edge in the selection process, graduating from a military-oriented university can provide an immense value in your application.

If you are looking to be an Enlisted, there is no requirement for any post-secondary education. Should you think about being an officer, you can work your way up the ranks so you could qualify for an application to an OCS. This will take a longer, more consistent time, effort and energy to put into. Being certified can help alleviate most of that effort, since you are guaranteed to secure a position as an entry-level officer when starting off.

Pass all the military tests

For the most part, there is no need for a degree if you wish to explore a career as an Enlisted. What you will need is to pass all the presented evaluations and prove yourself to be a performant, dutiful and diligent individual.

Be ready for frequent social disconnection

The military career demands a lot of travel time from its candidates. The reason why this can be tedious or even borderline unbearable for new recruits is due to its effects on your social life; particularly your time with family, friends and acquaintances. Military schooling can help strengthen your sense of independence, discipline and routine to lessen that dependency on such social factors. However, it is crucial you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for this process to go smoothly.

Skills Required to be in the Armed Forces

Stamina and Physical Fitness

It’s necessary for the candidate to be physically fit in order to participate or act as support in combat missions that may potentially be difficult or dangerous.

Team player

The candidate will be relying on their teammates and their superiors to carry out risky missions. Any insubordination from their side can result in a botched mission, so it is important for a candidate to understand that they must work with others without any social disruption.

Adaptability

Personnel must be mentally fit to adapt to stressful situations that can occur spontaneously during military operations. They must also be ready and able to report for military assignments on short notice.

Discipline

Candidates must be disciplined in many categories in order to carry out their responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces efficiently, especially if they are an officer.

Empathy and Restraint

The job may require you to travel to other lands where tensions can rise quickly due to the locals feeling uneasy about aliens populating their soil. It is necessary to understand and respect how the locals work and communicate efficiently with them to keep those tensions down and effectively integrate co-operation between the military and the locals. Creating any difficulties will only compromise the integrity of the mission, the team, the country, and ultimately, your own career.

Communication

Efficient communication is what will help decide between the success or failure of a task assigned to either you or your team, especially in stressful situations that call for change of plans at a whim. This includes being diplomatic and rational in your approach to planning and execution of different strategies.