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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Tracewell

Three things for high schoolers to know about a military career path

If you’re thinking about joining the military, do some research, and talk to your family and friends. There’s a lot to learn and it’s a big decision! Here are three important things to consider: requirements, career options, and college options.

1. What are the requirements for joining the military?

You need to be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident with a valid “Green Card.” A high school diploma or GED is the only education requirement, and you can enlist at age 17 with parental consent or at age 18 without consent. Everyone needs to take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test and your score will determine which military branch you can serve in, and what jobs you qualify for. In addition, you need to pass a physical fitness test and meet weight requirements, pass a background check and have a clean record.

Contacting a recruiter is a great first step, as they will guide you through the entire process of enlisting.

Your military recruiter will schedule a time for you to go to your closest military entrance processing station (MEPS) and you’ll spend an entire day doing things like taking the ASVAB, undergoing your physical fitness test, and meeting with a career counselor to go over your options. If accepted, you’ll receive orders for basic training and begin your military journey within a few weeks or months. You can contact the Portland MEPS for more information.

2. Will my military experience provide me with a career?

One thing we’d like to stress to our students and families is that military careers are incredibly versatile and not limited to being a soldier. In fact, 85% of military jobs are not direct combat. You have opportunities to be a doctor, an engineer, a pilot, a cybersecurity specialist, a veterinarian, an animal trainer, a musician, and more! Here’s a handy military careers exploration tool where you can begin your research to narrow down careers that fit your interests and skills, along with each job’s required training, pay, and general responsibilities. There are some very exciting opportunities here and these jobs are in demand both in the military and civilian world.

You can find personal career path stories on Today's Military blog and see the huge range of jobs and hear directly from folks in those careers. For example, Amy Allis enlisted out of high school and started out in the food industry. She now lives on the beautiful island of Oahu and is a Service Administrator supervising 30 other Marines. She processes deployments and handles legal and personnel issues. There's a lot of vertical and lateral movement possible in the military!

3. Can students join the military and go to college at the same time?

Yes, and this is an amazing option! The military has many educational benefits and various options to further your college pursuits. The first program to mention is ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) which gives up to 100% tuition assistance while in college, in exchange for a commitment of military service after graduation.

There are over 1,700 colleges nationwide that offer ROTC programs. Upon completion of college, you enter the military as a commissioned officer.

Other pathways to college through the military include the Reserves or National Guard Units. For example, the Marine Corps Reserves allows you to attend college full time and serve in the Marine Corps with a local reserve unit. You have access to financial assistance through the Reserve GI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill which pays your full tuition after 36 months of service. Finally, you can attend one of the Military Academies. Attending one of the five service academies is a highly competitive process but a great way to get an outstanding college education while you prepare to serve as a military officer. Financially, it’s a huge win — Tuition, books, room & board, and medical and dental care are all fully paid for all four years, plus pay, benefits, and training. Check out the below links to the U.S. service academies and see which one fits you best!

Read more in-depth details here about the opportunities awaiting you in the military. We know this isn’t for everyone, but it’s an intriguing pathway with hundreds of career and educational choices.

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