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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Tracewell

What's ROTC and is it for me?

Should I go to college or join the military? How about doing both? ROTC is the acronym for Reserve Officers' Training Corps and the program partners with over 1,700 colleges and universities around the country with the goal of training students for future military service. The Army, Navy, and Air Force each have their own ROTC programs. If you're worried about your options, military careers go far beyond the usual ground troops, pilots, or security forces. You can also be a military audiologist, allergist, air traffic controller, or animal care specialist. And those are just samples from the "A" section of the alphabet!

At first glance, students are most interested in the financial aspect: what's in it for me?! In exchange for an ROTC scholarship which helps pay for your college education (usually full tuition plus a living stipend) and a guaranteed post-college career, students (cadets) commit to serving in the Military after graduation. Each military branch has its own specific training and service obligations.

The ROTC route is a great blend of your regular college classes that you take as part of your chosen degree, along with military curriculum, which includes courses and training in leadership, military history, combat technique, physical training, and more.

ROTC students train as they learn, taking military science and military history courses while also engaged in their regular college classes. In addition, students have mandatory physical training about three times a week and leadership courses mixed in there, too. Because ROTC scholarship recipients have the requirement to enlist as an officer in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force upon graduation, this extra training throughout their college experience is vital to their future success.

Students who are interested in ROTC participation but don't want the military service commitment can still join the program for a short time, typically three semesters up to two years — they still benefit from the leadership skills they learn. However, it's important to know that only those who enlist receive a scholarship. Acceptance of an ROTC scholarship typically means a commitment of four to eight years of military service after graduation.

Since each service branch has its own ROTC program guidelines, let's break them down.


Army ROTC is a demanding and successful leadership program. Students take courses in the classroom as well as in the field, along with with normal academic studies. Additional summer programs, such as Airborne School, are also available. Upon graduating, an Army ROTC student is commissioned as an officer in the Army. If you're interested in travel, the Army probably offers the most opportunity to explore the world.


Over 1,000 colleges. Click here to locate colleges and universities with an Army ROTC program. Apply for admissions at your college of choice as well as completing an Army ROTC application by February 4, 2022.

Typical Training Topics

Army leadership, military tactics, principles of war, and combat survival training

Service Obligations

3-8 years, depending on scholarship acceptance.

Typical Careers

Infantry, Military Intelligence, Civil Affairs, Medical Corps

Air Force ROTC

The Air Force ROTC produces leaders for the Air Force by offering a three-year program and a four-year program led by active-duty Air Force officers. Courses are a mix of normal college classes and the Air Force ROTC curriculum, which covers everything from leadership studies to combat technique. Excellent professional development and management training are trademarks of Air Force ROTC programs. Upon completion, a student enters the Air Force as an officer.


Over 1,100 colleges. Click here to locate colleges and universities with an Air Force ROTC program. Apply for admissions at your college of choice as well as completing an Air Force ROTC application by January 13, 2022.

Typical Training Topics

Laws of armed conflict, international security, aerospace studies, and field training

Service Obligations

Between 4-10 years of active duty, depending on contract cadet appointment

Typical Careers

Air Battle Management, Aircraft Maintenance, Cyberspace Operations, Piloting, and Tactical Air Control


The Navy ROTC is the largest source of Navy officers. Aspiring Marine Corps officers also participate in Navy ROTC. This program plays a crucial role in preparing young students for leadership and management positions in the increasingly technical world. Like the other branches, Navy ROTC is a mix of military training and normal academic study both in the classroom and in the field. Upon completion, an NROTC graduate is commissioned as an officer and can choose an officer career in surface warfare, naval aviation, submarine warfare or special warfare. The Marine Corps–option student includes extra classes in national security policy and the history of American military conflicts.


Over 700 colleges. Click here to locate colleges and universities with a Navy ROTC program. Apply for admissions at your college of choice as well as completing a Navy ROTC application by January 31, 2022.

Typical Training Topics

Summer cruise training, surface warfare orientation, flight time on navy aircraft, and maritime self-defense

Service Obligations

Between 3-12 years of active military service, depending on scholarship acceptance and degree level

Typical Careers

Submarine, Explosive Ordinance Disposal, US Marine Corps, Navy Nursing Corps

If you're driven to succeed, dedicated to the success of your country, discipled to reach your goals, and looking for financial assistance for college, why not check out ROTC?

For information about other pathways to the military, check out our post called So You Want to Be a Soldier?

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