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Military Career Classifications

Thinking about a career in the Armed Services? See if you're a good candidate to become an enlisted personnel or officer.

There are three types of military occupations:

  • Enlisted personnel carry out the fundamental operations of the military.
  • Warrant officers (Army, Navy, and Marines) are the technical experts in the military. They are generally selected from enlisted personnel in a competitive selection process.
  • Officers are the leaders of the military, similar to corporate executives or managers.

Enlisted personnel and officers usually advance along separate career paths. Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to explore which military career might be right for you.

Becoming an Enlisted Personnel and Warrant Officer

Enlisted personnel carry out the main operations of the military. Their roles are like those of company employees and supervisors. Enlisted supervisors (E-4 rank and above) are responsible for the well being of other enlisted members. They also oversee the care of the military equipment and property under their control. High school graduation is a requirement for enlisted personnel. They must be between 17 and 35 years of age. Individual service age requirements may vary.

Each service of the military has different enlistment programs. The five services offer training and employment in more than 2,000 enlisted specialties. Recruiters can explain eligibility differences based on what training and assignments match the applicant's interests. A local recruiter performs the initial processing of applicants. Then applicants are sent to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) for a physical exam. Finally, they take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The results of the physical and the ASVAB determine basic eligibility and training program qualifications.

Recruits then go to basic training (also known as recruit training) for physical conditioning. They also learn essential knowledge and skills to become able military members. Recruits are trained by other enlisted personnel in groups of 35 to 80. Daily routines are rigorous. Most days start at 5 a.m. and last until 9 p.m. Days include classes, meals, athletics, and field training. Little free time is available, and travel time is limited. Vacation time is not allowed until the recruit has completed basic training and enters advanced training.

Active duty enlisted personnel — with at least 12 months remaining in active duty — as well as interested civilians can apply to become a warrant officer. Once accepted into the program, personnel receive specialized advanced training in their technical area.

Becoming an Officer

Military officers usually begin their careers learning a chosen occupational field. Working closely with more senior officers, they supervise small groups of enlisted people. As they gain experience and advance in responsibility and rank, they direct more enlisted personnel and begin to lead other officers. They may eventually become the senior leaders and managers of the military. Commanding officers are responsible for every detail of U.S. ground and naval forces, ships, flying squadrons, and amphibious assault forces.

Officers are generally college graduates. The minimum age to enter officer training varies by service. Officer Candidate School (OCS) enrollees must be between the ages of 19 and 29. The National Guard may choose to enroll soldiers up to age 35. Those attending a service academy (e.g., U.S. Naval Academy) must be between the ages of 17 and 22. Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) enrollees must be between the ages of 17 and 21.

Source: Today's Military online guide of the U.S. Department of Defense.