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Joining - Research and Planning

Learning About Entrance Requirements

Before choosing a service branch, a potential recruit has to meet the Military's basic entrance requirements. Each Service has different requirements, but some apply to the Military as a whole. They include such factors as age, education level, physical condition and U.S. citizenship status. Click here to review Military entrance requirements.

Exploring Branches & Types of Service

Don't know the difference between the Marine Corps and Navy? Reserve and Guard? No problem.  Here, you will find a brief overview of each Service branch and the differences between full-time and part-time duty.

  • The Military is comprised of 12 branches: five Active Duty and seven part-time duty.
  • Active Duty service members are full-time members of the Military. They are deployed either domestically or overseas.
  • Part-time Services fall under two types: reservists and National Guard. These service members have civilian careers and train one weekend our of each month at a base located nearby. Part-time service members become Active Duty approximately two weeks out of the year, and can be asked to deploy in times of international conflict or domestic disaster relief.
  • Active Duty and reservists in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense (DoD). The Coast Guard reports to the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and to DoD (by way of the Navy) during wartime. National Guard units fall under the jurisdiction of both the governor of their state and the president.

Army (@ WCCHS on the 3rd Tues. of every month; Nat'l Guard on the 2nd Tuesday of every month)

As the oldest branch of the U.S. Military, the Army protects the security of the United States and its resources. The Army Reserve trains part-time near home until needed, and members deploy alongside the Army. Army National Guard members deploy with the Army on a part-time basis, with a special focus on homeland security and relief programs.


Marine Corps (@ WCCHS on the last Thursday of every month)


The Marine Corps is often first on the ground in combat situations. Marine Corps reservists train domestically until needed, then deploy with the rest of the Corps.


Navy (@ WCCHS on the 1st Thursday of every month)


The Navy defends the right to travel and trade freely on the world's oceans and protects national interests overseas. The Navy Reserve trains service members close to home until they are needed in action.


Air Force


The U.S. Air Force protects American interests at home and abroad with a focus on air power. The Air Force Reserve gives service members the opportunity to train and serve on a part-time basis, as needed. The Air National Guard trains part-time to assist in domestic disasters and international conflicts.


Coast Guard


The Coast Guard protects America's waterways and deploys with the Navy during wartime. The Coast Guard Reserve offers a part-time service opportunity for service members to train near home.


Deciding Between Enlisting or Becoming an Officer


The choice between enlisting or becoming an officer makes a significant impact on the type of experience and training a new recruit receives.


Enlisted - Enlisted service members make up the majority of the Military and perform much of the hands-on work. To enlist, an individual must be 18 years old, or 17 with parental consent. He or she must also have graduated from high school, although a General Education Development (GED) certificate is sometimes acceptable.


Officer - Officers are the managers of the Military, planning and directing operations or acting in professional roles in fields such as law and medicine. Officers have generally completed a four-year college degree or greater before serving and are commissioned into their positions, though it is possible to advance through the enlisted ranks and complete officer training later.


Meeting With a Recruiter


After deciding which Service branch and service type they're interested in pursuing, the best way for someone to get answers to any questions they have about the Military is to meet with a recruiter. Learn more about recruiters here.


Completing the Joining Process


Once a person has talked with a recruiter, carefully considered their options and made the informed decision to serve their country, their next step depends on their type of service. Enlisted service members attend the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). There, recruits receive a physical exam and take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, which helps determine their career path. Finally, they take the path of enlistment. Explore more about the enlistment process here.


If a potential recruit wishes to become an officer, the time from deciding to join to being commissioned and entering the Military will vary. Factors include his or her level of education and the type of experience they'd like to have during their training. Recruits should explore each officer path to get an idea of the length of the joining process for each. Explore becoming a military officer here.




Request Info. - Get a free DVD and magazine, plus additional information from each Service, sent to your home.


Frequently Asked Questions - View answers to commonly asked questions about the Military.


Contact a Recruiter - Schedule a meeting with a recruiter and learn what to expect from your visit.


Joining Videos


Get an inside look at the entry process with highlights from the Military's "Joining Videos" page.