Members of the U.S. military service maintain the U.S. national defense.
What they do
Although some service members work in occupations specific to the military, such as fighter pilots or infantrymen, many work in occupations that also exist in the civilian workplace, such as nurses, doctors, and lawyers. Members serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or in the Reserve components of these branches, and in the Air National Guard and Army National Guard. (The Coast Guard, which is included in this profile, is part of the Department of Homeland Security.)
In addition, about 798,046 people served in the Reserves in these branches and in the Air National Guard and Army National Guard. About 41,721 people served in the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The specific work environments and conditions pertaining to military occupations depend on the occupational specialty, unit, branch of service, and other factors. Most active-duty military personnel live and work on or near military bases and facilities throughout the United States and the world. These bases and facilities usually offer housing and amenities, such as stores and recreation centers.
Service members move regularly for training or job assignments, with most rotations lasting 2 to 4 years. Some are deployed internationally to defend U.S. national interests.
Military members must be both physically and mentally fit, and ready to participate in, or support, combat missions that may be difficult and dangerous and involve long periods away from family. Some personnel, however, are rarely deployed near combat areas.
How to become a member of the Armed Forces
To join the military, applicants must meet age, education, aptitude, physical, and character requirements. These requirements vary by branch of service and for officers and enlisted members.
Although entry requirements for each service vary, certain qualifications for enlistment are common to all branches:
- Minimum of 17 years of age
- S. citizenship or permanent resident status
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Never convicted of a felony
- Able to pass a medical exam
Applicants who are 17 years old must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian before entering the military.
Age limits for entering active-duty service are as follows:
- In the Army, the maximum age is 34.
- In the Navy, the maximum age is 34.
- In the Marine Corps, the maximum age is 29.
- In the Air Force, the maximum age is 39.
- In the Coast Guard, the maximum age is 27.
All applicants must meet certain physical requirements for height, weight, vision, and overall health. Officers must be U.S. citizens. Officers and some enlisted members must be able to obtain a security clearance. Candidates interested in becoming officers through training in the federal service academies must be unmarried and without dependents.
Service members are assigned an occupational specialty based on their aptitude, previous training, and the needs of their branch of service. All members must sign a contract and commit to a minimum term of service.
A recruiter can help a prospective service member determine whether he or she qualifies for enlistment or as an officer. A recruiter can also explain the various enlistment options and describe the military occupational specialties.
Women are now eligible to enter all military specialties.
Basic pay is based on rank and time in service. Pay bands are the same for all branches. Members of the Armed Forces may receive additional pay based on their job assignment or qualifications. For example, they receive additional pay for foreign, hazardous, submarine, or flight duty, or for being medical or dental officers. Retirement pay is generally available after 20 years of service.
Military pay tables and information are available from the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
In addition to receiving basic pay, members of the military are either housed free of charge on base or they receive a housing allowance.
Members who serve for a certain number of years may receive other benefits. These benefits may include educational benefits through the Montgomery GI Bill, which pays for a portion of educational costs at accredited institutions; medical care at military or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals; and guaranteed home loans.
The goal of the Armed Forces is to maintain a force sufficient to deter, fight, and overcome various threats or conflicts in multiple regions at the same time. Emerging conflicts and global events, however, could lead to changes in the size of the military branches. Consequently, the nation is expected to maintain adequate personnel in the Reserve, Army National Guard, and Air National Guard.
Opportunities should be very good for qualified individuals in all branches of the Armed Forces through 2028. All services have needs to fill entry-level and professional positions as current members of the Armed Forces move up through the ranks, leave the service, or retire.
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Are you thinking about a career in the military?
You have plenty of options in the five branches of the U.S. armed services. Each has a unique mission.
- S. Army - Defends U.S. interests and those of its allies through land-based operations anywhere in the world. Army personnel work in jobs ranging from general administration to the operation and maintenance of weapons, vehicles, aircraft carriers, and electronic systems. The Army National Guard can be called to active duty as a reserve of the Army. The National Guard also assists during times of natural or other state emergencies.
- S. Navy - Defends the right to travel and trade freely on the world's oceans and protects U.S. interests overseas during times of international conflict. They serve on ships, submarines, in aviation positions on land and sea, and at shore bases around the world.
- S. Air Force - Flies aircraft, such as long-range bombers, supersonic fighters, and many others, to protect the interests of America and its allies.
- S. Marine Corps - One of the most elite fighting forces in the world. Marines fly planes and helicopters, operate radar equipment, drive armored vehicles, and gather intelligence. Training programs emphasize the development of mental strength and physical prowess.
- S. Coast Guard - Protects U.S. coastlines and inland waterways by enforcing customs and fishing laws, combating drug smuggling, conducting search and rescue missions, maintaining lighthouses, and promoting boat safety. In times of war, the Coast Guard is under the command of the Navy.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org