Can a Military Degree Help You Become an Officer?

Military OfficerAnyone wondering if a military degree will help you become an officer, should understand that there are several ways to be commissioned as an officer in a branch of the military. Each branch offers a Reserve Officer Training Corp program for college students, and these programs consist of a series of electives that students take outside of their major degree programs, according to the Army’s website. Graduating from college and completing an ROTC program guarantees that you will have an officer’s rank in your chosen branch of the military, and the U.S. government will pay for your education. You usually have to serve in the military for five years after graduation, but this length of time varies between branches.

The Paths to Becoming an Officer

There are other paths to becoming an officer in the military, although completing ROTC is the most common. Many of the military’s top officers graduate from training academies such as the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. These schools are extremely difficult to get into, and competition for the limited number of spaces is strong. To be accepted, you must have an exemplary high school record, including excellent grades, athletic training, community involvement and a letter of recommendation from the U.S. Congress. Most cadets in these academies have been preparing to enter the military from childhood, but anyone currently entering high school should have enough time to become involved in the community and in team sports and to study hard enough to qualify for an academy.

As there are only four military academies in the country, the chances of being accepted are less favorable than the chances of getting into an ivy league school, such as Harvard or Yale, and the graduates from these academies can expect a similar level of success in their careers. For example, top generals in the Army usually graduate from the U.S. Military Academy in Westpoint, N.Y. However, the various branches of the military need many more officers than these academies can produce, so programs such as ROTC, Officer Candidate School (OCS) and Officer Training School (OTS) provide the training for the majority of officers.

Joining the Military With Advanced Education

If you haven’t entered college yet, the best path to take is ROTC, because your chosen branch of the military will pay for your education. If you already have a degree, you can enter the military as an officer by completing OCS or OTS, and these programs usually last about nine to 17 weeks. Another path some people take to become military officers is to be directly commissioned, although this path is the least common and usually requires a professional degree, such as an M.D., Ph.D. or law degree. In this case, the military recruits civilians with the skills it needs and, if necessary, waves some of the age or physical fitness requirements for joining.

Related Resource: Selecting an Army ROTC College

To enter the military as an officer, you need a college degree and some form of military officer training. Your degree can be in any subject, and you have the option of choosing ROTC, OSC or OTC for your officer training program. To answer the question, “Can a military degree help you become an officer,” you need to know that officer training and a college education are separate, but complementary admission requirements.