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For many young people, the Armed Forces offer excellent training and education as well as a job that can lead to a career. Remember that the military is a way of life, not just a job. It requires a long-term commitment. Enlisted personnel must sign a legal agreement called an enlistment contract, which usually involves a commitment to eight years of service. Depending on the contract, two to six years are spent on active duty and the balance is spent in the reserves.

Enlisting in the military is a major step in a person's life. If you are considering this option, discuss it with your family and your guidance counselor. Speak with friends or relatives with military experience. If possible, talk with someone close to your own age who is in the service or has recently been discharged. Determine what you hope to gain from the military and what the military will expect of you. Do your homework then visit a recruiter who can explain the various enlistment options and tell you which military occupational specialties have openings. Make certain that your military commitment is based on sound information and realistic expectations.

In addition, check out the military careers website at It is an excellent career information resource for the world of military work. It gives you details on occupations for officers and enlisted personnel. This site describes training, advancement, and educational opportunities within each of the major Services- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. You can search the site to get a list of military occupations that match your interests, or you may browse the occupations by category.

In order to enlist, you must be 18 (or 17 with your parent's permission) and a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant holding permanent resident status. A high school diploma is preferred for all recruits and required for some training programs. Each branch of the Armed Forces differs in specific programs, terms of duty, and enlistment options. A recruiter will be able to provide you with details. You may also want to ask about the delayed entry program options. Persons who qualify for certain popular occupations are sometimes chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis. By enlisting during your senior year of high school and delaying entry until after you graduate, you can be sure of getting the occupational training you want.

In today’s world, there are hundreds of occupations from which to choose, and it’s important that you spend some time exploring the options available to you. The United States Armed Forces is one alternative you may want to consider. The U.S. Military has changed dramatically over the past several decades. Today’s military is more professional, more technologically advanced and offers more benefits and rewards than ever before.

Maintaining a strong national defense includes such diverse activities as commanding a tank, running a hospital, repairing a helicopter and programming a computer. The military provides full-time and part-time training and work experience for more than 4,100 different jobs, 88 percent of which have direct civilian counterparts.

In the military, you can learn marketable job skills, make good friends and develop a positive, winning attitude. The pay scale is competitive with many starting salaries in the private sector, and many allowances paid out by the military are tax-exempt. If a college education is one of your priorities, tuition support programs are one of the ways that the military can help you with the rising cost of postsecondary education.

If you want to go to college before joining the military, consider a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program. These college-based, officer-commissioning programs produce 60 percent of all officers serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. If your high school has a Junior ROTC program, it will teach you problem-solving, ethics and leadership skills before you enlist.

Serving in the military is really what you choose to make of it. It can simply be a means to an end – money for college or technical training and the development of life skills – or it can be a lifelong career path, giving you a structured environment, a defined purpose and many opportunities to advance and grow.

Explore Web sites like and to learn more about military life and careers. Make certain your military commitment is based on sound information and realistic expectations. Do your homework so there won’t be any surprises. For more information, contact your nearest recruiter (listed in the phone book) or call one of the following toll free numbers:

Service Toll-Free Number Web
US Army 800-USA-ARMY
US Navy 800-USA-NAVY
US Air Force 800-423-USAF
US Marine Corps 800-MARINES
US Coast Guard 877-NOW-USCG
Air National Guard 800-TO-GO-ANG
Army National Guard 800-GO-GUARD