United States Military

Career Options

The military offers opportunities for rewarding careers. Military experiences and training can be transferred to almost any industry. Military careers offer benefits such as health care, education funding and specialized training. The U.S. military is divided into six branches that perform distinct and overlapping roles: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Space Force.

  • Air Force – The Air Force protects U.S. interests at home and abroad with a focus on air power.
  • Army – As the oldest branch of the military, the Army protects the security of the United States and its resources.
  • Coast Guard – The Coast Guard is a maritime force offering military, law enforcement, humanitarian, regulatory and diplomatic service.
  • Marine Corps – The Marine Corps is often first on the ground in combat and collaborates closely with the Navy and other military branches.
  • Navy– The Navy is a marine force that protects the waterways (sea and ocean) outside of the Coast Guard’s jurisdiction.
  • Space Force – The Space Force defends U.S. interests on land, in the air and from orbit with advanced training and technology.

Three Ways to Serve

Active Duty
Service members are full-time military personnel living domestically or overseas. Active-duty terms last two to six years. Deployment can last up to a year.

Reserves are part-time service members who pursue civilian careers or college education while serving. They attend boot camp and participate in training drills one weekend a month with a two-week program each year.

National Guard
In addition to training drills one weekend a month and two full weeks a year, National Guard units help communities in their state during emergencies and natural disasters. During conflicts, National Guard members may be deployed overseas and may see combat. They may also be assigned noncombat humanitarian duties, such as building schools and hospitals, training local peacekeepers, and other activities.

Beginning a Military Career

If you think a career in the military might be right for you, here are steps to get started:

  1. Research branches and roles: Before enlisting in the armed forces, think about roles and responsibilities that appeal to you. Research the benefits of the military branches and available jobs. Consider talking to people who have military experience.
  2. Speak with a recruiter: Once you have an idea of which branch of the military appeals to you, visit a recruiter to determine what to do next. A recruiter can answer questions about your preferred career, opportunities and next steps if you choose to enlist.
  3. Explore career paths: After speaking with a recruiter, continue exploring careers in your chosen military branch. Take into account the time, education and training necessary to reach your goals. Consider how different jobs might transfer to civilian careers. You usually can ask your recruiter if you have questions.
  4. Take the tests: When you decide to enlist, your next step will be taking required tests, including the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, at a Military Entrance Processing Station. This test has multiple-choice math, science and language questions and can take up to three hours. Your results can help determine your enlistment eligibility and potential careers. You will probably undergo physical exams checking height, weight, reflexes and other medical tests to ensure you are healthy enough for military service. You may be asked to complete physical activities to check for balance and joint health.
  5. Enlist and attend basic training: The last step is enlist and attend basic training. The process differs for every branch, so ask your recruiter if you have questions. Training locations vary based on the branch you have chosen. Basic training is hard physical work and it pays to boost your exercise regimen before you go.