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How to Join the Military

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Serve the Country While Earning a Steady Paycheck

Service in the United States Armed Forces offers a steady paycheck and housing, a benefit for working mothers looking for stability for their families. However, deployments and other away-from-home assignments, as well as frequent moving, can be hard for a family to manage. It's a career path to consider carefully before joining.

Job Description

Given the number of branches of the military and the different types of positions available in each, there's no one single job description for a member of the military. The fields for military personnel run the gamut, from arts/communications (art directors and musicians, to name a couple) to sciences (veterinarians and aerospace engineering), to maritime operations (ship engineers, captains and riggers). Some jobs are only available to military officers, while others are for enlisted personnel.

Enlisted service members do not have a college degree—though they can earn one while in the armed forces—and can earn the top rank of E-3. Officers join the military after earning a college degree, and they typically manage enlisted personnel. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, enlisted personnel typically support military operations, such as combat or training; operate, maintain and repair equipment; and perform technical and support activities. Officers most often plan, organize and lead military operations; operate or command aircraft, ships and armored vehicles; and provide medical, legal and engineering services to other military personnel.

Education Requirements

All members of the military, whether enlisted or officer, must have a high school diploma, while officers need to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some positions for officers require advanced degrees.

Everyone who want to enlist in the military must take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which helps place the applicant within an occupational specialty. Once enlisted, a new military member goes through basic training, also known as boot camp, which lasts seven to 13 weeks. Following that, she must attend a technical school to train for the specialty.


More than 2.1 million people were serving in the military, as of February 2017, with 1.3 million on active duty. Approximately 466,524 serve in the U.S. Army, 318,571 in the Navy, 322,799 in the Air Force and 183,923 in the Marines.

In addition to active duty, around 810,00 people are in the Reserves in all branches, as well as the Air National Guard and Army National Guard. Approximately 40,795 serve in the Coast Guard.

Years of Experience

A military personnel's pay is based on both her rank and amount of time in service, but they are the same for all branches. Certain Armed Forces members might receive more money because of foreign or hazardous assignments or for specialty qualifications, such as being a medical officer. Military members also receive free housing on base or are given a housing allowance for off-base living.

Pay ranges from an E-1 (a newly enlisted member) with less than two years of service, who gets paid $1,600 a month, to an O-20, which is an officer with more than 20 years of service, who gets paid $15,583 a month.

Job Growth Trend

The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that qualified individuals should have opportunities in all branches of the armed forces. All branches must fill both entry-level jobs and professional positions as people are promoted, leave the service or retire.