The U.S. Army's Basic Combat Training (BCT) program is your portal into military service. Although you'll be entering the service as a raw recruit, there are ways to earn a few stripes prior to entering BCT. These methods require varying levels of effort and dedication on your part while you are still a civilian, but these efforts are recognized by the Army and are often rewarded through early promotion.
Steps toward E-2
Get your Eagle Scout Certificate or Girl Scout Gold Award.
Complete the Army's online Future Soldiers Training (FSTS) program. The FSTS gets you a step ahead of other candidates by acquainting you with the basics of Army life, as well as preparing you for what to expect during BCT.
Refer high school graduates or attendees. One referral must score 50 or higher on the ASVAB. You need to refer two or more candidates scoring between 31 and 49, or three candidates that meet qualifications but have not taken the test.
Earn 24 or more credit hours from an accredited university or other institution.
Earn the Quartermaster Award from the Naval Sea Cadet Program, or receive the Air Force Civil Air Patrol's Billy Mitchell award.
Steps toward E-3/E-4
Complete three or more years in a Junior Reserve Officer's Training program at your high school, or one year of Senior ROTC.
Earn 48 or more college credits from an accredited university or other institution.
Complete a two-year certification program at a vocational or technical school.
Refer two high school graduates or attendees scoring higher than 50 on the ASVAB. You'll need to refer four or more if they score between 31 and 49, or six or more if they have not completed those requirements.
Complete your four-year college degree from an accredited college to enter BCT as an E-4, or Specialist. This is the highest enlisted rank you can earn prior to entering the military.
College credits earned at institutions not found on the American Council on Education's Accredited Institutions of Post-secondary Education or AIPE list will not count toward promotion credits.