How do I Prepare for a Military Career?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

People who aspire to a military career often look forward to a role in a particular branch of their country’s military service. It may be the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Marine Corps, or their equivalent, that has a particular appeal. In preparing for a military career, there are several things that you can both do and not do in order to work towards achieving your goal.

Many career combat soldiers participated in outdoor sports and activities, such as camping and hunting, when they were younger.
Many career combat soldiers participated in outdoor sports and activities, such as camping and hunting, when they were younger.

The first thing to avoid is anything illegal. People who want to be entrusted with their country’s safety have a much better chance of succeeding if they are law-abiding citizens. Second, you should apply yourself in school. Being able to communicate clearly and interpret documents, understanding your own culture, having a knowledge of history, understanding basic concepts in math and science, and being physically fit are important underpinnings for a military career.

An individual who intends to enter the U.S. Coast Guard should be familiar with small boat handling.
An individual who intends to enter the U.S. Coast Guard should be familiar with small boat handling.

Some people who are looking forward to a military career attend a military prep school, also called a military academy. These schools focus on both academic achievement and leadership skills, and — depending on the school — introduce the students to military hierarchy and military concepts, to a greater or lesser degree. There are both public military schools and private military schools, and they are completely distinct from the schools that seek to instill discipline in unruly young men and women with a so-called “military” approach.

Officers in a nation's navy have usually received command and technical training at a naval academy or in an equivalent ROTC program.
Officers in a nation's navy have usually received command and technical training at a naval academy or in an equivalent ROTC program.

Another approach to preparing for a military career is to become a member of a training corps or cadet group in high school. In the United States, this would be JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), and while this is required at some military academies, it is also available in many public high schools. In Canada, there are the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, Royal Canadian Army Cadets, and Royal Canadian Sea Cadets.

Individuals entering the United States Air Force should familiarize themselves with the history and uses of military aviation.
Individuals entering the United States Air Force should familiarize themselves with the history and uses of military aviation.

Another step towards a military career may be attendance at a summer program offered by one of the service academies, the institutions that train candidates for officer positions in the country’s armed forces. Service academies may be at the high school or college level. They combine academic degrees with specialized military training and a physical fitness regimen. The training will partly depend on the country’s geography. For example, a landlocked country will not have a branch equivalent to the United States Coast Guard.

Going to school and learning military history will help prepare for a career in the armed forces.
Going to school and learning military history will help prepare for a career in the armed forces.

Not everyone wants to become an officer, and there is another way to start a military career. You can enlist in the military branch of your choice. Of course, if there is a draft in place, you may find yourself in the military somewhat unexpectedly. In this case, your enforced acquaintance with the military may end up being the preparation that precedes what turns out to be a military career.

Individuals interested in a military career often aspire to serve in a specific division of their country's armed forces.
Individuals interested in a military career often aspire to serve in a specific division of their country's armed forces.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments

Logicfest

@Melonlity -- true, but keep in mind that men in the United States still have to sign up for Selective Service when they turn 18-years-old. So, there could still be a draft one of these days.

That isn't very likely. As you pointed out, we have a huge volunteer army in the United States. Yet another reason to thank a veteran.

Melonlity

And thank goodness for people who choose the military as a career. Because so many people do just that, there is no more conscription in the United States, most of Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, etc. That would not be the case if people didn't volunteer to serve in the military.

It can be a great career, too. People can generally retire with a great pension in the United States after serving for 20 years. Not bad at all.

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