What is a Military Academy?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

The military academy is a type of school that has existed in the United States since 1776 with the purpose of providing an education in the military arts. The military academies in the United States today can be divided into three types: the secondary school military academy, the higher education military academy, and the four Federal service academies.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point prepares cadets for leadership roles in the U.S. Army.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point prepares cadets for leadership roles in the U.S. Army.

Secondary school military academies are also known as military prep schools. Often designed as boarding schools, they aim to train soldiers and civic leaders, with a focus on self-discipline, achievement, and community. Some accept students as young as fifth grade.

Students at the U.S. Naval Academy are taught how to coordinate amphibious assaults, among other things.
Students at the U.S. Naval Academy are taught how to coordinate amphibious assaults, among other things.

The higher education military academy includes all undergraduate, graduate, and professional military programs outside the Federal service academies. They aim to serve students with a secondary military academy or college prep background, but may also have a compulsory physical fitness test as part of their admissions process. Some require that admissions candidates be unmarried.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy prepares officers to command harbor patrols, drug interdiction missions, and other duties.
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy prepares officers to command harbor patrols, drug interdiction missions, and other duties.

In general, higher education military academies require a standard college preparatory course for their undergraduate admissions, and the admissions process is similar in many ways to other college admissions, but they also generally require a physical fitness test of some sort, and some require that candidates for admission be unmarried. Some higher education military academies have a mixed student population, including traditional students as well as the corps of cadets who participate in military training as well as attending classes. Students may or may not receive a commission in the armed forces upon graduation.

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.

There are four federally-funded Federal service academies to prepare officers for the armed forces with a four-year B.S. degree. The Army service academy is the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. The Navy conducts officer training at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The Air Force academy is the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And the Coast Guard prepares officers at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Graduates receive a commission and have the obligation of at least five years of active duty.

The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado prepares officers for a career in military aviation.
The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado prepares officers for a career in military aviation.

Also important to mention is the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point, NY, which is not a Federal service academy, but does prepare shipboard officers the US Merchant Marine as well as for the Navy and the Coast Guard.

Many nations have some type of military academy that prepares officers for combat and other operations.
Many nations have some type of military academy that prepares officers for combat and other operations.
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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