Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Joining the Military

By Katelyn Allen on Friday, September 25, 2020

Whether you’ve already decided to enlist in the military or this is one of the first times you’ve thought about it, joining should not be a spur-of-the-moment decision. Higher-education opportunities, high-demand careers, the differences between each branch and so much more — here is everything you need to know when considering the military path:

First things first…
Enlisting for an Education

Most of the time, you can use the different education packages to pay for your college without emptying your own pocket. Through the National Guard, you attend college like a normal student, and you serve your commitment on weekends, during the summer and after graduation. When you join the Navy, you can take online classes at night, or if you’re deployed, you can sometimes attend classes on the ship. Depending on what career field and school you choose, you can earn college credit through your job training with the Marine Corps.

You may not be able to finish your degree all at once, and your commitment to your branch will come first, but you can always finish your degree when you complete your obligation.

While some in the military believe you should join out of patriotism alone, plenty of others realize there are several motivations for enlisting in the service. Petty Officer Christopher Del Rio of the Navy said there’s nothing wrong with signing up purely for the educational benefits.

“Everybody has a different reason,” Del Rio said.

And then…
Using that Education

Many jobs in the six branches of the military easily translate into civilian careers when you finish your service. After boot camp, you go through job training to prepare for your career in the military, and sometimes you can earn a few college credits through this avenue.

Sgt. David Hoisington of the Army said students typically ask about the types of jobs available to them.

“We have everything from medicine and law to mechanics and military intelligence,” Hoisington said.

No matter what you choose, you still have those skills when you return to the civilian workforce. Job experience goes a long way when you start searching for your second career.


Do your research.

There are a total of seven branches of the military: Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps., National Guard, Air National Guard and Coast Guard. Although requirements to enlist in each individual branch are similar, there are differences that you must pay attention to. These differences include age, physical test requirements and test scores.

Talk to a recruiter.

Each branch has its own website with contact information listed for its recruiter. Don’t be afraid to reach out through a phone call or email. A college you are considering applying to might also have an ROTC program, and you can reach out to their recruiter for contact information and ask about the program.

Study hard and score high.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is offered at the Military Entrance Processing Station, your high school, or through the recruiter you reached out to. Each branch requires a different score, so make sure you study hard and score high!

Let’s get physical!

Expect nothing less than timed miles, intense pullup, pushup, and crunches routines for the physical exam at the branch of your choice. Each branch has its own specific score for the physical requirements, so make sure you train and feel prepared to ace this test!

Visit the Military Entrance Processing Station.

Go visit the Military Entrance Processing Station to take care of any final requirements, report on any medical history you feel is necessary and sign those papers!

Lace up! It’s boot camp!

Get ready to be pushed to your limit at boot camp. You’ll be pushed past your breaking point while bonding with your fellow recruits and celebrating after graduation, which is a huge accomplishment!



Recruiting: GoArmy.com
Boot Camp Length: 10 weeks
COVID Changes: All recruits are being screened for COVID symptoms and potential exposure before they are shipped to Basic Training.
Length of Service Required: Eight years if the recipient of the Army ROTC scholarship.
ROTC Programs in Arkansas: Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and University of Central Arkansas.
Basic Training Locations: Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Knox, Kentucky.*

*Note: The only gender-integrated locations are Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Sill, and Fort Jackson.


Recruiting: Navy.com
Boot Camp Length: Eight weeks
COVID Changes: “Must continue despite circumstances”, the recruiter works remotely, 14-day restriction of movement for any new recruits
Length of Service Required: Five years of active duty if the recipient of NROTC scholarship.
ROTC Programs in Arkansas: None in Arkansas. Nearest Boot Camp is located at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois.


Recruiting: Marines.com
Boot Camp Length: 12 weeks plus combat training
COVID Changes: Shipping recruits numbers have been cut in half to meet CDC guidelines, recruits arriving on Camp are required to quarantine for 14-days, Training activities have been adjusted to meet social distancing guidelines and masks are distributed and washed.
Length of Service Required: Officers are required to serve 2-years of active duty if they receive tuition assistance. Any recruit who receives tuition assistance is required to remain on active duty.
Recruit Programs in Arkansas: None
Recruit Training Locations: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California.


Recruiting: AirForce.com
COVID Change: Originally, BMT was eight and a half weeks but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they have shortened it to seven and a half weeks.
Length of Service Required: Four years of active duty if scholarship  recipient.
ROTC Programs in Arkansas: University of Arkansas, along with other schools that are partnered with UA.
Basic Training Location: Lackland Air Force Base, Texas


Recruiting: GoCoastGuard.com
Boot Camp Length: Eight weeks
Length of Service Required: Four years of active duty if recipient of CSPI scholarship.
Programs in Arkansas: None, but there is one nearby in Cordova, Tennessee


Recruiting: GoANG.com
Boot Camp Length: ANG recruits attend basic training, as well as the technical school for their chosen career, alongside active duty Air Force enlistees. Basic is about eight and a half weeks long and technical schools range from six to 52 weeks, depending on your career.
Length of Service Required: Six years
Major Training Facilities: Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith; Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville


Recruiting: ARGuard.org
COVID Changes: National Guard stands ready to bring support for all 50 states and other territories during this uncertain time.
Length of Service Required: Eight years, but you can serve as little as three-six years depending on your IRR (Individual Ready Reserve).
Major Training Facilities: Robinson Maneuver Training Center, North Little Rock; Chaffee Maneuver Training Center near Fort Smith.

What’s the Pay?
Monthly pay for different Branche$


Basic Military - Monthly Pay for Army Reserve Soldiers

Private (E1)
Less than 2 years: $3,639
4 years: $3,639
Private (E2)
Less than 2 years: $4,079
4 years: $4,079
Private First Class (E3)
Less than 2 years: $4,289
4 years: $4,835
Specialist or Corporal (E4)
Less than 2 years: $4,751
4 years: $5,532
Sergeant (E5)
Less than 2 years: $5,181
4 years: $6,071
Staff Sergeant (E6)
Less than 2 years: $5,656
4 years: $6,766

Basic Military - Monthly Pay for Army Reserve Officers

Second Lieutenant (O1)
Less than 2 years: $6,902
4 years: $8,686
First Lieutenant (O2)
Less than 2 years: $7,953
4 years: $10,784
Captain (O3)
Less than 2 years: $9,204
4 years: $12,279
Major (O4)
Less than 2 years: $10,229
4 years: $13,107


Enlisted - Monthly Pay

Seaman Recruit (E1)
Seaman Apprentice (E2)
Seaman (E3)
Petty Officer 3rd Class (E4)
Petty Officer 2nd Class (E5)
Petty Officer 1st Class (E6)
Chief Petty Officer (E7)

Officers - Monthly Pay

Ensign (O1)
Lieutentant Junior Grade (O2)
Lieutenant (O3)
Lieutenant Commander (O4)
Commander (O5)
Captain (O6)
Rear Admiral Lower Half (O7)


Enlisted - Monthly Pay

Airman Basic (E1)
Airman (E2)
Airman First-Class (E3)
Senior Airman (E4
Staff Sergeant (E5)
Technical Sergeant (E6)
Master Sergeant (E7)

Officers - Monthly Pay

Second Lieutenant (01)
First Lieutenant (O2)
Captain (O3)
Major (O4)
Lieutenant Colonel (O5)
Colonel (O6)

+ Military pay is calculated by two factors: years of service and rank. Pay is estimated monthly, rather than weekly or annually. Incentive pay is a way to earn over and above the basic rate, regardless of years of service or rank. Military benefits are of  great value too, and often include a housing allowance (or government-provided housing), subsistence allowance (or government-provided meals), free health care and paid leave.

*Sources: navy.com, goarmy.com, gocoastguard.com/coastguardreserve, airforce.com, militarybenefits.info