Steps to Join

Make a life-changing move.

Here’s all you need to know about taking the first step towards becoming an enlisted Soldier or a commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army.

A Soldier in combat uniform and a helmet sitting in a vehicle with other soldiers

Different steps for different paths.

The steps and requirements to join the Army will vary based on your decision to serve as an enlisted Soldier or a commissioned Officer. Either way, we’re here to help you navigate the eligibility requirements and understand what you’ll need to proceed.

Enlisted Soldiers

As an enlisted Soldier, you’ll help perform day-to-day operations in your career field and help ensure the success of your unit’s mission.

Commissioned Officers

As a commissioned Officer, you’ll be a leader who makes important decisions and is responsible for the safety of Soldiers.













Five steps to join as an enlisted Soldier.

Enlisted Soldiers are responsible for carrying out plans and contributing to the success of each mission. Take a bold step into an empowering experience that will shape you for the rest of your life.

Step 01

Speak with a recruiter.

All recruiters know the Army well and can talk you through what it’s like to join. They’ll help you understand the different opportunities available and guide you to an informed decision.

Step 02

Take an entrance test.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is an entrance test that helps you define your goals and explore jobs in the Army that could be right for you.

Step 03

Complete a physical exam.

Your recruiter will help you set up an appointment at the nearest Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), where you’ll be evaluated to see if you are physically ready to serve.

Step 04

Find an Army job.

A career counselor will help you choose from over 200 available jobs that may fit your goals. Your entrance test score is a major factor in deciding which Army job is best for you.

Step 05

Sign a contract and prepare for Basic Training.

After signing a contract that reflects your agreement to serve, you’ll get sworn into the Army by taking the Oath of Enlistment. You’ll then prepare to be introduced to the values and traditions of the Army at Basic Training.

Requirements to join as an enlisted Soldier.

There are certain requirements you’ll need to meet to become an enlisted Soldier in the Army.

  • Be between 17 and 35 years old

  • Be medically and physically fit 

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident with a valid Green Card

  • Have a high school degree or GED

  • Earn a minimum score on the Army’s entrance test













Four ways to become an Army Officer.

Commissioned Officers are the leaders of the Army who guide and oversee missions while leading Army organizations. While there are a few different ways of becoming an Army Officer, you must have a bachelor’s degree by the time you’re commissioned regardless of which direction you choose.

Two female ROTC cadets sitting outside against a wooden obstacle


Graduate with a guaranteed career as an Army Officer by attending a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program on your college campus, and talk to your Recruiting Operations Officer about enrolling in ROTC electives or scholarship opportunities.

U.S. Military Academy at West Point Cadets celebrating at a graduation ceremony

U.S. Military Academy at West Point

You’ll need to request a nomination from a U.S. Congressman or Senator as part of your application process. 

A male Officer Candidate is pinned by his father during an Officer Candidate School graduation ceremony.

Officer Candidate School

Train in the Army’s 12-week intensive training program designed for enlisted Soldiers and civilians who already have college degrees. You’ll be expected to complete Basic Training and other required training if you haven’t already while also passing a board review.

An Army surgeon performs a surgery with the help of an assistant

Direct Commission

Leverage your professional experience by earning a direct commission, which promotes civilians with professional skills in fields like medicine and law directly into an Officer rank. You’ll be expected to complete the Army’s Direct Commissioning Course and Basic Leadership Course.

Requirements to become a commissioned Officer.

There are certain requirements you’ll need to meet to become a commissioned Officer in the Army.

  • Be at least 17 but under 31 in the year of commissioning as an Officer, or under 27 if you commission from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

  • Medically and physically fit while in good moral standing

  • Be a U.S. citizen by the time you commission as an Officer

  • A college graduate by the time you’re commissioned as an Officer

  • A completed background check and questionnaire along with successful interview and proof of records


Find out more about becoming a Soldier and if a career in the Army is right for you.

Common questions about steps to join.

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How do I know if I meet the requirements to join the Army?

When applying to be an enlisted Soldier or Army Officer, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who meets the age requirement. To enlist, you must have a high school diploma, GED, or a plan to get one. The main difference when applying to be an Army Officer is that you need to have a bachelor’s degree—not necessarily at the start of the process, but by the time you’re commissioned as an Officer. Find out more details about the age, medical, physical, and education requirements to join for enlisted Soldiers and Army Officers before applying.

How long does it take to join?

For enlisted Soldiers, the time between being sworn in and Basic Training could be as short as five days, or as long as a year, but the average time it takes is usually between 30 – 45 days. It also varies on the job assignment and Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). For Army Officers, the time to join depends on the path you choose. If you choose Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) or the U.S. Military Academy (USMA), you’ll become an Officer after completing four years of college. If you’re going through Officer Candidate School (OCS) or direct commission, the time it will take to join will depend on when you finish your four-year degree and complete specific courses and certifications related to your branch.

Do I need a college degree to join?

A college degree is not required to enlist in the Army, but you do need to be a college graduate if you plan to become a commissioned Officer.

Does everyone have to pass a physical fitness test to join?

For both the enlisted Soldier and commissioned Officer paths, you'll need to meet the height and weight requirements for your age and gender before joining. A recruiter will work with you after you join to meet the physical requirements of your chosen Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) evaluates your physical and mental abilities, starting at Basic Training for enlisted Soldiers and during initial training for those commissioning as Officers. Everyone will need to pass the ACFT during training and again several times a year for every year of service. Scores are recorded twice a year for active duty Soldiers in the Army, or once a year for members of the Army Reserve and Army National Guard. The Army will be there to support your growth with resources during every step of the evaluation process to ensure your success.

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