How to Become a Volunteer Military Officer

The U.S. Military is a volunteer military so it relies heavily on recruitment to supply its ranks.
Š Kriss Russell

The U.S. Military is a volunteer military. That doesn't mean that members of the military are volunteering their time without pay -- it simply means that they're serving of their own accord and not because they were forced to do so by law.

As a result of the volunteer military, the United States relies heavily on recruitment to supply its ranks. They offer competitive pay and a number of benefits to those who are willing to make the commitment, both of which are multiplied if members decide they want to become an officer. To do this in the U.S. Army, you must complete one of four programs. You can attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, become a member of the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corp (also known as Army ROTC), attend Officer Candidate School or become an officer through direct appointment [source: Careers in the Military].


All of these programs require applicants to be at least 17 years old with a high school diploma. The U.S. Military Academy, as well as the Army ROTC, also require that you be working toward a four-year college degree. In order to be eligible for Officer Candidate School or direct appointment, you must already have a four-year college degree. On top of that, you'll be required to pass a medical exam as well as a background investigation [source: USMC].

Making a commitment to the U.S. Military generally means signing a contract for eight years. Anywhere from two to six years will be spent enlisted in active duty. Only 16 percent of the military is made up of officers and the process is selective to say the least [source: BLS]. Officers are considered the leaders of the military and they're responsible for the other 84 percent of personnel who serve.

However, with more responsibility also means more benefits. Read on to find out what those are.


Benefits of Being a Volunteer Military Officer

The military provides its members with a number of benefits, not the least of which are competitive salaries and the opportunity to get a college degree. In fact, as a result of the GI Bill, members of the military and veterans alike can receive up to $40,000 tax free to pay for school. Since September 11, 2001, many who have served since that date will get full tuition and fees thanks to a recent update in the bill [source: Military].

The list of military benefits goes on to include life insurance, legal assistance, travel expenses, health care and housing stipends. Under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance provided by the military, members are covered up to $400,000 [source: Military]. Of course, if you become an officer, your benefits will be larger.


Citizens who volunteer to become officers in the military have the responsibility of being leaders. Their health and well-being are incredibly important. To ensure that they stay healthy, the military provides its officers, as well as their immediate family, with full coverage health care. This is a huge benefit in itself. Volunteer officers are also given the opportunity to continue their education with financial assistance from the military. Many receive post-graduate degrees that can be considered incredibly valuable in the future.

Aside from all the benefits an officer receives while being enlisted in the military, veteran officers are also highly marketable in today's workforce. Becoming an officer is often interpreted as being indicative of leadership abilities and general aptitude. The risk with being part of the armed forces is high, but it appears so are the benefits.

For more information on volunteering with the military, see the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition." Dec. 18, 2007. (Accessed 5/18/2009)
  • Careers in the Military. "Military Services: Army Officer." (Accessed 5/18/2009)
  • Dunnigan, James F. and Albert A. Nofi. "Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War." Google Books. (Accessed 5/18/2009),M1
  • Military. "The GI Bill." (Accessed 5/18/2009)
  • Military. "Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance." (Accessed 5/18/2009)
  • USMC. "Basic Officers' Enlistment Requirements." (Accessed 5/18/2009)