If you have a four year degree and are considering joining the military there are two main pathways that could be open to you. The first is enlistment and the second is commissioning as an officer. One path may be more appealing or fitting for you dependent on your goals and qualifications. You may also have access to loan repayment options up to ten grand in some cases! I don’t know about you but that is about ¼ of my student loan debt.
If you have a four year degree one benefit given to you when enlisting is allowing to go immediately to an E-4 ranking. This means you get paid more and have the potential to hit non commissioned officer status quicker. Enlisted careers are mostly based off your scores and availability of the job (especially important in the reserves, active duty usually has more spots) Most enlisted jobs don’t require any prior education other than AIT. However, you are more than welcome to use your degree! The military has bands so music majors you’re in luck, there is no AIT to teach you how to play a tuba! If you want to go into a job you’re familiar with there is nothing wrong with that. On the flip side, I do know of several people who joined the reserves and do something totally different than their day to day job to spice up their life a bit and have a change of pace.
I have met many people who enlist with degrees and stay on the path of an NCO, it is a rewarding career and should be celebrated.
If you enlist, later on down the road you always have the option to submit an officer packet. So it’s not like you eliminate the option entirely. A lot of people like this pathway so they can build some experience in the lower ranks and more easily build a rapport when an officer.
If you have a four year degree you may also submit an officer packet to the board and if accepted commission right into an O-1, this is means a higher pay grade and more responsibilities. This process is longer and requires more information than enlisting. I am writing a post about that process soon too, keep an eye out for updates. You must have at least a 2.5 GPA from your 4 year degree but 3.0 and above are preferred. Certain degrees hold more weight than others, especially law and medical. After all the information and references etc. are collected the paperwork is submitted to a board for a review and they interview you to make a decision.
If the board determines you are fit to be an officer you complete BCT followed by OSC, then BOLC for the Army. Some branches allow you to go straight to OCS (Air Force does) If they decide no, you may choose to submit again at the next boards, enlist, or wash your hands of the process entirely.
Certain branches have more officer positions open than others.This means you may get to select from several officer jobs in one branch rather than have one choice in another. Opportunity for promotions or job changes may also be limited due to this as well. Remember as an officer you have more responsibilities than an enlisted member and this can factor into a decision.
The best piece of advice I received if you pick this pathway is don’t act like you know it all if you have never served before. NCO’s tend to be very frustrated when someone does this. Treat your NCO’s with respect, they know a lot, and have valuable insight you should hear out until you get more experience under your belt.