Education Credentials and Military Enlistment

A strong military force starts with people who can meet the demands of military service. To help identify and place candidates who will perform well and fulfill their term of service, the Department of Defense and the individual service branches have established several minimum standards that candidates must meet, including an education standard. If you're interested in joining the Army, Marine Corps, Navy or Air Force, you can be better prepared by knowing about the different education and testing requirements for the branch of service you wish to join. With the right education credentials and solid test scores, you'll improve your chances of getting placed in your preferred service branch, in a position where you can excel.

Enlistment priority

Because different applicants for military service have different qualifications, the services use a tier system to determine enlistment priority. First developed more than thirty years ago, the education credential tiers are "based on first-term attrition rates associated with various education credential types."

Eligible students with a traditional high-school diploma or diploma from a home school, virtual or distance learning or adult/alternative school who also score fifty or above on the Armed Forces Qualification Test receive tier 1 enlistment priority. Tier 1 candidates have been determined to be more likely to complete their first term of enlistment than lower-tier candidates. DoD benchmarks require that at least ninety percent of enlisting recruits possess a tier 1 credential. This means that tier 2 candidates or applicants, many of whom have a general education development degree, may find it more difficult to enlist in the service branch of their choice or to be placed in their preferred position or job within the military. Candidates with a GED may have to earn higher test scores than those with a high school diploma or may have to complete college credits to be considered for enlistment.

As an example, to enlist in the Air Force without a high school diploma, you must have a GED and at least fifteen college credits. Depending on the service branch, your individual circumstances and other possible factors, you may be accepted into the military even if you don't exactly meet all of the established education criteria.

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)

In addition to the education credential, individuals seeking to enlist in the military must take the ASVAB. Developed by the Department of Defense, the ASVAB is a multi-part test that helps the service branches identify a prospective service member's specific strengths and determine what type of position within the military that that person might excel in.

The test consists of eight individual tests:

  • General Science - tests knowledge of the physical and biological sciences
  • Arithmetic Reasoning - tests ability to solve arithmetic word problems
  • Word Knowledge - tests ability to identify the correct meaning of words in context and their synonyms
  • Paragraph Comprehension - tests reading comprehension
  • Mathematics Knowledge - tests knowledge of high school mathematics principles
  • Electronics Information - tests knowledge of electricity and electronics
  • Auto and Shop Information - tests knowledge of automobile technology and shop terms and skills
  • Mechanical Comprehension - tests understanding of mechanical and physical principles

The Armed Forces Qualifying Test consists of four ASVAB subtests, including arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, paragraph comprehension and word knowledge. All of the Services use Armed Forces Qualifying Test scores to assess eligibility for military service. Scores are reported in percentiles between one and 99. The score you'll need to enlist may depend on both your education credentials and the branch of service you're interested in joining. For more information on the ASVAB and Armed Forces Qualifying Test, visit the official ASVAB website.

For additional information on the education credentials and test scores you'll need to enlist, you can contact a recruiter through the recruiting website for your desired service branch:


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