Becoming an Officer in the Military After College

Officer Training

While it’s common knowledge that basic training sets recruits on the pathway toward becoming an enlisted service member, those with a desire for leadership opportunities and a bachelor’s degree can take another route into a military career – as a commissioned officer.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program for college students and Officer Candidate School or Officer Training School for graduates are great options for those who want to earn a four-year college degree before joining the military. Each service branch offers both ROTC and officer schools as entry points to an officer commission.

The benefits of joining the military after college

Joining the military as a commissioned officer can offer the best of both worlds for those who want the college experience but who also want to serve their country. The benefits include:

  • A guaranteed job after college
  • A leadership role at a young age
  • Higher pay than joining as an enlisted military member
  • Greater opportunities for promotion and training

Rising through ROTC

The ROTC program prepares students to become military officers while they pursue a four-year degree at an accredited college. ROTC is offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities nationwide.

The Army, Navy and Air Force each offer four-year ROTC scholarships to college-bound high school students, and two- and three-year scholarships for students already in college. Navy ROTC students have the option of joining the Marine Corps after graduation.

The scholarships help pay for tuition and books and includes a monthly stipend for living expenses. ROTC students who accept scholarships commit to service as an officer after graduation. The military service obligation varies according to branch, but ranges from three to eight years.

Enrolling in ROTC

Enrollment requirements differ among service branches, but in general, ROTC candidates are required to:

  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be at least 17 years old and on schedule to receive their college degree before age 27
  • Score above a certain minimum on the SAT or ACT standardized tests
  • Meet physical fitness requirements for their branch of service
  • Receive medical clearance

How ROTC works

While there are differences among each service branch, as an ROTC cadet, you can expect to:

  • Take courses in military science, leadership and related topics alongside your regular college curriculum
  • Participate in regular drills and summer training activities
  • Maintain a minimum grade point average during college

Army ROTC graduates earn a commission as a second lieutenant and continue their training in their specific branch at Basic Officer Leaders’ Course. Navy and Air Force ROTC graduates continue their training at Officer Candidate or Training School before receiving their commission as a second lieutenant.

Learn more about the ROTC program at each service branch:

From officer school to officer

The Army and Marine Corps call it Officer Candidate School. In the Navy and Air Force, it’s Officer Training School. No matter its name, this intensive training program will prepare you mentally and physically for the demands of being a commissioned military officer.

Requirements for officer school

Being a U.S. citizen and having a four-year college degree or higher are the bare minimum requirements for officer school. Beyond that, the selection process is highly competitive across service branches. Candidates must meet physical standards, may have to pass a qualifying test, and demonstrate that they have leadership ability, integrity, dependability, academic discipline and adaptability.

About Officer School

Officer school spans 9 ½ to 12 weeks, depending on your branch of service. During that time, you will begin to develop the qualities of an officer, including military bearing, teamwork and the ability to perform under pressure and under adverse conditions.

Curriculum varies according to service, but in general, training school includes:

  • Regular physical conditioning and physical fitness tests
  • Academic classes in military subjects, leadership and ethics, and other subjects
  • Military training, including inspections and drills

Learn more about Officer Training School and Officer Candidate School by service branch.

Other paths to becoming a military officer

Attending officer school after college is just one way to earn a commission in the military. There are other paths as well:

  • Attend a military service academy. Each branch of the military has a four-year university that offers full scholarships to its students. Graduates serve as commissioned officers in the military. Acceptance into these academies is highly competitive.
  • Advance through the enlisted ranks. Enlistees may use their military education benefits to earn a four-year degree, then apply to officer school.
  • Receive a direct commission after earning a professional degree, such as a medical, law or religious studies degree. Direct commission officers are required to attend officer training. This is a good option for civilians who want to serve their country and who have special skills to offer.

You can learn more about joining the military as a commissioned officer by contacting a recruiter from your service branch or calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

Rebuilding Community: Army Personnel Accountability System for Disasters

soldier stands next to truck

In today’s world of frequent natural or man-made disasters, it is essential to have a plan of action for reducing the impact of such events on Army personnel and their families. The Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System, or ADPAAS, was developed to account for personnel and family members after catastrophes and assist the Army in a rapid return to recovery and stability.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Department of Defense mandated that each of the services develop an automated accountability system. ADPAAS is designed to account for personnel, assess needs and assist the Army in making a rapid recovery. It is the only way the Army will accept status reports from soldiers, civilians, families and overseas defense contractors. Since 2008, ADPAAS has been used during numerous disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and events like the Boston Marathon bombings.

If directed to do so by the Secretary of Defense or their major commands, all soldiers, civilians, family members and overseas defense contractors must report their status and whereabouts following any natural or man-made disaster. Army preparedness using the ADPAAS system increases the resiliency of America’s fighting forces, supports soldiers who are forward-deployed and offers reassurance to deployed soldiers about the safety of their families.

ADPAAS Aids in Disaster Help and Recovery

If an emergency or disaster occurs, the Secretary of Defense or Headquarters, Department of the Army, may issue a directive to the services and 4th Estate Agencies for all personnel to report on their status to their respective agencies. Army personnel will be directed to report their status either to their unit, directly to the ADPAAS website or through the Army contact center.

ADPAAS is a valuable tool for Army leaders who must make quick decisions following an emergency. The ADPAAS data allows commanders to access personnel status, thereby facilitating the delivery of essential services to areas of critical need in the disaster-affected area. The system enables them to assess needs such as housing, medical, financial assistance, employment, pay and benefits, transportation, child care, counseling and general legal matters. ADPAAS ensures contact is maintained with Army personnel and family members to guarantee that the required assistance is provided, and affected personnel are returned to a state of normalcy.

Training Now Available

Regional, face-to-face training is now available to both new and existing ADPAAS command officer representatives, or CORs, within your command’s area of operations through the ADPAAS Mobile Training Team, or MTT. This reoccurring annual training event is a time to address all ADPAAS concerns and to discuss new ideas. Completion of the training will result in ADPAAS COR course certification and commander’s appointment to assume ADPAAS COR duties.

Class schedules can be found on the ADPAAS COR site. For each training session, you can download instructions for how to register for open classes. Notifications will be posted when pending classes are confirmed. For more information, you may also contact Army G-1, PCC at 703-697-4246 or email ADPAAS customer service at

Protect Yourself: Keep ADPAAS Up to Date

Army families need to maintain accurate, up-to-date contact information in ADPAAS.

To access ADPAAS, log on to and click on the Army Military, DA Civilians, NAF Employees, OCONUS Contractors and their Families button. Once logged in, navigate to the My Info button to update your physical address. This contact information in ADPAAS can be updated at any time by the soldier or their family member. Accessing ADPAAS from an iPhone, Android, iPad or other mobile device with an internet connection? The ADPAAS mobile application is up and running for use at

Army leaders can access a downloadable poster to help remind personnel to log in to ADPAAS before and during an emergency.

For more information, contact the ADPAAS Information Line at 888-276-9472 or

Army Basic Training: What to Expect

Soldiers at Army basic training

Basic training is the first step in preparing you to be a soldier. It starts with basic combat training or Army boot camp. Then comes specialized training in your career field — or you may go to Officer Candidate School to master Army leadership skills.

In basic training, you’ll learn teamwork and discipline, and how to handle a weapon, rappel and march. The work is physically and mentally demanding. You’ll experience stress and you’ll test your limits. Know what to expect and arrive prepared.

Boot Camps & Officer Candidate Schools May Be Impacted By COVID-19

Contact your recruiter or commander for the most accurate, up-to-date information.

Basic combat training locations

The Army has five basic combat training locations:

  • Fort Benning, Georgia
  • Fort Jackson, South Carolina
  • Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
  • Fort Sill, Oklahoma
  • Fort Knox, Kentucky

How your training location is determined:

  • Enlisted members: Your initial training will be followed with more specialized training at the same installation. This will determine your basic training location. For example, infantry and armor specialties complete basic and advanced training at Fort Benning. Military police and combat engineers complete both trainings at Fort Leonard Wood.
  • Female recruits: Your basic combat training location will be Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Sill or Fort Jackson. These installations have gender-integrated training.
  • Plan to become an officer? You’ll complete your basic training at Fort Benning, then go straight into Officer Candidate School.

Basic training schedule

This is the 10-week basic combat training schedule. It’s the same for the Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard:

Reception Battalion, also called “week zero” add
Phase One/Red Phase (weeks one through three) add
Phase Two/White Phase (weeks four through five) add
Phase Three/Blue Phase (weeks six through nine) add
Graduation add


Learn more about basic combat training on the Army website.


American Flag

This page includes information about casualty and family support services for the Army.

Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division provides casualty assistance resources for commanders and family members. It has a thorough list of publications, public laws, forms, benefits, terms and acronyms. It also has a link to a comprehensive, user-friendly survivor’s guide.

Army Emergency Relief is a private, nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to help soldiers and their dependents. It can provide emergency financial assistance to active-duty and retired soldiers and their dependents when there is a valid need. It can assist surviving family members by arranging transportation, providing low-cost loans and offering other forms of support.

Army Long Term Family Case Management provides one-stop resolution assistance for soldiers’ survivors, helping with questions regarding benefits, outreach, advocacy and support. The call center assists bereaved families after they transition from their casualty assistance officer.

The Army Wounded Warrior Program assists and advocates for severely wounded, ill and injured soldiers and their families by supporting and advising them during medical treatment, rehabilitation and transition back into the Army or a civilian community. The website provides more information about the program, Army benefits and a list of frequently-asked questions about the Army Wounded Warrior Program.

The New Army Combat Fitness Test

Service Member Doing Pushups

Starting October 2020, all soldiers will be required to pass the new Army Combat Fitness Test, which will replace the Army Physical Fitness Test. You will be expected to meet ACFT requirements regardless of age or gender, as part of your military training. The minimum requirements will instead vary by job or unit.

The test has six events that assess your ability to perform physical tasks you may encounter in combat conditions:

  1. Strength deadlift: You must perform a three-repetition deadlift, with the weight increased with each repetition. The weight range of the deadlift is 120 to 420 pounds. The deadlifts replicate picking up ammunition boxes, a wounded soldier, supplies or heavy equipment.
  2. Standing power throw: You will need to toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test the muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift yourself or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
  3. Hand-release pushups: You will have two minutes to do as many hand-release pushups as possible. Depending on your job, there may be a minimum number you are required to complete. These are similar to traditional pushups, but at the down position you lift your hands and arms from the ground and then reset to do another pushup.
  4. Sprint/drag/carry: You must run five times up and down a 25-meter lane, sprinting, dragging a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then carrying two 40-pound kettlebell weights. This can simulate pulling a soldier out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
  5. Leg tuck: Similar to a pull-up, you must lift your legs up and down to touch your knees/thighs to your elbows between one and five times. This exercise strengthens the core muscles.
  6. Two-mile run: This is a timed run to build endurance and cardiovascular strength.

All of these events must be completed in under 50 minutes.

Scoring the ACFT test

Scoring for the ACFT is still being finalized, and its minimum scores may change depending on your occupational specialty. If you are in a more physically demanding job, you may see tougher minimums.

Look below for a snapshot of changes coming to the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Need help or inspiration to get ready for your next test? Contact Military OneSource’s Health and Wellness Coaching online or call 800-342-9647 and a Military OneSource consultant will register you and schedule your first session with a health and wellness coach.

Comparing the Old and New Army Fitness Tests

Current Army Physical Fitness Test New Army Combat Fitness Test (October 2020)
Number of Events    3    6
Events Pushups, sit-ups, two-mile run Strength deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release, pushup, sprint/drag/carry, leg truck, two-mile run
Standards Based on age and gender Based on job and unit
Maximum time to complete 2 hours 50 minutes
Minimum score to pass 180 (60 on each test) Based on physical requirements of job