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Military Careers: How To Become an Officer in the US Army

Leadership skills are valuable skills that can benefit you throughout many workplace experiences. A great way to develop leadership skills is through training and serving as an active-duty United States Army officer. Officers in the U.S. Army build these skills through rigorous educational courses and training programs that prepare them for the highly respected role as a U.S. Army officer.

In this article, we highlight the duties of a U.S. Army officer, their requirements and how to become an officer in the U.S. Army.

Key takeaways:

  • Army officers are the primary decision-makers in the U.S. Army, leading and commanding the lower ranks and ensuring the safety of the soldiers and service members they’re responsible for managing.

  • The Army requires prospective officers to be at least 17 years old, have a high school diploma and pass both a medical and a physical exam.

  • People who aspire to become Army officers can attend an ROTC program, join the U.S. Military Academy, enroll in officer candidate school or become a direct commission officer.

What does an officer in the US Army do?

An officer in the U.S. Army serves a leadership role within the U.S. Army. They are often the main decision-makers and will give commands to lower ranks. One of their main responsibilities is to ensure the safety of the U.S. Army members and soldiers below them. U.S. Army officers are expected to possess strong leadership characteristics, critical thinking abilities and problem-solving skills.

If a U.S. Army officer decides to leave the U.S. Army, they are often qualified to pursue other management and leadership roles within various workplaces. Additionally, if U.S. Army officers continue performing and leading their team effectively, their chances of receiving promotions to higher ranks with larger responsibilities may increase.

Related: Enlisted vs. Officer Ranks in the Military: A Complete Guide

The average US Army officer salary

National average salary: $51,875 per year

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

U.S. Army officers work in management and leadership roles and may serve for longer hours than typical full-time positions. Many officers are responsible for employees who work directly below them, so officers may assist these employees any time they are needed regardless of whether they are currently clocked into a shift.

US Army officer requirements

Before becoming a U.S. Army officer—or before even applying to become an officer—students must be trained and qualified. It’s often preferred students receive a four-year education before pursuing a U.S. Army officer role. To become an officer in the U.S. Army, you should meet the following requirements:

  • Be 17 years or older when you submit your application.

  • Graduate high school.

  • Pass a medical exam.

  • Pass a physical exam.

How to become an officer in the US Army

There are many paths you can follow to pursue a position as an officer in the U.S. Army. Many people will attend a four-year college and enroll in a training program once they graduate. Others may enlist in the U.S. Army once they complete high school, then receive promotions from there.

Below are the various options available to become an officer in the U.S. Army:

Attend an ROTC program

The U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is a training program offered by the U.S. Army that trains candidates for leadership roles, such as U.SA. Various colleges and universities offer this program.

If you’re interested in becoming a U.S. Army officer through the ROTC program, follow the steps below:

1. Talk with your high school academic adviser

Your high school adviser should have information regarding U.S. Army officer positions. They should at least be able to connect you with a U.S. Army officer representative who can help you search for colleges containing U.S. Army ROTC courses to help you train for the program. They may also find you different scholarship opportunities.

2. Meet with a US Army enrollment officer on your campus

If you’re currently enrolled in an undergraduate program and want to pursue a U.S. Army officer position, meet with your institution’s U.S. Army enrollment officer. If your institution doesn’t have one, you can research U.S. Army enrollment officers online to connect with one. They can help you find available U.S. Army officer training, courses and even scholarship opportunities.

3. Enroll in the simultaneous membership program

Another option while in college is to enlist in the U.S. Army Reserve or National Guard while still attending school. You can serve as an officer trainee while receiving payment for your time serving in the U.S. Army Reserve or National Guard.

4. Participate in Cadet Initial Entry Training

During college, you can participate in a training program lasting approximately 28 days in Fort Knox, Kentucky. You can return to campus once you’ve completed this training. There is an advanced course you can enroll in once you return to campus. When each course is complete, you will have finished the training and are qualified to become a U.S. Army officer.

Join the US Military Academy

The U.S. Military Academy (also known as West Point) offers an undergraduate college education to help students develop leadership skills and other qualities needed to become a U.S. Army officer. Follow the steps below to become an officer in the U.S. Army through the U.S. Military Academy.

1. Apply for the academy

To apply for the academy, students should be between the ages of 17 and 23, unmarried, congressionally nominated for the program, a U.S. citizen and have strong ACT or SAT scores. Since competition is high, it’s recommended students begin the application process in their junior year of high school.

2. Begin your undergraduate training

Once accepted into the academy, you will begin receiving a basic undergraduate education along with basic military training to prepare for life as a U.S. Army soldier.

3. Graduate from the military academy

After you’ve completed all the necessary training and courses, you can successfully graduate. Upon graduation, you will immediately receive a U.S. Army officer rank and will begin serving as an active-duty U.S. Army soldier and officer.

Enroll in officer candidate school

Officer candidate school is one of the most common ways to become an officer in the U.S. Army. Follow the steps below to become an officer through officer candidate school.

1. Receive a four-year college degree

You can attend any undergraduate program before enrolling in officer candidate school. You can also be a college graduate who is already serving in the U.S. Army.

2. Make sure you meet the enrollment requirements

Before you apply to officer candidate school, ensure you have received your undergraduate degree, are a U.S. citizen between the ages of 19 and 32, have no more than six years of Active Federal Service and are eligible for security clearance.

3. Attend officer candidate school training

Once you’ve been accepted into officer candidate school, your training will begin. The training is approximately 12 weeks long and covers leadership, basic combat and tactical training.

4. Complete testing after receiving training

After training, the final phase of candidate school consists of candidates leading a team during an 18-week field training mission. You will be tested on your leadership abilities throughout this mission.

5. Graduate from officer candidate school

Once you’ve successfully passed your leadership test, you can proudly graduate and become a U.S. Army officer.

Some U.S. Army officers also receive their title after serving as a soldier for several years and gaining promotions. Once they have served for multiple years, higher ranks can recommend a promotion to a U.S. Army officer. If this happens, they can attend officer candidate school and receive an advanced rank upon graduation.

Become a direct commission officer

Direct commission officer positions differ from average U.S. Army officer roles. These are usually offered to employees who have received a position either in the medical, chaplaincy, technology or law career fields. Below are the possible positions you can receive as a direct commission officer:

US Army medical team member

Serving on the U.S. Army medical team involves providing care for soldiers and their families. If you serve on the USA Army medical team. The U.S. Army health care team accepts nurses, dentists, physicians, veterinarians, physical and occupational therapists and more.

US Army Chaplain Corps officer

This opportunity is available to trained chaplains interested in religiously serving soldiers and their families. The U.S. Army searches for chaplains to serve soldiers of all religious denominations. Chaplains will often serve in hospital ministries to provide religious services as well as marriage and family counseling.

US Army Cyber Command officer

A career as a U.S. Army cyber officer is available to college graduates who received college degrees in development operations engineering, software engineering, machine learning engineering or any other related field of study. U.S. Army cyber officers work within the U.S. Army to implement tools and software that can help enhance the lives and work performance of soldiers.

Judge Advocate Champion Justice

If you have a law degree, you may qualify to serve in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. You will be trained in disciplines such as tort claims, legal law, labor laws and international laws. Once you’ve gained education regarding these fields, you can represent members of the U.S. Army regarding various legal matters.



Military Careers: How To Become an Officer in the US Army
Military Careers: How To Become an Officer in the US Army

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