Deciding Which Branch of the Military is Best for You
Figuring out which branch of the military you should join is a decision of incredible importance. There are a great deal of variables to consider before making the visit to the recruiter's office to get the ball rolling, and it's important to be a little familiar with the role, requirements, and nature of of each branch before deciding which military branch is best for you. Naturally, everyone joins for various reason; some, for travel and others for experience, and so on. Figuring out what your aspirations and why you want to join the military will give you much better insight into which branch you should join. For the sake of clarification, this article will cover the scope of enlisting in the military, as opposed to going in as a commissioned officer, which is an entirely different process, with its own set of prerequisites, standards, and process.
In no particular order of branch, we'll look at a few of the biggest considerations before deciding on a branch to join:
- Prerequisites: All branches require enlistees to take the ASVAB and pass a physical examination. Each branch has different scoring requirements for ASVAB scores, but the physical is primarily universal.
- Military Job Opportunities: Each division of the military excels at offering different types of jobs. Figuring out what military job is most compelling to you is essential in figuring out which branch you should join.
- Prerequisites: Air Force personnel are required to score a minimum of a 36/99 on the ASVAB. Your recruiter, regardless of branch, should explain that the ASVAB is divided up into different parts, covering different topics. But what's important at the start is understanding that the "Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT)" score is the main scoring element that determines a future candidates eligibility. This general scoring tells you immediately if you qualify.
- Job Opportunities: As you might expect, joining the Air Force will give an enlistee the opportunity to pursue a career path centered largely around the field of aviation, if that's the aim. There are tons of jobs within the Air Force, that in no way require you to be around planes. But ultimately, the newly revised mission of this branch is to "fly and fight in Air, Space and Cyberspace" and regardless of your assignment, at the heart of it will be in support of that mission statement.
- Prerequisites: Future sailors need to score at least a 35/99 on the ASVAB-AFQT to qualify. Slightly lower than, but much like the Air Force, this number is usually far exceeded by the majority of people who enlist in the Navy
- Job Opportunities: Although it's mostly common sense, someone who joins the Navy will be operating in support of the Navy's mission statement: "to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas." As with all branches, this will take on any number of forms, as the Navy not only requires people to man its warships and submarines, but also shore and sea-based medical personnel, intelligence personnel, administrative personnel, masters-at-arms (MPs), etc. In the vast majority of cases, however, joining the Navy very frequently demands that you will spend time on a ship.
- Prerequisites: Although still regarded as a department of the Navy (frequently touted as the "men's department"), the Marines have their own standards, nature, prereqs, and other components that in no way reflect the Navy's. In order to qualify for Marine enlistment, a candidate must score a minimum of a 32 ASVAB-AFQT. Although most other branches provide waivers in the event a promising recruit didn't quite make the cut, the Marines are among the strictest in applying this scoring standard.
- Job Opportunities: As a primarily grounded force, there is a huge selection of field and combat-oriented jobs in the Marines. With a mission widely different from that of the Navy and the Air Force, the bulk of the duty assignments in the Marines are more aggressive while the Navy and Air Force are largely supportive. Although there are many job opportunities available in the Marines that little deal with combat, it's certainly not for the faint of heart. If the thought of fighting in combat in the traditional sense aligns with your pursuits, then joining the Marines may be a good option for you.
- Prerequisites: Certainly the largest of the Armed Forces, the Army requires that its soldiers score a minimum of 31 on the AFQT to enlist. Unlike the Marines, in the event an enlistee doesn't quite make the cut in terms of score, it is a bit easier to acquire a waiver to make an exception.
- Job Opportunities: Not unlike the Marines, the Army is largely a ground/combat oriented force, with a mission to preserve U.S. interests in a more aggressive, rather than supportive way. As with all branches, depending on your ASVAB scoring, you may qualify for any number of jobs within the Army that don't necessarily require you to see combat. Keep in mind, however that due to the nature of the Army, the lion share of its members are required to fill some type of field-intensive role.
- Travel: Regardless of branch, joining the military is a sure fire way to see places you've never seen. At some point, except in very rare circumstances, you'll end up in places you never could have predicted going. Although it is possible to somewhat alter your scope of duty station options based on what job you take, how well you perform, and what political connections you have, 99 times out of 100, you will be stationed according to the needs of your branch. Generally speaking, if you're wanting to be relocated and have a single station or office-like job for a full enlistment, joining the Navy probably isn't the wisest course of action. As for the other branches, the biggest factor in predicting your final duty station is easily in the job you select during the recruiting process.