Which Branch?

U.S. Navy Fighter Jets

Enlistment Information

There are five main branches of the U.S. military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy. Enlistment in any of these will be a full-time commitment for the amount of time stated in your contract. There are also seven reserve components: Air Force Reserve, Army Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Marine Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air National Guard, and Army National Guard. (For an explanation of how active duty, Reserve and National Guard differ from each other, click here. For more information about just Reserve and National Guard service, as well as suggestions on how to choose between the two, try here.) Enlistment in any of these may be part-time or full-time depending on the needs of the organization and the terms of your contract. If you already know which one you'd like to join, just skip down and check the 'Eligibility' section below to make sure you qualify. If you haven't picked a branch yet, then deciding which one to join will be a balance between three things: 1) what you are eligible for, 2) what the terms of service are like, and 3) what offers the best benefits and opportunities for you. In each of the three sections below you'll find links to official information on those subjects; however, your best bet will ultimately be to talk to people with experience in whichever branches you're interested in. So whether these be friends, family, acquaintances, or recruiters, try to get together and see what they consider makes for a successful service member in each different branch — however, also keep in mind that the real differences lie more between different jobs than between different branches, so you may be a good fit for multiple areas of service. If you have not already been through the "Is the Military Right for Me" page, we also encourage you to check out the linked article on "What the Recruiter Never Told You" for tons of information that can help you better understand what life will actually be like in the military, as well as information that may be able to help you make important choices when enlisting.


Use any of the links below to learn more about what each different branch looks for in its recruits. (It is recommended to check the basic overview at top before proceeding to the more specific requirements further down.)


Terms of Service

All members of the military sign the same basic enlistment contract, which you can view here. However, each area of service will offer somewhat different job opportunities, so look to the links below for full listings of current career options:

(One thing to remember: not all jobs are available at all times. Some are more popular choices and fill up immediately, and others are perpetually undermanned, so it is usually best to be somewhat open-minded in what role you're willing to take on.)

Possible Benefits and Opportunities

Next Step: How to Enlist

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