It’s common to think of newly enlisted soldiers to be in their late teens and early 20s. Sure, that’s when many people join the military but if you’re 30 or older, you might be surprised to know that it’s not too late to serve your country.
At the federal level, the maximum age you can be to join the military is 42 but some branches have stricter standards based on their specific requirements.
The breakdown of age limits to enlist in the various military branches are as follows:
- Active Duty Army, Army Reserves, and Army National Guard: 42
- Air National Guard: 40
- Active Duty Air Force, Navy Reserves, Coast Guard Reserves: 39
- Air Force Reserves: 35
- Active Duty Navy: 34
- Marine Corps Reserves: 29
- Active Duty Marines: 28
- Active Duty Coast Guard: 27
Military Special Forces have age limits in which soldiers must fall between as well. These limits are as follows:
- Army Special Forces: 20 to 30
- Air Force PJ/CCT: Under 28
- Navy SEALs: 17 to 28
If you don’t meet these age requirements but you are still passionate and able to complete the job necessary, you can apply for a waiver in order to join certain branches of the military.
Joining the Military at 30 with a College Degree
Having a college degree when you join the military gives you a leg up on your peers who don’t have the same level of education. You’ll enter the military at a higher rank and have more opportunities for promotion.
There are two ways to enter the military when you have a college degree at 30: enlisted or as an officer.
If you’re planning to join the military at age 30 with a Bachelor’s degree and you go the enlisted route, you’ll automatically be ranked as an E-4. The starting salary in most cases will be around $2,200 a month.
The second route is by entering as an officer. You still go to Basic Training like everyone else but the difference is that you come in as an O-1 with a base salary of around $3,189 per month (which is the same as an E-5). If you have enlisted time in addition to entering as an officer, you’ll rank as an O-1E which bumps up your salary to $4,012 a month.
The benefit of enlisting rather than entering the military as an officer is that you have more control over your career with the ability to choose your job but the downside is lower pay. Officers have the benefit of not living in the barracks, too, which is definitely a plus for most soldiers.
Benefits of Joining the Military at 30
So, why would someone want to join the military at 30 or later? There’s got to be some sort of benefits.
In general, the benefits of joining the military at 30 are the same as when you join at any age. A guaranteed paycheck, education benefits, training, travel, healthcare, discounts, and the honor of serving your country, just to name a few.
Yet, when you join the military at 30, you probably have things that young enlisted or officers don’t have.
Most often, you’ll have a degree or some form of formal training if you’re 30 and joining the military. That means, as previously mentioned, that you’re likely to get promoted faster and reap more benefits.
It’s also more likely that you’ll have a spouse and children. When you do, this means you won’t be living in the barracks since you’ll receive a basic housing allowance (or BAH) regardless of whether you’re an enlisted soldier or an officer from the get-go.
Plus, with the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you’re able to transfer education benefits to a spouse or child which can be life-changing for a family, especially if you’ve already earned a degree before joining.
Joining the Military at 30 as a Female
It hasn’t always been the case, but now, females are eligible to join every branch of the military so long as they meet the requirements. Plus, with age restrictions recently lifted, even women over 30 can enlist in most of the military branches. Just know that it won’t come without its challenges.
Young women still struggle to overcome stereotypes of being too weak or too distracting for military performance so older women might have an even more difficult time.
Older men and women alike still need to meet strenuous fitness standards and it will often be far more difficult to get in shape alongside your much younger counterparts. That’s not saying it’s impossible by any means, but you should be prepared to work hard.
Additionally, if you’re a mother, which many women over 30 are, it’s something to consider that you’ll be spending a lot of time away from your children. If you have a supportive partner who has a job that allows them to take care of the children while you’re away, it’s more than doable. In fact, it may help break down some civilian stereotypes concerning who should be caring for children and who should be out in the field.
Joining the Military at 30 with a PhD
The basic requirement for entering the military as an officer is that you have a Bachelor’s degree. So, with a PhD, you’ve obviously already met that requirement. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enlist or shouldn’t enlist instead of entering as an officer.
As previously mentioned, enlisted soldiers have more control over their careers so if you’re looking to do a specific job with your skills like serving in the medical sector or as a lawyer, for example, you might have an easier time enlisting at the start.
If you’ve already earned your PhD, it will come in handy down the track in your career with the military. In order for anyone to be promoted to certain ranks, you’ll have no choice but to earn a more advanced degree which many soldiers obtain while serving. This can give you an advantage when moving up the ranks since all you’ll really need to worry about is your military-specific education.
Joining the Military at 30 with a Master’s Degree
Similar to the other degree types that have been mentioned, entering the service with a Master’s degree is certainly beneficial in the long run, especially if you plan to have a long military career.
You’ll have the option to enter either as enlisted or as an officer and you’ll have more opportunities to advance in ranking. You’ll be able to focus solely on your military studies and potentially learn even more skills than your peers since you’ll have more spare time since you’ve already completed an advanced degree.