So you’re ready to rush off to a recruiter and ask about joining the military? Only problem is, you’re not sure what questions to ask. Don’t worry — you’ve come to the right place.
Never go into a military recruiter’s office without knowing what information you want to learn. Of course, they already have a great sales pitch ready for you. But don’t make any decisions simply off that information. Dig deep and get specific.
If you do decide to join any branch of the military, your entire career will be affected by what you decide to sign up for. In other words, in that little office, at that recruiter’s desk, you will make a choice that impacts the rest of your life. No pressure, right?
So what questions should you ask a military recruiter?
Questions to Ask a Military Recruiter
Perhaps the most important question is one you should think long and hard about, because it will determine the course of your military career. So ask—
What’s the difference between an officer and enlisted?
An officer must possess a bachelor’s degree. If you do not have one, you can obtain one through an officer commissioning program. Depending on how much college you’ve already completed, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks (if you already have a degree) up to 5 years (if you haven’t completed any college and want to major in a STEM field).
Officers are trained to be leaders and managers, and make up ~18% of the military population.
A person can enlist with simply a high school diploma or equivalent, making it a much faster route for most people. 82% of military members are enlisted personnel, so you certainly won’t be alone!
Which branch of service is best for me—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard?
It’s recommended to speak to recruiters from at least two different branches, so you can compare and contrast what the jobs and lifestyles will be like. Don’t base your decision off of things you see in the movies. You need to find the best match for you, your aptitudes and interests, and your physical abilities and personality.
Once you pin down the answers to these major questions, it’s time to move on…
For more, read an in-depth article on which branch of the military you should join.
Best Questions to Ask a Military Recruiter
Before going much further in the decision-making process, you should have an idea about if you want to enlist or be an officer, and about which branch of service to join. But even if you haven’t made up your mind, you can still keep gathering information.
Just don’t let them rush you. Take your time at the recruiter’s office, and focus first on the questions below.
How do my ASVAB scores affect my options?
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is, as the name suggests, designed to help recruiters determine the most suitable career field options for you. A lower score in one section could disqualify you for some careers. If that happens, ask about retesting or about waivers.
What are the physical fitness requirements?
Each branch has different requirements for fitness. To get through initial training, you’ll have to be able to pass a fitness test, and once you’re in the military you must pass annual fitness tests, too. Ask what you need to do to be ready! Too many recruits fail to plan ahead for the rigors of training, and wash out before ever beginning duty.
What jobs do I qualify for?
You are volunteering to work for the military. You don’t have to take any job they offer, unless you leave it up to them. Why would you do that? If you’re enlisting, ask about your options based on your ASVAB scores. If you want to be an officer, ask about the specific testing requirements for that branch.
Recruiters are not “out to get you,” but they do exist for a reason—to find the most qualified applicants to fill job vacancies for the military. The military is one of the largest employers in the world and has a very high turnover rate, so recruitment never stops.
But there are always certain jobs which have more openings, and which are harder to fill. There are many reasons why some career fields are difficult to recruit for, but recruiters are tasked to place people in those jobs no matter what.
What does this mean for you? It means, ask lots of questions! A recruiter won’t lie to you, but they do often have a direction they’d like to steer you…and they’ve got tons of experience doing that. Don’t leave it up to the recruiter to decide what job you’re going to do!
What are disqualifying medical factors?
Apart from poor ASVAB scores, applicants may also be disqualified from serving in certain fields based on an existing medical condition. If you are color blind, for instance, you might not be allowed to work in an electrician job. Some medical conditions will disqualify you from service entirely, but others simply restrict you from a specific career. The recruiter will go through your medical history with you, up to a point, but they do not conduct medical exams. That comes later.
What are other disqualifying factors?
Recruiters will want to know details about prior drug or alcohol use, as well as criminal records or other involvements with the police. In some cases, prior substance abuse can disqualify an applicant. So can a felony conviction. Be honest about your past.
If I sign up, how long do I have to serve?
Your minimum Military Service Obligation depends on many factors. The average commitment is four to six years of active duty service, and four more years in the Reserves. Pilots may incur a ten year service commitment. It all depends on which job you end up with.
What are deployments like for the career field I’m interested in?
Don’t ask “will I go to war?” It’s the military. The possibility of deploying to a combat zone always exists.
A recruiter cannot tell you whether you will or will not ever deploy (but you probably will). They can offer you information about what a deployment is like for a certain career field. Deployment for an Army tank operator will obviously be a lot different than an Air Force personnel specialist! So ask them to describe some situations.
Where will I live if I join the military?
Okay, a recruiter has no way to know where you’ll wind up, location-wise. You’ll get an opportunity to select military installations you’d “like” to be assigned to. Your options will be based on your career field.
In other words, there are not openings for all jobs at all bases. So a recruiter could give you a list of where troops in specific careers usually work, but there is absolutely no way for them to predict where you’ll actually be stationed. The only exception to this is that Guard and Reserve members typically work in the state where they signed up.
Should I go Active Duty, Guard, or Reserves?
Duty location isn’t the only difference between service on active duty versus Guard or Reserve duty. Your time commitment, pay, retirement benefits… all are affected by this consideration. Guess who is also affected? Your loved ones! Life on active duty involves being on-the-go, potentially living around the world for years or even decades.
More Good Questions to Ask a Military Recruiter
Most of the answers to the questions on this part of our list can be found online, which is why they didn’t make the cut for “best questions.” (Plus our best questions list tries to focus on issues which will affect you long-term, versus short-term things such as “do I need a haircut for basic training?”)
Nonetheless, asking a live recruiter about these things will help you understand some nuances or clear up anything you may not understand. So let’s go!
What will my income be?
Military pay is a matter of public record, and easily looked up on the current Defense Finance and Accounting Service Pay Tables. But in order to look up what your pay will be, you first need to know if you’ll be enlisted or if you’re shooting for an officer commission, since this will greatly affect how much you make.
Also, military members do not draw a straight salary the way civilian jobs do. Pay is broken down into different categories, such as Basic Pay (based on your pay grade and years in service), Basic Allowance for Housing (based on your duty station’s zip code), plus various incentive pays. A recruiter can help you calculate your total pay based on certain scenarios—for example, if you’re an ensign stationed at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, and are married with two children.
What are the other employee benefits?
Comprehensive medical and dental care, lots of paid vacation days, generous college tuition benefits, a guaranteed pension after 20 years of honorable service… these are but a few of the many great benefits the military offers. All recruiters are happy to review these with you, so take the time to ask for specifics.
What are the college tuition benefits for my situation?
It’s no secret, the military offers tuition benefits as a major incentive to recruit new troops. The type and level of college tuition benefits you’ll receive will depend on if you enlist or go the commissioned officer route. Most enlistees receive very generous tuition benefits while serving on active duty, but of course this usually involves taking classes part-time at night and/or online.
Service members usually also qualify for incredible G.I. Bill benefits which they can save for use after they separate. In many cases, those benefits can even be transferred to dependents! That can add up to a significant amount of money, so talk through some scenarios with your recruiter.
How can I learn more about a particular job?
The best way to find out what a military job is “really like” is from somebody who actually does it. Recruiters know this, which is why almost every branch of service has made short videos featuring glimpses into the day-to-day life of people working in specific careers.
Want to know what it’s like to be a Cryptologic Technician in the Navy? There’s a video for that. Want to be put in touch with someone actually doing the job? Ask the recruiter if they can arrange it.
20 More Questions to Ask a Military Recruiter
If you’re still thirsty for more information after asking all of the above questions, then here’s twenty more to fire at them! Some are short-term, others are geared to look far down the road.
- How would you compare the different branches of military service?
- How exactly does the recruitment process work?
- Can I decide when I want to begin?
- What are the do’s and don’ts for going to basic training?
- What is the technical training like for the career I want, and how long is it?
- What happens if I do not complete my basic or career training satisfactorily?
- What if I change my mind at some point during training, and want to get out?
- What will be my rank when I arrive at my first duty location?
- How can I get promoted quickly?
- Should I volunteer to go overseas for my first duty location?
- What are the pros and cons of being stationed overseas?
- Can I change my job later if it is not right for me?
- If I want to stay in beyond my first term of service commitment, what should I do?
- If I enlist, can I become an officer later?
- Do I receive any college credits for my military training?
- What educational opportunities does my branch of service provide?
- How does military service benefit me as a civilian, after I seperate?
- What happens if I am injured or worse in the line of duty?
- How does the military retirement plan work?
- How do I interact with Veterans Affairs after I separate?
Print these questions off and feel free to take them with you when you visit a military recruiter. They love to see people who are well-prepared and who take the appointment seriously. To make an appointment with a local recruiter, you can use the below numbers or websites to find one. Best of luck in your potential new career!
For more prep, read about what to wear when meeting your recruiter.
Army National Guard
Marine Corps Reserve
Air Force Reserve
Air National Guard
Coast Guard Reserve