You’re interested in joining the military, but you’re not sure which branch is right for you. With so much at stake, the choice can seem overwhelming.
The five branches of military include the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force. Here, we’ll give you a breakdown of what each branch has to offer in order to assist you in making the right decision about your future with the military.
The Army provides land dominance capable of defeating enemy ground forces. As the oldest and largest branch of the military, founded in 1775, the Army has a lot to offer.
- While there are aviation units, most jobs within the Army are to serve ground forces and you’ll gain a lot of “in the field” experience.
- Certain Army Combat Arms units including Special Forces, the infantry, and Rangers require additional rigorous training and provide an outlet for highly patriotic people who are extremely passionate about serving our country.
- Relatively flexible lifestyle but due to its history, you’ll still have a strong sense of military honor.
- There are additional opportunities within the Army Reserves and National Guard.
Also established in 1775, the Navy defends the seas and is a main supporter of the Air Force. Although the Navy is associated with seafaring duties, they also accomplish missions on land and in the air.
- Most jobs will serve on ships and are required to be deployed at sea for long periods of time.
- A good choice for people who want to travel.
- Less rigid compared to other branches of the military but for more intensity, you’ll have opportunities to serve with special operations forces such as the Navy SEALs, Navy EOD, SWCC, and SAR swimmers.
- There are additional opportunities within the Navy Reserves.
Originally a sub-branch of the Navy, the Marines became their own entity in 1798 after ground missions became one of the main functions of their operation. But, they’re still heavily supported by Naval command.
- A deeply proud and loyal branch of the military and perfect for those wishing to serve their country with the utmost commitment.
- You’re likely find yourself deployed at sea for long periods.
- Jobs in the Marines are extremely hands-on in the sense of using guns and being on the front lines of combat.
- Positions for medical personnel are unavailable since the Marines are supported by the Navy medical corps.
- Rigorous training is involved.
- There are additional opportunities within the Marines Reserves.
U.S. Air Force
The Air Force provides security to the nation through air and space control. As the newest branch of the military, formed in 1947, there are many exciting opportunities in the Air Force.
- For those interested in becoming a pilot, the Air Force will have the most opportunities to fly planes and helicopters.
- Considered to have the highest “quality of life” when compared to the other branches of the military.
- The Air Force is the most difficult branch to get into due to its high educational standards.
- Often deployed for long periods of time.
- There are additional opportunities within the Air Force Reserves and National Guard.
U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard, established in 1790, is sometimes forgotten as a branch of the military because of its small size. Yet, even though it differs from other branches of the military because of its primarily domestic, peacetime duties, the Coast Guard has a lot to offer potential recruits.
- Mostly provides jobs in law enforcement, ocean rescue, immigration, and safety.
- Due to its small size, you’re not guaranteed the job you want since there are not as many missions to complete.
- There are additional opportunities within the Coast Guard Reserves.
How to Decide
Now that you know a bit more about each branch of the military, you may already have an idea of which one may be best for you. But even so, it’s best to write out a list of what you’re looking for and compare it to what each branch offers.
- Be honest about your educational qualifications and physical abilities. For example, the Air Force may not be your best choice with a lower ASVAB score in the same way the Marines is probably not for you if physical fitness isn’t your forte.
- Understand that, all else being equal, you won’t get paid more in one branch versus another. Your best chance of increasing pay is choosing the branch that best fits your interests with the idea being you’ll do well if you like what you do.
- Think about the career you see yourself having and inquire whether or not the branch you’re interested in offers that opportunity. The larger branches like the Army and Navy have the most opportunities.
- Consider your personal life and whether or not long deployments or intense training are things you can manage. Perhaps if you have a family, service in the Coast Guard or the Army with shorter deployments would be best.
- Talk with a recruiter, but first, reach out to people who have served in each branch to fully wrap your head around what it’s really like. You’ll want to have an idea of your choice before going to the recruitment office. Otherwise, there’s a chance you’ll get swayed based on that branch’s needs at the time versus making your own decision.
Overall, joining the military is a very important decision as this is a commitment you can’t back out of. All five branches of the military offer life-changing opportunities to have an enriching career based on honor, courage, and service. But with a minimum service requirement of eight years once you sign (including Reserves time), it’s worth the time and effort to do your research to the best of your ability.