Military Service Branches
The U.S. Military consists of five active-duty Services and their respective Guard and Reserve units.
ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) Programs
Founded in 1926, ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps. It’s a college program offered at more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the United States that prepares young adults to become officers in the U.S. Military. In exchange for a paid college education and a guaranteed post-college career, cadets commit to serve in the Military after graduation. Each Service branch has its own take on ROTC.
For students who would like to experience a military environment while getting a first-class education, the four Service academies offer an outstanding education and full four-year scholarships. Tuition, books, board and medical and dental care are all fully paid for all four years. The competition to get in is fierce. Admissions criteria include:
- High school academic performance
- Standardized test scores (SAT or ACT)
- Athletics and extracurricular activities
- Leadership experience and community involvement
- A congressional letter of recommendation (not required by the Coast Guard
Graduates of all four academies receive a Bachelor of Science degree and are commissioned as officers in their respective Service branch. In all cases, there is a service obligation of a minimum of five years.
Senior Military Colleges
The Senior Military Colleges (SMCs) offer a combination of higher education with military instruction. SMCs are among the most prestigious and famous education institutions in the world and they offer financial aid packages for eligible students. Every cadet must participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, but only those cadets who receive an ROTC scholarship are required to enter military service following graduation. For example, about half of Virginia Military Institute’s cadets earn commissions as second lieutenants (Army, Marine Corps, Air Force) or ensigns (Navy).
Merchant Marine Academies
Midshipmen at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., receive full scholarships in exchange for a service obligation in the Merchant Marine Reserve or Navy Reserve. The other Merchant Marine academies also produce shipboard officers for vessels integral to shipping and transportation needs, but a service commitment is not always required.