Is ROTC for me?

One sure thing that happens every time I tell someone I am joining the Army Reserve (after the exclamations that I have no idea what I’m doing and the horror stories meant to scare me out of it) is the suggestion to think about joining the ROTC instead. It is usually followed by a halfway accurate pitch about the program intended to educate me more about my decision.

The U.S. Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) is a program offered through universities that will leave you with the skills you need to become an Officer in the Army without working your way through level-entry positions to get there. It is in fact a good path for many people thinking about joining the military. It is important to keep in mind though that, like any military path, it has its unique characteristics and commitments that one should be aware of before signing up. Read on to find out if this path is right for you or your loved one.

Why become an Officer?
In the Army there is a pay scale where you get paid based off how long you have been there and what your rank is. If you want to see a chart that lays this out for you, click this link. The ranking is at the top of the chart, or the x-axis (and here I thought I’d never use what I learned in HS algebra), while the amount of time spent in the Army is shown on the y-axis. If you find the point where both your rank and service time intersect on the chart, you will see what your monthly salary is.

As you can see if you followed the link, the Officer chart is on an entirely different page than regular soldiers (enlisted personnel). This is because Officers in general get paid way more than enlisted personnel.

In addition to higher pay, Officers enjoy increased training opportunities and leadership positions. They have all the same benefits as soldiers, plus more. Some of these extra benefits include free housing and discounted travels. You can also receive a special ROTC scholarship if you commit to serving 4 years in the Army full-time.

Can I go to school/work if I am in the ROTC?

Yes! During college, ROTC is just one of your classes like all your other classes you go to 1-2 times a week (except, obviously, more awesome). Therefore, you are free to do what you want with your time outside of class, whether that’s getting a job, participating in school clubs, or binge-watching Netflix (I mean studying).

***** What is the commitment? *****

Taking a basic ROTC course at your university does not require any certain commitment from you about joining the Army. You will have a couple years to decide while you are taking the classes.

However, if you decide to get the ROTC scholarship, you need to commit to 4 years of active duty military service (as mentioned above) and 5 years in the reserves. Even without the scholarship, once you complete two years of the ROTC program, you need to either commit or leave the program. For non-scholarship students, the commitment is 3 years of active duty service and 5 additional years in the reserves.

You also must be a fulltime student who meets certain physical and GPA requirements to be involved in the ROTC.

Is there an ROTC for other military branches?
There are ROTC programs for the Air Force and Navy. Navy ROTC graduates have the option to join the Marines instead of the Navy if they meet the Marines admission requirements. For more information, see your school’s ROTC website.

What does this mean for me?

I think the ROTC is an amazing program with much to offer prospective military Officers. It isn’t for everyone because of the requirements, commitments, or just personal preference. In my case, I’m not in the right place in my life to commit to active-duty military service. I have job internships lined up that would interfere with my service.

Who knows, maybe someday I will end up in active duty, and possibly even an Officer. But for me it will the long, hard route rather than through the Officer training program, and that's okay.


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