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Home > Academics and Advising > College Planning > Military Service - Officer Pathways
Military Service - Officer Pathways
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In this article we will explore college pathways to military service. If your student is interested in enlisted opportunities, please see our Military Service - Enlisted Pathways article.


Military Service Academies

The Military Service Academies offer a "free" education to admitted students. A service academy education is highly structured and disciplined, but also provides unique and dynamic opportunities for personal and professional growth. A service academy education incurs a service commitment, and graduates of a service academy will go on to serve as commissioned officers in the U.S. Armed Forces. Upon completing their service commitment, graduates may pursue careers in the military or civilian world.


Kolbe students receive appointments to these highly competitive institutions every year. Your Family Advisor can support your service academy application, but it is important that each student do their own research to understand the entry requirements, deadlines, and procedures in addition to the commitment involved in a service academy education. Please see The White House Steps for the Service Academies Application Process for an excellent summary of the process that applies to all of the service academies.


U.S. Air Force Academy Admissions (USAFA)

Colorado Springs, Colorado


U.S. Naval Academy Admissions (USNA)

Annapolis, Maryland


U.S. Military Academy West Point Admissions (USMA)

West Point, New York


U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA)
New London, Connecticut


Federal Service Academy

The United States Merchant Marine Academy is a federal service academy whose graduates serve the national security, marine transportation, and economic needs of the United States as licensed Merchant Marine Officers and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. Like the military academies, graduates incur a service commitment. They can serve five years on active duty in any of the nation's Armed Forces or work five years in the U.S. maritime industry with an additional eight-year commitment of service as an officer in any reserve unit of the Armed Forces.


U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA)
Kings Point, New York


The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is a college program at 1,700+ US colleges that prepares students to become US Military officers. ROTC trains college students for service in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, or Space Force. Students can join as freshmen or later. Reasons for joining vary, from skills development to scholarships, Tuition Assistance (TA), and a desire to serve. You will earn college credit for your ROTC coursework, which will focus heavily on preparation for leadership in the military. Outside of ROTC, cadets have the same lifestyles and academic schedules as any other college students.


If you have received an ROTC scholarship or complete the entire ROTC program, you must agree to serve as an officer after graduation. Currently, a college graduate who is commissioned through ROTC is placed on active or reserve duty, depending on his or her desires and on the needs of the service at the time of graduation. Graduates will be commisioned to the rank of second lieutenant. Most ROTC graduates have a three or four-year commitment. Air Force pilots, navigators and air battle managers have six to 10-year commitments after training.

Upon entering the military, students will go on to receive specialized training. During their careers, military officers receive regular professional deveolpment as they advance through the ranks. Officers also have many opportunities for advanced leadership positions and post-graduate education.


  • Scholarship opportunities vary, so it is often worthwhile to apply to multiple branches.
  • It is best to apply early (August) if you are seeing an ROTC scholarship. 
  • If the college you are interested in does not have its own detachment, there is a good chance they will have a "crosstown" agreement with another college.


You may also join the military after college via Officer Training School (Air & Space Forces) or Officer Candidate School (Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Marines). This route requires you to have your bachelor's degree already. Learn more by visiting each branch's website.

Air Force Officer Training School

Navy Officer Candidate School


Army Officer Candidate School


Coast Guard Officer Candidate School


Marine Corps Officer Candidate School


Direct Commission

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 (NDAA 2019) gave the military services the authorization to direct commission officers up to the rank of Colonel. This allowed the military to develop commissioning paths for specific job fields. These pathways have requirements for education and/or prior experience. Some fields where this is possible may include law, healthcare, cyber and others. Search each branch for more details of the requirements and options available.

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