Can I Join the Military With a GED?

General Education Development and Military Service

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Joining the military is a competitive process. Not having a high school diploma will be a disadvantage to potential recruits applying to join any branch of service. Having a GED or General Education Development or also known as General Equivalency Diploma is an option if you were unable to graduate from high school, but the route is not easier than the traditional high school diploma. Here is a very common question asked by people seeking military service:

Question: I Have a GED. Am I Eligible to Join the Military?

Answer: Yes. But there are additional requirements of GED holders that high school graduates do not need. All of the services strictly limit the number of high school dropouts (which includes GED holders) who can enlist each year. This is because years of military enlistment statistics have shown that this category of enlistees fail to complete the entire first term of military service at about twice the rate of those with a high school diploma or those with college credits.

The Air Force is the most strict on this matter. The Air Force allows less than one percent of annual enlistments to be recruits without a high school diploma. The Marines have the next highest standards. No more than five percent of Marine recruits can be GED-holders. The Army allows no more than ten percent each year, and the Navy limits GED enlistments to no more than five to ten percent each year.

There are always many more GED-holders who want to enlist than there are available slots, so -- even to be considered -- a GED holder must score much higher on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), than a high school diploma recruit. However, if a recruit has 15 or more college credits, he/she is in the exact same enlistment category as a high school diploma holder and having a GED is not an issue the recruiter has to deal help the recruit overcome.

Most recruiters will first test the GED holder in the ASVAB and see if he/she qualifies with elevated scores on the ASVAB. If not, the recruiter will recommend getting a semester of college that can be accomplished at local community colleges. 

In the U.S., each state has its own GED requirements and it can be difficult to locate on the state's website. Adult Education is sometimes handled by the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, or by the States departments of Public Instruction or Workforce Education.

For more information, see our article about Military Enlistment Standards.

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