What to Consider When Joining the Military

Do You Know Which Military Service Is Best for You?

Military parade, Fairbanks, Alaska
Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright/Flickr

When you have a goal to serve your country, you also set yourself up for trying to sort through the thousands of professional training options, jobs, or in military language, Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). Not only selecting the branch of service that is right for you, but what job within that branch of service is something you are interested in doing for the next few years or even a career are important things to consider before meeting with a recruiter.

Things to Consider

Most people will recommend that you pick a job that interests you. Some will say, get job skills and training that you can take with you for the rest of your life. Many will join the military after receiving scholarships to pay for college and receive officer commissions upon graduation. The GI Bill is a great way to earn money to pay for college after a 4-5 year enlistment if you do not know what you want to study in college when you are 18 years old. A few consider where they might live if they pick a particular branch. Geographically speaking, you will typically find all the Navy, Coast Guard, and USMC bases in beach towns. Army and Air Force bases are also at some of the most beautiful places of the world such as Colorado, Hawaii, Germany and Italy, but also you could be in the middle of North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Depending upon where you are from, you could join the military and get close to your childhood / family home.

Or you could easily live on the other side of the world and escape your hometown if that interests you.

All military services are not created equally. Sure, everyone gets the same basic pay and allowances. But other factors, such as enlistment incentives, quality of barracks and base housing, assignment opportunities, job opportunities, deployment rates, and promotion rates vary widely between the branches.

There are literally thousands of options. It is so important to thoroughly research what you want to do and where you want to do it. Do not just go with what the military needs to fill. Pick a job that resonates with you and a branch that fits your personality.  This will not only make your military service a source of life long pride for you, but you will enjoy the years and friendships made serving your country.

What Branch Is The Best?

A common question asked of veterans is: "which military branch is best," or "which military branch would you recommend?" That question is as difficult to answer as trying to answer what high school sport you should participate in, or what your major should be in college. Each individual is different, with unique skills, talents, and interests. The military branch that may be perfect for one, is not the branch that may be a good fit for another. That is a decision you are going to have to make on your own. Here is detailed information about what to consider the pros and cons of each military service, and allow you to make up your own mind.

Living Conditions

Many people who join do not consider this element of being in the military as much as what job and training they want to receive. It is just as important to consider and to be prepared for certain types of living environments.  All branches of service tend to have close living conditions when new to the military as an enlisted person. Open bay living is typically reserved for boot camp and basic training.  Once you graduate basic training, living arrangements get better as you continue your training in your military job.

Most military bases are updating their barracks and creating dorm like rooms for you and your room mates. Often barracks living is tight with at least one room mate regardless of the branch of service. If in the Navy, depending upon your job, you could live on a ship for a significant part of your first enlistment.

Final piece of advice - Do not get married just to move out of the barracks!

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