Do I Need A College Degree To Be A Commissioned Officer?

Entry into uniformed service is an attractive option for many, and entry into the corps of commissioned officers is even more attractive. However, many who want to take the path to be a commissioned officer might wonder if they need a college degree to be a commissioned officer. The answer depends on certain circumstances, as well as by which group’s commission is sought.

US Air Force

A basic requirement of entering into the ranks of commissioned officers in the United States Air Force is a degree in a relevant field. Which degree will depend upon the field being pursued. For instance, if you are looking into the field of medicine with the Air Force, an MD or its equivalent is required. This is true for those who enter the officer ranks through the US Air Force Academy, Air Force ROTC units at other schools or officer training for those outside those programs.

US Army

The United States Army notes that it offers four avenues for interested persons to become commissioned officers: Army ROTC, Direct Commission, Officer Candidate School and the US Military Academy. Successful completion of ROTC training is coterminous with earning a college degree.

Direct commission is available to those in specialized fields that typically require their practitioners to hold degrees. Those who seek to go through Officer Candidate School must hold degrees and those who complete the rigorous curriculum at the US Military Academy will have very much earned their degrees.

US Coast Guard

The United States Coast Guard has a variety of means to earn a commission. The Coast Guard Academy yields degree-holding officers; however, so does the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative and the Maritime Academy Graduate Program. Those seeking to pass Officer Candidate School must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, as do those who seek to receive direct commissions. Only a few prior military personnel in areas of critical need may be commissioned without degrees.

US Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps notes that its commissioned officers coming from ROTC programs or the US Naval Academy must hold four-year degrees. Exceptional merit during a term of enlisted service can also result in advancement to the ranks of commissioned officers.

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which commissions officers to conduct surveys and research in the natural sciences, notes that those eligible for commission will hold at least a bachelor’s degree and will need substantial coursework relevant to their field of commission.

US Navy

The United States Navy notes that most of its officers hold degrees. However, there are programs available to be commissioned as limited duty officers, or appointments as chief warrant officers, to those who have experience and expertise which would supplant the need for formal classroom instruction. In most cases, though, those who will be US Naval Officers have to have four-year degrees.

US Public Health Service

The United States Public Health Service, commissions officers to work toward the improved health of the people of the United States. Officers seeking commission should have either relevant professional licensure or a degree, depending on the field in which they seek to be commissioned. Most health fields require bachelor’s degrees or higher to receive licensure.

Battlefield promotions, which only happen in times of declared war, is another ways to earn a commission in the military. Thankfully, these times are more rare now. Most of the time, a person will need a college degree to be a commissioned officer.

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