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How Do I Become a Soldier?

By Nicole Etolen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The term “soldier” is technically used to describe someone who serves in an army, although it can be applied to other armed forces divisions as well. Every country and even every branch of the military has different rules for joining, but there are some common traits among many branches of armed forces. To become a soldier, you must typically meet specific age, education, physical, and background requirements

Most armed forces require you to be of legal age before you can become a soldier. In the United States, you must at least 18 years of age to sign up on your own, or 17 years of age with parental permission. Most branches of the military also have upper-age limits as well. The United States Army, for example, will not allow you to enlist if you are over 42 years of age, unless you have a skill that they are desperately in need of, or you served in the military before.

Basic education requirements must also be met to become a soldier. While you can enlist while you are still in high school, you will be expected to have your high school diploma before you leave for training. If you do not have a diploma because you left high school before completing your education requirements, some branches of the military will accept a General Education Development (GED) certificate in lieu of the diploma.

In order to become a soldier, you must be in good physical shape and good overall health. Military training, or boot camp, is extremely vigorous because it is designed to prepare you for actual combat situations. Before you will be accepted into the military, you will have to undergo a complete medical screening and pass several physical fitness tests. If you are unable to pass the fitness tests, your military recruiter may be able to place you in a training program to help get you into shape so you can pass a retest.

Before you can enlist to become a soldier, you will need to pass a criminal background check. Ideally, your record should be completely free of any criminal activity. However, if you have minor infractions on your record, but have shown substantial improvement in staying out of trouble, you may be able to receive a waiver. This is up to the discretion of the military and is done on a case-by-case basis.

Once you are certain that you meet all the basic requirements, your next step to become a soldier is deciding which branch you would like to join, finding a recruiter and signing up. Most areas have regional recruitment offices that allow you to walk in without an appointment and meet with someone who can help you. The application process is very extensive, so be sure to take all your pertinent records with you and go when you have plenty of time to talk to the recruiter and fill out all the forms.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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