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Do I Need a Diploma to Join the Military?

February 2nd, 2024
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Do you need a diploma to join the military? The question should probably be more like, “Is it worth it to go back to school?”

If you are reading this article to find out if you should stay in school or go back, you are not alone. Over a million students have the same struggle each year. School may not seem as important when you need to work or take care of your family. Or, maybe you have gotten so far behind in school that you don’t know where to start. You might feel disenchanted with school because of the people.

There are a lot of valid reasons why you might have or might be thinking about dropping out. Before you make a decision, we hope that you will think about your future job options with and without a diploma.

Armed Forces Education Requirements

When it comes to education, most branches have the same standard enlistment criteria. Currently, all branches of the military require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some do accept a G.E.D. but it comes with added requirements such as an official transcript for 15 units of college credits or a higher minimum score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. 

Some of the armed services limit the number of accepted G.E.D. applicants because the military service dropout rate is higher for those with a G.E.D. For example, in the Air Force, they will take no more than 5% of GED recipients. The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) is one branch of the military that does not accept a G.E.D. at all.  For this reason, G.E.D. applicants are often considered Tier 2 potential recruits by military recruiters while those with a high school diploma are Tier 1.

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Military Enlistment Process Requirements

A rewarding industry that many are drawn to is the United States military. The US military offers U.S. citizens and legal residents a wide variety of career options, from an enlisted soldier to a Space Systems Operator. Military personnel defend the country in ways that were previously unimaginable. A military job can provide employees with a great sense of purpose and offer huge rewards. Depending on how far you go in your military career or what branch you join, it can provide great benefits.

There are many possibilities in the US military, however, to be selected for service, you must meet some basic requirements. Besides being a United States citizen, there will be many physical demands in a military career, so you must meet certain physical requirements and mental standards. You will need to be in good health and be able to pass the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) medical exam. Some branches also encourage high moral standards as military personnel become representatives of their branch and must be above scrutiny. Additionally, you must be at least 17 years old (with parental consent) or older without parental consent. 

For a further look at the education requirements, see the table below.

Table: General Requirements for Enlistment

BranchH.S. Diploma?G.E.D.?Age (years)Status
U.S. Air Force (USAF) YesYes, with more requirements17-39U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident 
U.S. Army (USA)YesYes17 – 35U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)YesYes, with more requirements17 – 35U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident
U.S. Marine Corps (USMC)YesNo17 – 28U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident
U.S. Navy (USN) YesYes17 – 39U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident 
U.S. Space Force (USSF)YesYes17 – 39 U.S. citizen.
Note: Most branches require a minimum qualifying score on the ASVAB test or similar test

Military Career Growth Possibilities

In the U.S. military, there is a defined hierarchy that provides a clear way to grow as a military professional. As an enlisted soldier, you may decide to grow in your career and strive to become an Officer. Officers are personnel who have gained knowledge and leadership skills during their career as an enlisted officer. They are leaders and trainers who manage and oversee several different military functions. There are many opportunities for those who reach the rank of commissioned Officer, but it does have some requirements. Officers must have training, experience, and a college degree.

So, in recent years if you’re wondering whether or not to stop going to high school, remember that your window of opportunity to finish high school is always there BUT it gets smaller as time goes on. School is one of those things that gets harder the longer that you are away. If you have already dropped out, you have options on how to improve your educational journey by going back and getting your diploma.

A million students or more drop out of high school each year but few of them return. If you are struggling with attending high school, there are alternatives out there. We can help guide you to them.

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Finish High School With Grad Solutions

To set yourself up for success within the armed forces, or outside of it, obtaining a high school diploma is paramount. After dropping out, school can seem daunting with limited resources around to help. Grad Solutions is here to help Arizona dropouts get their diplomas with flexibility, student support, and no costs. If you are not between the ages of 16 and 21 and live in Arizona, our sister school Smarter Schools is the diploma solution for you.

Going back to get your high school diploma after dropping out will put you ahead in the military and other careers. A diploma will position you for a higher recruiting command and allow you to move up the ranks more easily. Let Grad Solutions guide you back into your educational journey for the betterment of your future. Read more about our Program Information.

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Army Eligibility Requirements

Army Eligibility Requirements

America’s Navy Requirements to Become a Sailor

US Air Force – Meet Requirements

US Air Force – FAQs

United States Coast Guard – Admission Requirements

Space Force FAQS

Marines General Requirements

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

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