You can earn a commission in the U.S. Army through one of four programs: the U.S. Military Academy, the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps, the Officer Candidate School or direct appointment. All require applicants to be high school graduates, pass a medical and physical exam, and be at least 17 years old.
U.S. Military Academy
The U.S. Military Academy, located at West Point, N.Y., offers bachelor of science degrees in engineering and liberal arts. Graduates earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the Army. Admission is very competitive. Appointments are generally made through nominations from U.S. Senators and Representatives. Applicants should begin their quest for entry into the academy no later than the middle of their junior year in high school.
Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps
Army ROTC is the primary source for college-trained officers for the Army. ROTC is currently offered at over 300 institutions and through agreements at more than 1,000 colleges and universities.
Army ROTC has two parts - the Basic Course and the Advanced Course. The Basic Course covers the freshman and sophomore years of college. Students may withdraw at any time with no military obligation. Selected students may enroll in the Advanced Course during the final two years of college. Students in the Advanced Course receive uniforms, necessary textbooks and a subsistence allowance. Cadets are scheduled for a six-week Advanced Camp during the summer between their junior and senior years of college.
Educational assistance in the form of highly competitive scholarships are available for two, three or four years at different amounts for each year. Additional scholarship benefits include a designated allowance for textbooks and supplies.
Officer Candidate School
Officer Candidate School is a 14-week course to train enlisted personnel, warrant officers and civilians with college degrees to be Army officers. Enlisted soldiers and warrant officers must have 90 semester credit-hours of college before applying. Civilian applicants must have a bachelor's degree. Officer Candidate School (OCS) now commissions almost 1,000 officers each year, a figure comparable to the Academy's 900.
The Army offers direct appointments for specialists from selected legal, medical, ministerial and technical fields. Professionals can even enter at advanced ranks based on the level of their expertise.
An Army warrant officer is an officer appointed by warrant of the Secretary of the Army, based on a sound level of technical and tactical competence. The warrant officer is a highly specialized expert and trainer who gains progressive levels of expertise and leadership by operating, maintaining, administering and managing the Army's equipment, support activities or technical systems.
Becoming a warrant officer requires great skill in a specific occupational specialty. Army warrant officers must demonstrate leadership abilities and have the desire and dedication to perfect their technical proficiency through professional development, training and education. Through schooling, experience, assignments and promotions, they learn to perform effectively in the most demanding positions.
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