Joining the Army Reserve

Army Reserve soldier Chicago
Spc. Nicolas Laboy, an Army Reserve soldier with the 416th Theater Engineer Command, poses on the observation deck of the Chicago Stock Exchange headquarters during a photo shoot designed to promote the partnership between the Reserve force and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) community. (Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret/U.S. Army)

The citizen soldiers of the Army Reserve have a dual mission: helping communities and supporting the regular Army forces. The Army Reserve is open to newcomers as well as those with previous military service in any other branch.


To join the Army Reserve, you must be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien between the ages of 17 and 27. Seventeen-year-olds need parental consent. You must have a high school diploma and have no more than two dependents. In addition, you must take and pass the ASVAB test, as well as a Military Entrance Processing Station medical exam.


From the boardroom to the field, Army ROTC will help you discover the leader within, pay for college and secure a job after graduation.

Reserve Officer Training Corps -- Hundreds of colleges and universities offer Army ROTC as an elective course for college credit. Through ROTC, the Army offers merit-based scholarships in addition to a monthly allowance for living expenses. There is no military commitment for at least the first year in ROTC. So students can feel free to take a course and see whether becoming an Army officer is right for them. The leadership and management training ROTC provides can serve as the foundation for future success in either a military or civilian career. Visit Army ROTC for more information.

Tuition assistance -- The Air Force Reserve offers you tuition assistance. You can be reimbursed up to 100% tuition assistance up to $250 per semester hour, or $166 per quarter hour, not to exceed $4,500 annually per service member. For more on this program, see the tuition assistance overview.

Loan repayment program -- The Army Reserve helps soldiers pay off student loans they've taken out in the past, if they attended schools on an approved Perkins, Stafford or other Department of Education guaranteed student loan. Soldiers can qualify to have their loan repaid at the rate of 15% of the loan for each year of Reserve duty served. Not many 38-day-a-year jobs offer benefits like that.

College credits by exam -- Members of the Reserve can take advantage of free College Level Examination Program tests (CLEP). For every test you pass on a particular subject, you earn three transferable college credits.

Earned college credit -- You can attend college and serve in the Army Reserve at the same time. Many schools grant college credits for military training and experience.

Education and learning facilities -- Most Army posts have education counselors who help soldiers identify their goals and determine how best to reach them within the Army Continuing Education System. Counseling services include academic and vocational planning, CLEP testing, tuition assistance, college application processing and financial aid advice.

Foreign languages -- Most education centers have language labs where you can study new languages or brush up. The Army has linguistics schools that offer more in-depth, specialized training to people interested in pursuing military assignments that require language skills.

Skills training -- The Army Reserve offers training in nearly 200 specialties. You don't have to join the Army full time to reap the advantages of skills training. The Army Reserve is full of "part-time soldiers" who learn skills to enhance their present career or prepare them for a new one.

Promotions and career path

The Army Reserve bases its promotions on a system called: Select, Train, Promote and Assign. Accomplishment and professionalism are the criteria facing individuals. That individual then enrolls in professional development courses before being promoted and assigned to a position of greater responsibility.

Prior service -- The prior service career path for enlisted in the Army Reserve is just like that of the regular Army from ranks E-1 through E-9. In many cases, if you were discharged with a rank of E-6 or below, the Reserve can enlist you at the same rank.

If you are prior-service enlisted wishing to gain a commission, then the Army Reserve might be right for you. As prior-service enlisted, you are encouraged to pursue advanced leadership roles. The option of Officer Candidate School, which allows candidates to continue civilian employment during this period, is also available. Training usually is held one weekend a month and during two 14-day periods.

For the Officer Candidate School enlistment option, you must:

Have completed 60 semester hours from an accredited college prior to enrollment;

Apply for this program prior to your 29th birthday (There are a few exceptions for people between ages 30-34)

If you are an officer, your prior-service experience and leadership can be put to good use in the federal and state missions of the Army Reserve.

The Army Reserve Experience

The Army Reserve allows you to attend school full time or pursue a civilian career while serving your country.

Obligation -- As a member of the Army Reserve, your commitment will be to attend one drill per month and one period of annual training per year.

Drills -- A drill consists of two days of training per month. You'll earn pay for your two days a month of training, plus 15 days of annual tour and compensation for any additional days you put in. Your pay also will be adjusted automatically for cost-of-living increases. You'll get pay increases for every two years of accumulated service and additional pay for special duty. To calculate your drill pay, visit the drill calculator.

Annual training -- With the increased reliance on the Reserve, more units are training in other countries and performing vital and exciting missions. Annual training is held for 15 days per year. There also may be opportunities to apply for additional training days in which to participate in exercises or further skills training.

Travel -- As a member of the Reserve, you will have the opportunity to travel both on and off duty. You can take advantage of free travel on military space-available flights within the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam. For more on military travel options and benefits, see the travel center.

Life insurance, medical care, reemployment rights -- The Army Reserve provides comprehensive medical care while on duty. You are eligible for low-cost Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance. You also will enjoy job security, with reemployment rights that enable you to return to your civilian job after being ordered to active duty for training or during a national emergency. For more on these and other benefits, visit the reserve help pages.

Home loan program -- Members of the Army Reserve with at least six years of service are eligible to apply for the Department of Veterans Affairs Home Loan Guarantee program. For more on this program, go to the home section.

Base privileges -- You are allowed access to all military base recreational facilities such as gyms, tennis courts and libraries. Your privileges also are extended to the use of base exchanges (BXs) and commissaries. For more on recreational and family benefits, see the reserve family and individual support page.

Need more information? Fill out this form, and recruiters will be in touch with you about military career opportunities. Great information with no obligation.

Interested in Joining the Military?

We can put you in touch with recruiters from the different military branches. Learn about the benefits of serving your country, paying for school, military career paths, and more: sign up now and hear from a recruiter near you.​

Story Continues