Answers To Parent's Questions About the Military


Parents want the best for their children -- a meaningful and rewarding career, training and preparation for the future, and fun and adventure.  Today's military offers all this and more to America's young people.  

Be able to answer your children's questions about the U.S. armed forces and what it has to offer them. These questions provide a starting point for you to discuss a military career choice with your daughter or son.

How does the military compare with the private sector?

The military opportunities offer stable but challenging careers with regular promotions and often accelerated responsibility.  It provides training in 4,100 specialties, many of which have civilian counterparts.  The armed forces also provide leadership experience and training that help people excel if they choose to leave the military following their commitment.  Other benefits that make the military a good choice include: early retirement programs, health and dental care, 30 days paid vacation each year, veterans benefits, competitive pay, and a variety of ways to earn money for college and training.

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to join? 

To enlist in the armed forces you must be a citizen or legal resident.  To become an officer, you must be U.S. citizen.

When is the next time that I will be able to see my child after they leave for boot camp? In most cases you may see your child when they graduate from boot camp.  However, this depends on the service and assignment they select.

How often will my child be away from home?

Travel is part of military life.  The amount of travel varies greatly from service to service and assignment to assignment.  However, some services will guarantee applicants' duty locations if they meet certain qualifications.

Will the military prepare my child prepare for a civilian job?

Yes. The armed forces offer over 4,100 careers, most of which have direct counterparts in the private sector.  Additionally, service in the military builds leadership skills and personal responsibility traits that many employers look for in employees. Lean more about translating military skills to civilian jobs.

Can the military help my child pay for college?

Yes.  The military offers a variety of ways to pay for school. Check out our money for college topic. Or Check out Education Channel for detailed information on the GI Bill programs.

What is the difference between enlisting and commissioning?

Enlisting and commissioning (becoming and officer) offer different career paths.  Not all jobs are available in both career paths so you should help your children make sure that their interests and abilities are reflected in their choices.  Becoming an officer is generally available only to college graduates commissioned through ROTC, one of the service academies or another commissioning program.

How much will they get paid?

A person may decide to go active duty, reserve or guard.  Here are the pay scales for each:

How long is my child's commitment?

This depends on what service they choose, what career field they pick, and the training they accept.  Some enlistment terms are as short as two years.

Could my child get hurt?

Like any job, possibility for accidents exists and some careers are more physically demanding than others.  However, the military makes every effort to ensure that all of its members are safe.

Are there medical benefits?

Members of the military and their families receive outpatient care at military hospitals and clinics at no charge. There is a nominal charge for inpatient care of family members. For families not located near military health facilities, the military medical insurance program (TRICARE) pays 80-100 percent of the costs at civilian hospitals and clinics. Dental care is free to service members. There is a minimal cost for family members.

How much vacation time will they earn?

30 days of vacation with pay each year and federal holidays.

How old does my child have to be to enlist?

People must be at least 17 years old to enlist with parental consent. Without parental consent people must be 18.

What if my child wants out?

Commitment to the military is based on a contract, which means that people are legally bound to serve their term. However in some cases, if during basic training they are found to be grossly incompatible with the military they may receive an administrative discharge for the convenience of the service.

What sort of training will they receive?

The training that your student receives depends on the service and career path that they select.  Training will include both job specific proficiency and general military training like team building and leadership.

How can I help?

Be sure that you help your children think through the process completely.  You may want to help them find ways to prepare for the ASVAB (a standardized test used to determine applicants talents) and to evaluate their choices.

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