Who Can (and Cannot) Become a Soldier? (Hint: The Answer May Shock You)

Enlistment in the armed forces is no avenue of last resort. In fact, America’s military is an elite group. Only 1.43 million Americans (fewer than one-half of 1 percent of the country’s total population), serve as active-duty members of the U.S. military, according to Defense Department statistics. If you’re a recruiter interested in hiring military veterans, you may be wondering what kind of people are qualified to serve their country. The answer may surprise you: most of America’s young population would not qualify for service in today’s military. The Pentagon has reported in recent years that between 71 – 75 percent of those aged 17-24 would fail to make the cut for enlistment.


The military is becoming choosier about who may join its ranks. While each service branch has similar entrance requirements, each has its own admission standards based on the amount and type of recruits needed. The general requirements for military service include:

• *U.S. citizen or green card holder*

• *Good health*

• *17 to 40 years old (different branches have different age requirements)*

• *High school diploma (some branches will accept a GED)*

• *Passage of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test*

##**Reasons for Rejection**##

The leading cause for rejection is obesity. According to reports from CNN and Mission: Readiness, between 27-35 percent of young Americans cannot join the military because of it. That statistic alone lowers the pool of potential candidates by roughly one-third.

Although some requirements (such as a high school diploma) can be waived by branch, waivers have become fewer and farther between in the last several years. It is estimated that as many as 99% new recruits have a high-school diploma. Many candidates with GEDs are rejected and encouraged to complete some college courses before re-applying.

Furthermore, a bad credit history and loads of debt can affect one’s ability to enlist and advance in the military. Why? Each branch wants recruits who can meet their obligations on military active duty pay. Serious debt problems can open the door to poor decision-making. Furthermore, financial history is a factor in determining security clearance eligibility, the denial of which could make certain jobs unavailable.

##**Immediate Responsibility**##

The selected few who are chosen for service are tasked with greater responsibility than their civilian counterparts before they begin their first boot camp drill. They are encouraged to begin a daily exercise regimen, as well as to practice arriving early on a regular basis and sticking to a strict schedule. Potential recruits must show responsibility by getting their affairs in order (bill paying, mail collection, money management) so they can focus on their training.

##**What does that mean for recruiters hiring military veterans?**##

Smart recruiters know that by seeking military veterans, they are getting a group of people who have been highly vetted, and who have risen above the population in terms of education, determination, physical fitness, and mental toughness just to get in to the service, not to mention the intangible skills and technical training they receive once they arrive.