ROTC: A 2023 Essential Guide

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What is ROTC

The ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) is a college-based program where students can receive training to become officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps. It provides funding for part of their college education and prepares them for a lifelong career in the military. The program has different options for students with varying levels of interest, and the Army ROTC is the largest of these programs. Each branch of the military has its own eligibility requirements and service obligations for their ROTC programs.

Upon graduation, you have the option of serving in the Armed Forces full-time for either three or four years depending on the scholarship you’ve received. Those in the Selected Cadet program may choose to complete part-time service while also pursuing a career outside the military. Specific service obligations vary depending on the program in which you’re enrolled.


The Army ROTC program has several scholarship options, including four-year scholarships for high school seniors and college freshman as well as two and three-year options for those who are already enrolled in college.

Students must be between ages 17 and 27, have a 2.5 college GPA or, if not yet enrolled, a minimum SAT score, and meet physical fitness requirements.

After graduating, candidates must attend a Leadership Developmental and Assessment Course before being placed in the Armed Forces.

ROTC Benefits

The key benefit of joining an ROTC program is that your tuition is paid for by the program, as well as a portion of your room and board at many colleges and universities.

You will also gain invaluable experience in a variety of career fields, including finance, medicine, nursing, and a host of other areas.

Top ROTC benefits:

  1. College Paid

    The costs of college tuition today are extraordinarily high and climbing. The core promise at the heart of all ROTC benefits is that of free college tuition. Certainly, the candidate must do their part to earn satisfactory grades and attend regular basic training sessions, but in return, their college will be paid for. This tuition coverage will see the student through the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree at the very least, costs covered.

  2. Personal Training, Skills

    On a more personal level, ROTC attendees reap enormous benefits in the areas of personal skills and betterment. As training time is required outside of typical college classes, there is plenty of growth to be experienced. Skills in management, problem solving, military organization, and personal well-being are instilled in those participating. Additionally, physical training will also take place, providing a whole other spectrum of physical fitness benefits to be experienced.

  3. Guaranteed Career

    As aforementioned, there are requirements for military service after college graduation. This fact, coupled with training and a degree already received, equates to automatic placement in a career. Typical college graduates and others are usually burdened with career establishment and job placement after the completion of college. As an ROTC graduate, this step has been eliminated. Upon completion of the chosen degree, participants are automatically positioned for streamlined placement into a career in the military. Providing a path to success well after ROTC, graduates will always be privy to the latest career opportunities.

  4. Credentials for a Lifetime

    Should the ROTC graduate choose to exit the military after having completed their required term, they are now equipped with credentials to last a lifetime. Graduates of the ROTC have inherently proven commitment to a cause. They have also received a valuable degree and years of subsequent military service. To say they are then a good candidate for the civilian job market is certainly an understatement.

In addition to the financial and educational benefit, you are guaranteed a career as an officer in the military upon graduation.

ROTC Requirements

Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) is a program offered during college for those aspiring to join the military after completing their bachelor’s degree. Anyone who is enrolled at a college with an ROTC program (or crosstown agreement), is in good physical shape and has good moral character 14 years or older. Those committed to attend both the ROTC class and leadership laboratory are welcome to join. Air Force ROTC also offers scholarships, which have several different requirements and are competitive. Students on scholarship are required to serve in the military upon graduation for four years and must maintain a 2.5 cumulative grade point average to maintain their scholarship.

To be eligible to join AFROTC, each cadet must meet the following requirements:

  1. Be enrolled in an accredited college that hosts or has a crosstown agreement with an Air Force ROTC detachment

  2. Be a U.S. citizen after freshman year

  3. Be in good physical condition (cadets must pass the Fitness Assessment)

  4. Be of good moral character

  5. Attend both the Aerospace Studies class and Leadership Lab each semester

All cadets must pass the FA test every fall and spring term while a cadet is enrolled in Air Force ROTC. Cadets in the General Military Course (GMC) or not on a scholarship must attempt the test but do not have to pass. Scholarship cadets and cadets in the Professional Officer Course (POC) must pass the test each fall and spring term.

The FA is composed of three events in the following order:

  1. Sit-ups

  2. Push-ups

  3. 1.5-mile run

All events must be completed, with a short rest period between each event. The minimum score is 75 points, and all minimums must be met.


ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) are two similar programs that train students to become military officers. However, there are some key differences between the two programs.

ROTC is a college-level program that is offered at selected colleges and universities. Students who participate in ROTC attend regular college classes, as well as military training and leadership development courses. Upon completion of the program, ROTC cadets receive a commission as second lieutenants in the U.S. military.

JROTC, on the other hand, is a high school-level program that is offered at selected high schools. Students in JROTC take courses in leadership, citizenship, and physical fitness, as well as participate in various drill and ceremony competitions. While JROTC does provide training and leadership development for students, it does not lead to a commission in the military.

Both ROTC and JROTC are sponsored by the respective branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc.). However, while ROTC is designed to prepare students for a career as a military officer, JROTC is more focused on providing students with character development and leadership skills.

Commitment to the Military

By accepting a scholarship for ROTC, you’re making a big commitment. After you graduate with a bachelor’s degree, you must be willing to serve your country for at least eight years. While this may seem like a long time, it’s not so bad when you consider that four of those years can be fulfilled by serving in the Individual Ready Reserve. After you’ve worked for the military full-time for four years, you can elect to serve in the IRR. You won’t get paid for this, but you also won’t have to participate in training or drill unless you’re called up. Some ROTC participants may be able to serve part-time in the reserves instead of full-time.

ROTC Curriculum

The first two years of your ROTC curriculum, known as Basic ROTC, cover topics in two main areas. The first year focuses on Preparing for Success as an Army Officer, while your sophomore year courses cover The Role of an Officer.

For those who choose to go on to Advanced ROTC, additional courses during the junior and senior years will focus on Leading Small Tactical Units and Transition to Becoming an Officer.

Completing the advanced course demonstrates a commitment to serve as an officer upon graduating.

Qualifications for ROTC Programs

Becoming an entry level officer after ROTC training starts with participating in an elective ROTC program in college.

Those entering Navy or Marine Corps programs will find they are designated as NROTC programs.

The ROTC curriculum is taught alongside undergraduate classes in diverse majors that are useful foundations for military jobs, including:

  • Health care

  • Chemistry

  • Food Service

  • Finance or accounting

  • Aviation

  • Engineering

  • Transportation

  • Mechanics

  • Resource management

  • Human resources

  • Technology

  • Law enforcement

  • Chaplaincy

Regardless of the undergraduate major, all ROTC candidates receive the same training and education concerning military history, organizational structure, regulations, strategy, tactics and personnel expectations.

Once accepted into the program, recruits participate in boot camp training pertinent to their chosen military branch to begin their career journey towards becoming an entry level officer after ROTC training.

Designations of Entry Level Officers by Military Branch

Each military branch has its own rank designation for those entering the service after completion of ROTC training.

By branch, recruits will be commissioned as:

  • Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Army including the Army Nurse program

  • Ensigns in the U.S. Navy option for midshipmen or for those in the Navy Nurse Corps program

  • Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps

  • Second Lieutenants in the Air Force including Air Force ROTC nursing graduates

Can You Attend ROTC as an Online Student?

There are several ways you can save time by taking online classes while still meeting the requirements of ROTC training, and when you finish your online degree, you will not only be a college graduate, but also an officer in the U.S. military.

You will have to split your time between a college that offers your online degree and one that offers on-campus ROTC electives. Alternatively, you can attend one college that offers online classes as well as ROTC electives.

How to Enroll in ROTC Courses as an Online Student

ROTC training involves physical and mental training to prepare future officers in the military. The ROTC course is divided into three parts: the Basic Course, Advanced Course and Leader Development and Assessment Course. The training involves regular assessments and evaluations. Taking online courses while enrolled in ROTC training is a compromise, but manageable as the ROTC courses don't take much time. To take online ROTC courses, check the schools offering these courses and search by state, city or zip code. If the college offers both online classes and ROTC training, credits won't need to be transferred, but otherwise, consult the enrollment office for credit transfer information.

Advantages of Mixing Online and On-Campus Courses

Some of the key advantages of blended learning are: It's time-saving to be able to access all study materials online, which is the standard practice in blended learning. It is also time-saving not having to travel to the university campus every day. You can enjoy quality education at an affordable cost.

Air Force ROTC 101: Answering the Most Commonly Asked Questions

  1. Do I have to cut my hair?

    Hair must be kept in accordance with Air Force guidelines when in uniform.

  2. Do I have to wear a uniform to class every day?

    The only time cadets are required to wear their uniform is to Leadership Lab and during one class session during the week and three times a week with Physical Training. Occasionally, during special events, you may be required to wear your uniform.

  3. How much time do I have to spend with Air Force ROTC each week?

    The only required time is during your Air Force ROTC classes, Leadership Lab, and physical fitness training. (This equates to approximately six hours per week for freshmen and sophomores; eight hours per week for juniors and seniors.)

  4. How are new cadets treated?

    Very well. Cadet "sponsors" are assigned to new students. They can help students find classes, get textbooks, learn to wear the uniform correctly, meet other cadets and learn basic customs and courtesies. It is also the responsibility of the cadet's flight commander to help new cadets fit into the program. Many detachments also have tutoring programs and other forms of assistance. Hazing is not permitted! You'll find the cadet staff and detachment staff are friendly and concerned about your well-being and progress.

  5. How much marching and drilling will I have to do?

    Not as much as you think. Marching/drill is sometimes practiced during your squadron time at Leadership Laboratory. There are no mandatory drill sessions outside of LLAB but usually cadets get together to practice drill on the weekends.

  6. When will I receive my Air Force ROTC uniform?

    You will wear an issued polo shirt for the first semester and be issued a full uniform at the start of the spring semester. We will tell you how to arrange for having alterations completed (at no cost to you). However, you are responsible for keeping the uniform clean and presentable.

  7. Am I expected to participate in any extracurricular activities?

    Your first and foremost concern is attending classes and maintaining good grades. After this, you will certainly want to examine some of the various activities sponsored by both your university and Air Force ROTC. There's something in our program of interest to everyone.

  8. Can I participate in intercollegiate athletics while a member of the Air Force ROTC program?

    Yes. Generally, extracurricular campus activities and Air Force ROTC are perfectly compatible – as long as you do not overload yourself with extracurricular activities. A serious physical injury while participating in intercollegiate or intramural athletic activities may cause you to be disenrolled from Air Force ROTC because of a change in your physical profile.

  9. Where can I attend Air Force ROTC?

    Air Force ROTC is offered at over 1000 institutions throughout the continental United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

  10. If I join Air Force ROTC, does that mean I'm joining the military?

    No. You won’t sign a contract to serve in the Air Force until you either accept a scholarship or until the first day of your junior year in the program.

  11. What is the difference between Junior ROTC in high school and ROTC in college?

    The mission of the high school Junior ROTC program is to build better citizens for America. The mission of the college ROTC program is to produce leaders for the Air Force.

  12. Do I have to be in Junior ROTC in high school to be eligible for ROTC in college?

    No. In fact, the majority of students enrolled in college ROTC have never been involved in the Junior ROTC program.

  13. Do I have to join Air Force ROTC as a freshman?

    No. Any student with at least three years remaining in their studies are eligible for our program.

  14. Can I enroll if I didn't take Air Force ROTC as a freshman?

    Yes. You can enroll in Aerospace Studies (AFS) 111 and Aerospace Studies (AFS) 211/AFS 212 (your university may have a different name). This will double you up on the freshman (100) level and sophomore (200) level courses, making you what we refer to as a "250."

  15. Can I attend Air Force ROTC without a scholarship?

    Yes, you can. Many students do not start with a scholarship, but some earn one eventually.

  16. I didn't receive an Air Force ROTC scholarship before I started college; are there scholarship opportunities while I'm in college?

    Yes. Depending on how many years you have left in college, you may qualify for a two- or three-year scholarship.

  17. Is preference shown toward scholarship cadets?

    Definitely not! The fact that a cadet may have an Air Force ROTC scholarship has absolutely no bearing on an Air Force career, nor does it affect your evaluation while in the Air Force ROTC program.

  18. Are there any restrictions as to what students select as their academic major?

    None at all. In fact, encourage you to take a curriculum you are interested in and in which you have the capability to do well. Main academic concern is that you maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) above 2.5 and attain your degree in the time period planned. The GPA requirements are different if you are applying for a scholarship and once you are on scholarship.

  19. Can I pursue graduate education after I'm commissioned?

    Yes, you can! The Air Force is education-oriented and financially supports graduate studies.

  20. How often can I take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT)?

    The test is given several times during the fall and spring and can be taken a maximum of two times with at least 6 months between tests.

  21. I'm prior service – do I have to attend the General Military Course (GMC)?

    Maybe. The Professor of Aerospace Studies may waive some or all of the GMC if you are prior enlisted. This is determined by the amount and kind of experience you had when you departed prior service. You may want to attend the sophomore Air Force ROTC classes and/or the preparation sessions for Field Training with the sophomores to see what Field Training with Air Force ROTC is all about. Prior service cadets normally attend the 2-week Field Training.

  22. If I take Air Force ROTC classes, am I committed to military or government service once I join?

    If you are interested in becoming an officer, there is NO service commitment during the first two years of the Air Force ROTC program (the General Military Course) unless you have an Air Force ROTC scholarship. If you decide to stay and join the Professional Officer Course (POC; the last two years of the program), you'll sign an allocation contract with the Air Force and then incur a service obligation. For Air Force ROTC scholarship students, you're obligated once you've activated the scholarship. Freshman cadets on scholarship may elect to leave the program at any point in their freshman year without incurring payback costs or service commitment to the Air Force.

  23. What are the other Air Force commissioning opportunities?

    Other commissioning opportunities exist through the United States Air Force Academy. Commissioning opportunities for college graduates also exist through Officer Training School, an intense 9-week program at Maxwell Air Force Base. Commissioned Officer Training is a 4-week program designed for professionals who have received a direct commissioned appointment as a lawyer, chaplain or into a corps of the medical service. And Reserve Commissioned Officer Training is a 13-day intensive program designed for hard-to-recruit Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard medical service officers.

  24. Are there special programs for active-duty airmen?

    Yes. There are several programs available. Some involve scholarship opportunities, while others are at your own expense. Remember, the first step in any enlisted-to-officer program is a stop at your base Education Office. Each of these programs has deadlines and age limitations, so check early.

  25. Do I receive any ROTC credit for Junior ROTC?

    Yes, you may. Three years of Junior ROTC (JROTC) are considered equal to three semesters of the General Military Course (GMC), and two years are equal to one year of the GMC. No credit is given for less than two years of JROTC training. If academically feasible, we generally recommend students complete all four semesters in the GMC to make you the most competitive and prepared for Field Training.

  26. If I encounter academic or personal problems, where can I turn for help?

    First, try your Air Force ROTC detachment instructor. While the instructor may not have a psychology degree, he or she does have experience in counseling and can direct you to the proper resources on campus. Air Force ROTC instructors try to develop a strong professional rapport with each cadet. Each university also offers various resource offices for their students and many services are free as part of your student fees.

  27. Is the Four-Year Program more advantageous for students?

    Yes, for the following reasons: It gives you more time to participate in Air Force ROTC without obligation, to gain experience and to decide whether you want to apply for the advanced program, the POC. You will have the opportunity to apply for scholarships if eligible. You can retake the Air Force Officer Qualification (AFOQT) test to improve your scores.

  28. Do I receive any ROTC credit for Civil Air Patrol (CAP)?

    The unit commander can give credit for part of the GMC to cadets who receive the Spaatz, Earhart, and Mitchell Awards during any academic term of the GMC.

Tags: Military Benefits, Military Education

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