COVID-19 Update: To help students through this crisis, The Princeton Review will continue our "Enroll with Confidence" refund policies. For full details, please click here.

We are experiencing sporadically slow performance in our online tools, which you may notice when working in your dashboard. Our team is fully engaged and actively working to improve your online experience. If you are experiencing a connectivity issue, we recommend you try again in 10-15 minutes. We will update this space when the issue is resolved.

A Day in the Life of a Military Officer

Being all that you can be means performing any number of tasks. Whichever of the five branches of the United States Armed forces—Army, Navy, Marines, Air Forces, or Coast Guard—you choose to join, prepare yourself for more than a buzz-cut and target practice. Officers are leaders, organizers, strategists, and managers whose duties entail enormous responsibilities. Each branch of the armed forces has particular tasks. The Army is in charge of land-based defense initiatives. The Air Force supervises space and air defense. While the Navy flies the flag upon the seas, the Marine Corps provides them with land support. The Coast Guard plays a dual role. In peacetime, it works for the Department of Transportation, controlling access to American shores. The moment war breaks out, the Coast Guard works alongside of the Navy. Some of the responsibilities inherent in a chosen military career are obvious, such as running a nuclear submarine or commanding a platoon of demolition specialists. Less obvious, but just as important, are the various clerical and managerial tasks that are essential to the smooth operation of our national defense and international peacekeeping. Because of military officers’ versatility, training, and skills, they are valued in the civilian world. Many former officers find themselves in great demand at some of America’s largest corporation. Military training is thorough, disciplined, and tough. Working conditions vary greatly, but in all cases, standards of appearance and behavior are regulated. While forty-hour weeks are common, many officers must work odd, long hours. The perks include extensive travel and health-care benefits, as well as family-oriented services like day care, job security, and a decent pension after a relatively short career. Of course, the gratitude our nation shows its soldiers cannot be left out of the package.

Paying Your Dues

There are three tracks for pursuing the ranks of officer. You may enlist and eventually apply for officer candidate school, you can join ROTC at your college or university, or you can apply to one of the highly-competitive service academies. The best known are West Point (Army), Annapolis (Navy and Marines), the Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy. Admission standards are rigorous. Officer candidates must undergo extraordinary training and pass a battery of tests, including the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. The decision to join the armed forces should not be taken lightly. You are putting your life into the country’s hands. Ask your recruiter for the details of your service, including the length of your term, the salary you will receive, and if there are any educational opportunities available. Talk to current members of the service about their jobs. Because military fosters a clearly defined lifestyle a military enlistment is difficult to reverse, look carefully before you leap. Enlistment contracts can last eight years. Graduates from service academies must serve for several years after their graduation. Officer candidates must go through basic training, a nasty eleven-week affair that builds muscle and character. Instruction and duty assignments follow. Much of military life involves the constant repetition of tedious tasks such as digging holes, but many educational opportunities are also available to the enthusiastic, competent young officer.

Present and Future

The armed forces are America’s biggest employers, and the path of advancement is a clear but long road to travel. There can only be so many generals, so promotions thin out as you rise in the ranks. Lately, the armed forces have been downsizing along with other big government employers, further eroding opportunities for advancement. Nevertheless, if history is any judge, there will always be a place for the military in American life.

Quality of Life


Few military contracts last two years or less, so this point in your career marks the end of the beginning. If you’re in a service academy, you’re still a sophomore. If you’re in the service proper, you should by now have grown accustomed to the discipline of a soldier’s or sailor’s life


Many five-year veterans are eager to proceed to civilian life, where they can put their military training to use in the private sector. Nevertheless, most military contracts last eight years, so there is still time to benefit from what the military has to offer. Others have developed an affinity for military life and are doing their best to advance in the ranks.


Military personnel with ten-years careers behind them report enormous job satisfaction. The regimented environment of the Army fosters stability in pay and daily life. The constant reassignments may be tough on families, but the military makes strenuous efforts to accommodate newly transferred personnel at all of its outposts worldwide. After ten more years, the military provides its retirees with a healthy pension and benefits package.