Army Officer: Salary, Requirements and Duties

Sep 17, 2019

With a high school diploma, it is possible to pursue a career in the military; however, bachelor's degrees are preferred, and career officers are also required to have a graduate degree. Duties vary depending on the specialization and occupational grouping.

Essential Information

Army officers lead the military services of the United States in defending and protecting the country's interests. They perform a wide variety of duties ranging from military operations to counseling soldiers. The Armed Forces generally require most applicants to possess at least a high school diploma or have equivalent credentials. Army officers then choose a specialization, such as engineering, mechanics, or healthcare, and pursue a college education in that area. A bachelor's degree is the minimum amount of education preferred, and graduate degrees are generally expected of career officers.

Additionally, they must meet all of the army's entry criteria before enlisting.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Minimum age, physical standards and training as required by the Army
Projected Job Growth 0% between 2018-2028 (for armed forces)*
Median Salary (2019) $80,656 (for army officers)** Dependent on contract, rank and experience*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **


An army officer's exact pay varies greatly depending on the contract they initially sign, the rank they've attained, their experience and their field. According to the Army's website, officers are categorized as second lieutenant, first lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel, colonel and general officer. Base pay rates vary by years of experience and rank. Army personnel are also provided housing or a housing allowance.


Several requirements must be met prior to military training and officer promotion. The exact requirements vary, but generally they require applicants to be of a certain age, meet a certain physical standard and possess a good character. Upon joining the military, individuals sign a contract that demonstrates a commitment to staying in the military for a certain period of time.

Aspiring officers are required to complete numerous training programs. They complete training through various federal service academies or other programs, like Officer Candidate School, Officer Training School or ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). These schools can be tough to get into, so potential army officers need to look into the necessary prerequisites and ensure that they meet them.

The Armed Forces follows a structured promotion system, so individuals need to pass other phases before reaching the terminal title of general officer, which generally takes 25 years to reach.


Officers' job duties are based on their occupational grouping. Officers select or are assigned to one of three elements: combat, combat support or combat service support. Each of these elements have ''branches'', such as infantry, artillery, ordnance, quartermaster and so on. Army officers working in a combat specialty supervise and run combat units and military activities. Officers are rotationally assigned to line and staff assignments during their careers.

Officers are also rotationally assigned to short- and long-term duty assignments within the U.S. and in foreign countries. When necessary, foreign billets include war zones. Such assignments vary between one to three-plus years. Some temporary duty postings do not allow the officer to be accompanied by his or her family.

Army officers need at least a bachelor's degree, and a graduate degree is common for career officers. Pay depends on job duties, and no job growth is expected in the armed forces through 2028. Individuals planning to pursue a military career can gain experience by enrolling in JROTC programs in high school.

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