Become a Marine Corps Officer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Dec 11, 2019

Should I Become A Marine Corps Officer?

Marine Corps officers command a group of Marines in various tactical missions. Officers in the U.S. Marine Corp, like all military personnel, put their lives on the line to protect their country. A benefit of their service is free living accommodations on military bases for them and their families. However, fulfilling their missions may mean being away from loved ones for long periods of time. Rank and years of service determine an officer's pay. In January 2019, the highest pay grade after twenty years of service earned over $15,000 per month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Any major, may depend on occupational specialty
Licensure Some occupational specialties, such as air traffic control officers and lawyers, require licensure
Key Skills Leadership, management, physical abilities, communications; other skills depend on occupational specialty, computer skills relevant to specialty, technical mastery of relevant equipment
Additional Requirements Score 115 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB); pass physical fitness test
Salary Monthly stipend and bonuses depends on rank and time in service; housing allowance based on rank, dependents, and location

Sources: U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Contact an Officer Selection Officer (OSO)

There are five ways one can become a U.S. Marine Corps officer: join the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Marine Corps Option; complete the Platoon Leaders Class during summers while attending college; attend the Officer Candidate Course after college; enroll in the U.S. Naval Academy; or obtain a meritorious promotion from enlisted Marine. According to the U.S. Marine Corps, the Officer Candidate Course and the Platoon Leaders Class are the most common routes. Aspiring Marine Corps officers first consult with an OSO to determine if they meet basic Marine qualifications and to decide the best route for them. The OSO will conduct an interview, physical evaluation and direct candidates to take the ASVAB.

Success Tips:

  • Keep active. Physical fitness is a major requirement to become a U.S. Marine Corps officer. Officer candidates should complete a regular fitness routine that includes pull ups, abdominal crunches and running. This will ensure the Marine is ready for the initial strength test and for the rigors of officer training.
  • Study for the ASVAB. There are many ASVAB study manuals available. Reviewing a study guide and taking a practice test can help prepare future Marines for this test.

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor's Degree or College Coursework

Most candidates are required to have a bachelor's degree in order to be considered for a commission as an officer. However, an exceptional Marine who has not completed college may enroll in the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program.

Success Tips:

  • Stay in touch with the OSO. While in school, students can ensure that they're on the right path by staying in contact with their OSO. An OSO can recommend a physical training program and answer questions about summer training courses and acceptance to Officer Candidates School (OCS).
  • Ensure a good academic and personal record. OCS is competitive. To be accepted into OCS, students must have at least a 2.0 grade point average. Students should strive to achieve the highest GPA possible. Additionally, students with no criminal records will have the best chances for acceptance.

Step 3: Complete Preliminary Training and the Officer Candidates School

In the NROTC program, college students combine naval sciences courses with their normal college curriculum. Participants in the Platoon Leaders Class complete some training during summers while in college. Also, one can choose to enlist as a Marine and participate in meritorious commission programs after demonstrating leadership skills. Officer candidates who complete one of these options must then complete the 10-week Officer Candidate Course at OCS in Quantico, VA. At OCS, future officers complete physical and academic courses and evaluations.

Officer candidates who attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, train on campus and do not complete a separate officer training course. After completing the OCS or graduating from the Naval Academy, candidates receive their commission as Marine Corps officers and earn the rank of second lieutenant.

Success Tip:

  • Push your limits. OCS is a place where Marine officer candidates learn and are evaluated for their leadership, scholarship and physical abilities. Those who do not meet Marine Corps standards may be dropped from the course.

Step 4: Complete The Basic School (TBS)

After being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, Marine Officers must complete TBS in Quantico, VA. Intensive training at TBS takes over six months and includes instruction in both the classroom and the field. The training instills leadership qualities, tactical knowledge and technical abilities.

Success Tip:

  • Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. After completing TBS, Marine Corps officers choose their military occupational specialty (MOS). During TBS is a good time for a Marine to evaluate where he or she can improve and what MOS is best suited for the officer.

Step 5: Receive Specialized Training

After completing TBS, Marine officers choose their specialized MOS in ground, flight or naval justice. Ground specialties include infantry, communications and combat services. Flight schools teach Marine officers the basics of aviation and how to fly aircraft. Marine officers interested in becoming Judge Advocates are trained at the Naval Justice School in Newport, RI.

Step 6: Advance through the Ranks

As a Marine Corps officer, an individual's career begins as a 2nd Lieutenant and are usually automatically promoted to 1st Lieutenant after two years. The individual may then be selected as Captain. The next rank after Captain is Major, followed by Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, and finally General officer ranging from one to four stars.

Expert Contributor: Sean Harrington Sean has received two master's degrees from the University of Arkansas in Operations Management and Engineering and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He has ten years of teaching experience.

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