Become a Marine: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 09, 2020

A branch in the United States Armed Forces, the Marine Corps deploys physically and mentally strong soldiers by setting high training standards. The Marine career path includes months of physical training and education in military subjects.

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Education Level High school diploma or equivalent
Training Basic training and the School of Infantry which includes physical training and weapons training
Key Skills Physical agility, mental stability, team work, attention to detail, and the ability to follow through on goals
Salary (2020) $1,602.30 monthly (base pay for entry-level Marines)

Sources: DFAS, U.S. Department for Defense Payment Services

Marines are soldiers who serve in the United States Armed Forces in many capacities, including command and combat. Enlisted Marines may live on a military base, in close proximity to the base, or may be deployed to fulfill a variety of duties in other countries. This career provides the opportunity for education, special assignments, travel, and promotions. A Marine is required to possess physical and mental stability and must complete trainings and tests.

Visit a Recruiter

A Marine Corps recruiter decides if individuals meet enlistment requirements. In general, the Marines require candidates to pass physical and mental examinations, have high school diplomas, and be 17-29 years old. A recruiter also issues an available waiver if a candidate doesn't meet a requirement. Recruiters help candidates prepare for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude test and provide enlistment options, such as the Delayed Entry Program.

Complete Recruit Training

Upon enlisting in the Marine Corps, recruits attend basic training for 12 weeks in either San Diego, CA, or Paris Island, SC. Recruit training begins with classroom lessons in leadership skills, first aid, uniform regulations, military history, and military customs. During training, recruits receive intense physical fitness training that includes obstacle courses, martial arts, swim tests, and 3- to 9-mile marches. Weapons training consists of close quarters bayonet assaults and marksmanship drills with an M16 rifle. Recruits learn combat skills by sparring with pugil sticks, rappelling, and moving though a simulated combat environment using camouflage, hand signals, and navigation equipment.

Pass the Crucible

Before graduating from Recruit Training, recruits must pass The Crucible, a rite of passage signifying the transition from civilian to Marine. During a 3-day period, recruits use the skills learned during basic training to overcome mental and physical challenges. With limited amounts of sleep and food, recruits complete over 20 problem-solving events that teach teamwork, perseverance, and leadership. Recruits hike almost 50 hours in full combat gear while completing events simulating real-life combat situations.

Attend the School of Infantry

Recruits receive training as riflemen at the School of Infantry. Non-infantry Marines train with the Marine Combat Training Battalion and the Marines in the infantry specialty train with the Infantry Training Battalion. The 29-day Marine Combat Training Battalion teaches recruits the basics of using weapons, such as rocket launchers, grenades, machine guns, and improvised explosive devices. Recruits also participate in physical conditioning that includes hiking and obstacle courses.

In the Infantry Training Battalion, recruits receive nine weeks of advanced instruction in weapons, marksmanship, patrolling tactics, and physical conditioning. During week four, recruits choose a Military Occupational Specialty, which includes specialized training and live-fire exercises.

Consider Advancement

Enlisted Marines obtain higher salaries and greater responsibilities by becoming officers. Marines can receive the rank of second lieutenant by earning bachelor's degrees and attending the Officer Candidates School. After leadership, academic, and physical evaluations, selected Marines become commissioned officers and attend The Basic School. For six months at The Basic School, officers learn the skills needed for leading platoons.

Becoming a Marine consists of visiting a recruiter, completing Recruit Training, passing The Crucible, attending the School of Infantry, and looking to advance your military career through additional training and education.

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