Dispelling 5 Enlisted vs Officer Myths for Future Jarheads

This post is aimed directly at the hard-charging future Marine in high school who does not really understand the different implications between the enlisted vs officer paths.

First, for a very thorough discussion of how to decide which path is better for you, read the following post on Future Jarheads:

Should I Become an Officer or Go Enlisted?usmc-officer-ribbon

Myth #1: Officer prospects must join the military ASAP

This is a simple, yet weirdly widespread myth. If you wait until you’re 22 and a college graduate, or even 25-28 years old to apply for OCS, you are not regarded as any less of an officer. In fact you might be better positioned financially and maturity-wise. For many individuals,¬†it’s better to focus on attaining a college degree, and then joining the military.

Joining the Reserves, a different branch, or enlisting first does not get you closer or a “leg up” on other applicants. If you’re 17 years old, there’s no rush.

Myth #2: Officers have the same role as enlisted, only with a college degree

Officers and enlisted are both Marines. However, their roles, training, demographics, and expectations are vastly differentiated. A rough analogy for civilians is white collar vs blue collar jobs in the same organization. Imagine the difference at an auto service franchise between the mechanics and corporate managers. Or another analogy is baseball players (enlisted) vs the coaches (officers). More discussion available here: Why officers vs enlisted?.

Myth #3: Everyone is officer material

Also false. The requirements, expectations, and demographics of the officer pool does not overlap very much with the enlisted recruits. Firstly, a four-year accredited college degree is a prerequisite for officers. The sheer amount of  paperwork, management, and administrative duties each officer has make this a commonsense requirement. Even if you have a college degree, you may be a better fit for certain jobs and lifestyles as enlisted. Individuals who feel like they could succeed on either path can find their best fit by contrasting the implications of the two opportunities. Additionally, the Marine Corps has much higher fitness and academic standards for officers.

Myth #4: Programs like MECEP are for those who already plan to become officers, but will enlist first

Related: The idea that going enlisted first will make one a better officer

As suggested above, officer life is different than enlisted life, not just higher up the chain. MECEP (and related programs) is for a minuscule amount of enlisted Marines who are personally recommended for commissioning by their Commanding Officer, and pass a significant amount of hurdles to commission. If you enlist with the actual goal of becoming an officer, you very well might waste years working through that process, and may end up unsuccessful.

Read more here: Enlist First, Try to Commission Later?

Myth #5: High School graduates have a two equally valid options: Officer or Enlisted

Hopefully by this stage, you see that the two paths are different in timelines, requirements, experience, implications, and expectations. Most 18-year olds do not have two equally open opportunities before them.

Parting Thoughts

Are you officer material? Would you be happier enlisted? Do your research. Commit to the path that’s right for you.

Even the Commandant of the Marine Corps leads by example, by completing a Combat Fitness Test
Even the Commandant of the Marine Corps leads by example, by completing a Combat Fitness Test

2 thoughts on “Dispelling 5 Enlisted vs Officer Myths for Future Jarheads

  1. What do you think about the reserve to officer path? Does a well qualified reservist (i.e. >3.2 GPA at Providence College in Rhode Island , 300 PFT, no waivers, good rec letters) stand an equal chance for say PLC juniors?

    1. Reserve to officer might be a better path with a higher probability of success. But if you know you want to be an officer, you want to maximize the odds of achieving the end goal. If you get a deal to do Parris Island one summer and PLC the next 2 summers in college as an enlisted reservist, that could help you pay for college. However the juice is not worth the squeeze for most people in that situation.

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