NROTC Dilemma: Navy vs Marines


Sep 2, 2016
So I will preface this by saying that I want to fly fixed wing aircraft for the Naval service (I know about the "needs of the Navy" but I want to make the decision that gives me the best chance at fixed-wing). I have opened my NROTC scholarship application and am having a difficult time choosing between Navy and Marine option due to a couple of factors:

1) I know that Marine option offers a flight school contract as long as you graduate OCS; that is enticing.
2) The Navy flies significantly more fixed wing aircraft than the Marine Corps, which I figure will give me a better chance at getting the aircraft I want. However, Navy does not offer flight guarantee.
3) From what I understand, Navy does not give scholarships to non-technical fields. I have done well in subjects such as English and am more interested in something such as PolySci than say Chemistry. I have also done well in sciences, but I don't know if I like them enough to major.
4) Marine scholarships seem incredibly competitive and while I have the credentials to compete (4.3 GPA, 1430 SAT, varsity sports, and NJROTC CO among other things), I don't want to throw away an opportunity for a Navy scholarship if I would be more likely to receive that.

I apologize for how jumbled this question is, but essentially I would like to know any information you all have that could make this decision a little bit easier, not asking for the decision to be made for me ;)
If you aren't passionate about being a Marine, then it could be a rough road. Marines believe first and foremost that they are Marines first and pilot, artillery officer, logistics officer second. If you don't like mud, long walks in the woods, or shooting things then the USMC would probably not be a place you embrace. Ok, maybe I made that sound better than it is. Long walks, with 100 lbs on your back while it's raining. Physical fitness is valued by all services, but the USMC standards are higher and more demanding. Yes, you can contract pilot early on if you meet the requirements. It isn't that difficult to get. But OCS and TBS are no cake walks. Also if you aren't medically qualified or even don't make it thru flight school would you be happy as a Marine Officer? What about if that happened on the Navy side? If you don't get fixed wing what is a better.

And yes you are right... the Navy scholarship process favors tech majors. USMC is selective, so are all of them, but the USMC just has so many fewer than others. USMC doesn't care about major for the most part.
Reflect on it this way....

If something happens and you can't fly, which service would you be more comfortable in?

[Just read @NavyHoops response after I gave mine.]

Please go all in for the branch of service you want -- regardless of whether you fly or not.
NavyHoops, I believe that I have the grit and determination to become a Marine officer and I fully understand all that that entails. I have 20/20 vision, but I have heard that the flight physical can be a beast. I would be happy to do any job in the Marine Corps and fully understand the Marine-first ethos. That being said, I also have dreamed of flying F-18s (and now F-35s) for as long as I can remember. The marriage of the title Marine and that opportunity to fly is just an amazing possibility. I guess what I want to know is, Is there a better chance for me to fly fixed wing in the Navy than in the Marines? Because if the answer is no or barely, I will go Marine in a heartbeat.

Side note, as the F-35s will be flowing into the Navy and Marines around the time the class of 2022 will be commissioning (loooooong time away), will the Navy/Marine Corps' need for fixed wing pilots increase?
It's hard to tell. Each flight school class can vary in numbers. Some may have several jet spots. Others may not have any. Not sure what the current rate of jets vs others. In the years my friends were getting winged it was usually 0-2 jet spots per class. Marines also used to have more folks who wanted helos. Usually wasn't the case for Navy. Not sure if those trends hold true today, it's been awhile. Hurricane is a Marine helo pilot on here and can probably give a better answe to current drop numbers.

It sounds like you would like being a Marine. I would look heavily at the 'what if situations'.
Do you want to be a Marine?

Yes- Marine Option
No- Navy Option

I get where you're coming from, but the two services are different and unique in their own ways, and I believe that you should decide based on what you see as a better fit for yourself. Don't make the choice based on specific "chances" of getting a shot at being a pilot, and especially on a specific airframe. If you commission you're committing to 4-5 years of service at the bare minimum (assuming you don't fly), so pick the one you could see yourself in for that amount of time. (or longer)

Also it is worth noting that the "guaranteed flight contract" with the USMC is for the PLC/OCC programs, not NROTC.
Also it is worth noting that the "guaranteed flight contract" with the USMC is for the PLC/OCC programs, not NROTC.

Not true. I know several NROTC midshipmen who got guaranteed flight contracts while sophomores and juniors in college.
The USMC allows guarnteed flight contracts, but it's not until they are enrolled and active within ROTC. Most contract sophomore or junior year looking at how things are going right now. Get the ASTB scores necessary and be in good standing academically, physically and conduct wise and a flight contract is pretty easy to pick up these days in the USMC.
Not true. I know several NROTC midshipmen who got guaranteed flight contracts while sophomores and juniors in college.

My mistake, I interpreted OP's statement as "guaranteeing a flight contract before incurring a commitment of some sort, which I believe happens at the beginning of sophomore year.
With the Marines, you are a Marine first and pilot second. If you want to be a Marine, then go that route. If you are open or undecided, then I would work on it like this. If you dont wind up getting a pilot spot, which service would provide you with your second choice of careers. Personally I think the Navy would have the most to offer in terms of different things you could do there. With the Marines, it is going to be more limited. My son chose AF ROTC and got a pilot spot. Not sure what he would done if he had to choose another position. It was a gamble he took and it wound up working for him.

My son passed the medical. He went with three other guys. Three of them including my son had received pilot spots while the fourth was there for RPA. The RPA guy qualified his medical and so did my son. The other two failed their eye exam. If you are concerned about possible not getting through because of the medical, get your eyes professionally examined by a ophthalmologist. It would be even be better if the Dr. worked with the military. I would also get a full physical with chest x-rays and blood work. At that point, you would have an idea if something is going to screw you over. On the other hand, if they catch something, it is now in your medical records and if asked, you are going to have to declare it. Who knows if the Flight medical exam would have caught it or not. They may or may not