selecting a service


5-Year Member
Jun 29, 2017
Hello, I am having a dilemma on which service academy to attend, and ultimately which service I would commission as an officer in. Can you share some of your experiences on why you are selecting Navy or USMC as your top choice?
Going to the academy is a means to an end. It isnt your end goal. So what do you want to do when you commission and enter the military. If you want to fly airplanes, then the Air Force or Naval academies would be your choice. Decide what you want to do and choose the academy that would fit your goal. Using the Navy and Air Force again, which would be better if you wanted to fly but couldnt. What would be your second choice. That choice would again determine which to go with. As for the Navy or USMC, they both attend the same academy so that part is easy. Which service you would serve with again depends on what you want to to. If your goal is to be ship's captain, then you wouldnt go Marine. Figuring what you want your job to be in 10 years and that will determine the academy
Do some research into the 4 community’s within the Navy. When you have completed that research the Marine option via the Academy or NROTC. When you have finished with the research what the Air Force, Army and Coast Guard have to offer through their web sites.

Note that I mentioned NROTC. The Academies and ROTC are two avenues to commissioning. There are other avenues you just need to research and see what will fit your journey plan the best. Good luck.
The missions of the services are very different, and that leads to different jobs available and different lifestyles/deployments/duty stations. All of those things impact the culture of the service. I fly helicopters for the Marines, for example, and my job and day-to-day life is pretty different from someone flying helicopters in the Navy, Army, Air Force or Coast Guard.

So, I'd start there, especially if you're interested in a job (like pilot) that's available in all the services. What service's mission appeals to you? Where do you want to live? How do you want to deploy? Are you interested in focusing on a technical skill, or on unit leadership? What kind of people do you want to be around? You will be stuck with them a lot. That can be a hard one to answer without meeting people from those services, even though it's the most important one, but ducks tend to flock with ducks and people who answer the other questions the same way as you will likely end up in a similar place.

The Marine Corps, for example, is supposed to be expeditionary in nature and our doctrine emphasizes small unit leadership and flexibility. As a result, the Marine Corps is small and relatively homogenous (the USMC is a suburb, the Army is NYC). There are not the same weird little career offroads that there are available in the larger services (which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your point of view). Everything comes back to the MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force). Deployments revolve around working with/supporting other Marine units, whether that's on a ship as a MEU or a unit deployment. There are fewer duty stations available than the bigger services. The Marine culture is universal to the Marine Corps, which can be good, but also can create headaches because it doesn't necessarily fit every situation.
For me, I like those things, and I particularly love working with Marines. But, it's not for everyone.
  • Like
Reactions: OtB
Which Service Academies /Services re you considering ? Hurricane's summary of USMC is good, but realistically if you are going to USNA , you have three years of experience with USN and USMC officers to decide whether you want to go USN or USMC. If you are trying to decide between USNA, USMA, and USAFA , the first question is what you want to do when you grow up. Obviously, USN gives you the opportunity to serve on ships and subs . If you want to fly, your primary choices are USN and USAF. If you want to lead troops on the ground, Army or USMC. See the common factor -- USNA gives you the most alternatives -- ships, air ,ground (and a handful of other miscellanous service selection options).

There are also significant differences in the atmosphere/environment of each of the services (and also within different communities within the Navy). Part of my training was at an USAF base, and I got to see the difference between how Navy and Air Force did things. In my opinion, USAF was much more uptight and regulated...Navy was more autonomous. I usually summarize my experience with USN/USAF as "if the Air Force doesn't specifically permit something, then you don't do it. If the Navy doesn't specifically prohibit something , you can do it." I've been out over 20 years now, and expect that the "zero defect" /CYA mindset has increased ...probably with all of the services.
If you don't absolutely love PT and finding time to work out on your own then USMC may not be for you. Compare the Marine PFT to other services. There's a reason the Marines guard the streets of heaven.
The OP's question is quite broad. Just within the USN, there are subs, ships, aviation (land-based and carrier-based/helos and fixed wing), SEAL, EOD, and Cyber. Each has its own "personality," types of assignments, etc. Then there's the USMC.

I think most people start with a general sense of whether they want to be in a ground-based service or not. Whether they're interested in an aviation-based service or not. Whether they want to be in a sea-based service or not. Are you interested in the opportunity to do more of a "support" job such as intel, logistics, medical service corps, supply, maintenance? Saying "I want to serve" is fine, but you must have some mental image of where or how you envision yourself serving. Start with that.

It's also somewhat important to think about whether you want to spend your next 4 years. At the Springs, in Annapolis or at WP (or at KP or New London)? At a school of ~4000 or a school of <1000. Yeah, it's not forever, but it is four years.

I was either going to USNA or USCGA b/c I wanted to be on a ship at sea. In 12 years, I spent <12 days at sea. So go figure . . .:p
I graduated from USNA a couple of years ago, and one huge thing to consider is that compared to the Air Force, Army, and Marines, the Navy has SIGNIFICANTLY less fields that USNA or NROTC grads can commission into. Unless you know that you specifically want to do a Navy career field such as aviation (which has at least a 8-10 year commitment), I would recommend another service. Many graduates from USNA/NROTC get stuck in a career field they are disinterested in since they only have four options (aviation, swo, subs, and very few special warfare), and only three if they don't want a long commitment up front, and really only one if they are not STEM majors (the one is swo). The Air Force, Army, and Marines all have a multitude of career fields available to ROTC/Service Academy graduates which Navy does not allow. I don't believe enough people entering USNA/NROTC take this into account ahead of time, and many end up having only one option they are unhappy with (not mentioning specifics) with a low morale and end up regretting their decision. If you know you want to do a navy specific job, then definitely choose Navy, though if you are on the fence about career fields, just keep in mind that you will have significantly fewer options than other services (Navy OCS has a wide variety of career options, just not NROTC or USNA). Best of luck!
the Navy has SIGNIFICANTLY less fields that USNA or NROTC grads can commission into
> I view this entirely opposite. The service selections described are only broad categories, and there are alot of different opportunties and tracks within each community. In addition, while the Mission of USNA is to produce Line Officers, there are seveal staff opportunities available. Sometimes you have to do a first tour as a Line Officer before transfering.

hey only have four options (aviation, swo, subs, and very few special warfare),
> What happened to USMC ? I will defer to the Marines, but they have a whole line of MOS available out of TBS.

really only one if they are not STEM majors (the one is swo)
- What has changed at USNA ? The curriculum is designed so that a Group 3 major has the technical background to do any job in the Navy, including Nuclear Power.
Last edited:
I think the above poster is saying that it is almost impossible to go into "support" fields in the USN out of USNA. These would include intel, supply, aviation maintenance, logistics, medical service corps, engineering duty, etc. The USN allows those only if you're NPQ for line. So, 95% of grads will drive ships or subs, be an aviator or SEAL or go USMC -- with a very small number in each class going to med school, cyber, etc.

The USMC I believe offers "support" roles based on preference, how you do at TBS, needs of the USMC, etc.

I also believe (someone please correct me if I'm wrong), that grads from USMA and USAFA can directly commission into "support" roles even if qualified for "direct combat" roles such as pilot, infantry, artillery (note: I'm using the quoted terms colloquially). In fact, I believe that a decent portion of each class must go into those fields. However, you'd have to go to the USMA/USAFA forums to see how the process works (i.e., how likely you will get a support billet and how much choice/say you have in the process).

This is why BGOs (should) preach to candidates that they are almost certain to go into an URL community, including the USMC. And that, if their heart is set on being a supply officer or aircraft maintainer, it's unlikely to happen out of USNA, except possibly through the USMC for certain fields.

That said, if you do want a combat specialty, USNA offers the greatest choice. At USAFA, it's pilot or something else. At USCGA, it's mostly sea-based. The USA doesn't offer much in the way of aviation to non-warrants and doesn't drive ships. So, if you know you want line but aren't sure whether you want ships, subs, aviation, spec war, or ground, USNA offers the "most" choices.

As an aside, a Group 3 major could go subs or nuke surface. He/she must have done really well in the technical courses and also must be screened. It definitely happens, but isn't common.
Yes, my post was only specifically focused on the service (Navy) not the school (USNA) as Marines have a wide variety of options available upon graduation from ROTC/USNA. And yes, Group 3 majors can go into any field, though as above poster stated, it is less common. I just know one too many graduates who felt like they only had one career option in the Navy (not Marines) side of the house and they felt that if they had done their research better about the other services, would have played more of a role into their decision making.
That is funny about people saying there are less choices in the Navy because to me it seems like there more. My son will soon be finishing AF Rotc and I feel like they have less jobs or maybe less desirable jobs. My son got a pilot spot, but honestly, if he hadnt, I have no idea what other position he would have liked. In the Navy, if you cant fly then at the very least have other choices like being an officer on a ship or Submarine. I have no idea what are the odds of ever being a ship's captain, but I have to imagine that being a Captain of a Navy ship has to be comparable to be a pilot. I know they arent necessarily comparable positions but they sort of are in terms of coolness factor.