army ocs
Army

Army OCS Guide

The United States Army conducts Officer Candidate School (OCS) for prospective officers in training.

Candidates that receive an offer to attend Army OCS are former enlisted members, warrant officers, inter-service transfers, or recent college graduates.

Officer Candidate School teaches you the fundamentals of serving the military branch as an officer.

Army OCS lasts several months and tests your physical and mental capabilities.

Learn more about what you can expect at Officer Candidate School.

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What is Army Officer Candidate School (OCS)?

officer candidate school
The Officer Candidate School is at Fort Benning in Georgia. Image: TraDoC

Officer Candidate School (OCS) is the primary training academy for prospective officers of the U.S. Army.

Army Commissioned Officers serve as managers for the military branch, planning and influencing critical decisions, as well as acting as problem-solvers for a group of enlisted soldiers.

The training academy is open to qualified enlisted Noncommissioned Officers along with civilians with at least a four-year college degree.

Army OCS lasts 3 months with a rigorous training regime.

Recruits that successfully complete Officer Candidate School receive formal commissions as U.S. Army Officers.

The United States Army depends on highly qualified and competent officers to make important decisions out in the field.

Therefore, Army OCS presents recruits with the framework to prepare and handle the important role as a unit commander.

The Army focuses on teaching tactical training as well as handling emotions under intense stress.

In short, prospective officers learn how to become leaders throughout the training.

There are many reasons why enlisted personnel and civilian college graduates consider attending Army OCS.

It’s not only a prestigious title within the United States Army but also invaluable once you transition into civilian life.

How long is Army OCS?

The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School lasts 12 weeks.

The training academy is based out of Fort Benning in Georgia.

Army OCS trains, assesses, and evaluates prospective commissioned officers for not only the U.S. Army, but also the Army National Guard and Reserve.

Officer Candidate School adheres to the motto “Standards, No Compromise”.

It’s worth mentioning that the U.S. Army is the only uniformed branch where individuals must enlist before they attend Officer Candidate School.

Consequently, recruits need to attend Basic Combat Training (BCT) prior to Officer Candidate School, unlike other officer training programs of the Marine Corps and Navy.

The Army accepts enlisted members (E-4 to E-7), warrant officers, inter-service transfers, and civilian college graduates for the “OCS Option” after completing boot camp.

How Are Future Officers Evaluated?

The United States Army requires several steps to become a commissioned officer.

First, you need to enlist in the U.S. Army like any new recruit.

The Army has basic guidelines you need to meet like proving you’re a U.S. citizen and passing a medical exam.

The Armed Forces require that recruits arrive in shape and able to meet basic physical fitness standards.

Army OCS applicants must also complete the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) like all other recruits.

The series of tests allows the military branch to assess your mental competence.

Prospective officers need to score General Technical (GT): 110 or higher on the ASVAB to stay considered for the prestigious Officer Candidate School.

Furthermore, recruits need to pass the Army Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT).

The Army guarantees enrollment in Officer Candidate School (OCS) for non-prior service (NPS) applicants after completing basic training.

Meanwhile, prior service (PS) applicants may go directly to Army OCS, therefore, skipping basic training.

Candidates in their senior year of college may enlist in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).

Army Officer Responsibilities

army officer
Army Commissioned Officers are the leaders of the military branch and make important decisions every day of service. Image: Kentucky Guard

The United States Army (like other military branches) separates officers from enlisted personnel.

While enlisted personnel represents an overwhelming majority of the Army (about 83%) the remaining percent serve as higher-ranking officers.

Officers are critical to the U.S. Army because they act as the commanding leaders of separate units.

Army Commissioned Officers need to manage personnel in their unit as well as make tough decisions.

A few general job duties of an Army Officer, regardless of the MOS, include:

  • Planning, organizing, and leading troops and activities during military operations.
  • Managing enlisted personnel during day-to-day life.
  • Operating and commanding aircraft, armored vehicles, and ships.
  • Providing personnel with professional services in medical, legal, engineering, and other high-ranking Army positions.

During Army OCS, prospective officers have the opportunity to complete an OCS preference statement.

The statement lets you select what Army officer branches you prefer assignment, though the statement is no guarantee that you’ll receive your wishes.

Army OCS graduates usually receive assignment to one of the following branches:

  • Infantry
  • Armor
  • Medical Services Corps
  • Signal
  • Engineers
  • Field Artillery
  • Transportation
  • Air Defense Artillery
  • Military Intelligence
  • Quartermaster
  • Finance
  • Chemical
  • Military Police
  • Ordnance
  • Adjutant General

Enlisting in the Army and joining the OCS training program after you qualify is one of the best ways you can serve and represent the United States Army.

How Do You Get To Army OCS?

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Students at Army OCS develop their leadership qualities while also learning about tactical warfare and other strategic elements. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The United States Army requires all recruits, regardless of designation, to attend Basic Combat Training (BCT).

Army boot camp lasts 10 weeks for most Military Occupational Specialities (MOS) and slightly longer for Infantry and Armor OSUT.

Boot camp is your orientation to the United States Army with thorough training.

Following the completion of Army BCT, it’s time to progress to Officer Candidate School (OCS).

Army OCS is available to qualified non-prior service (NPS) and prior service (PS) applicants.

Officer Candidate School is open to civilians yet only with an applicable four-year college degree.

Officer recruits also need to complete the Armed Services Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), Army PFT, and Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) to sufficient standards.

Army OCS Requirements

The basic requirements for Army OCS candidates that are already enlisted personnel:

  • A college graduate with at least a four-year degree.
  • Between 19-32 years of age.
  • Less than six years of Active Federal Service (AFS) upon arrival at Army OCS.
  • Eligible for secret security clearance.

What’s taught at Army OCS?

Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) is an intense tactical and leadership training course.

From the beginning, candidates get organized into squads where they start to develop leadership skills in small-unit tactics.

The U.S. Army divides OCS into two phases:

  • Phase 1: The first phase provides basic leadership skills. Candidates endure physical and mental challenges used to evaluate your leadership and determination.
  • Phase 2: The second phase applies tactical and leadership principles to the field. Senior-phase candidates get tested on their ability to lead a team during a demanding 18-day training mission.

Students receive the distinction of Basic Officer Candidate (BOC), Intermediate Officer Candidate (IOC), or Senior Officer Candidate (SOC) depending on their status of completion at the school.

The Army enforces strict physical fitness scores for Officer candidates with an expected score between 240-270.

Candidates receive very little privileges comparable to boot camp.

However, Army OCS is different from boot camp in that instructors expect candidates to immediately act like leaders and take responsibilities.

OCS graduates receive a formal commission as a U.S. Army Officer.

Then, Army OCS graduates receive an assignment with the rank of Second Lieutenant (O-1).

How hard is Army OCS?

Army Officer Candidate School is very demanding.

The purpose of Army OCS is to place the recruit under physical, mental, and emotional pressure to simulate the stress and exhaustion of combat.

It’s similar to the situational encounters you train for at Basic Combat Training (BCT), yet with more challenging exercises since the school is reserved for higher-ranking officers.

Officer recruits spend 12 weeks at Fort Benning in Georgia preparing for their commission.

The program teaches basic leadership qualities and tactical skills using infantry battle drills.

The Army references the Field Manual 3-21.8 as guidelines for instruction and evaluation.

As a result, the Army currently trains recruits at OCS in over 70 different tasks.

Recruits are under constant observation and evaluation.

The course is physically demanding with a plethora of tactical road marches, timed runs of varying distances, and Army Combatives training.

Additionally, the Army considers the mental and emotional levels of each trainee.

Because both factor heavily into leadership and making the right decisions under pressure, the Army tests problem-solving and moral resolve in their evaluations.

Army OCS classes are limited to under 200 Officer Candidates making it not only difficult to make it to OCS but also complete the program.

Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

army officer candidate school
The intense 12-week training course will also push you to physical limits with simulated missions that develop leadership qualities. Image: Flickr

Do you have more questions about Army OCS?

Here are some questions that we receive a lot from readers:

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Is Army OCS difficult?

Yes, Army OCS is very difficult to complete.

Recruits go through a few stages to receive their distinction as an Army Commissioned Officer.

First, you start out as a Basic Officer Candidate (BOC).

The basic training phase provides an orientation on the training program as well as tests to act as baselines.

The Army scores all your events using the Order of Merit (OMB) list used for branch selection.

Once you complete the basic phase you receive a branch selection and transition into an Intermediate Officer Candidate (IOC).

The stage of training introduces more academics while also focusing on field and tactical instruction.

Meanwhile, the final phase of Army OCS training earns you the title of Senior Officer Candidate (SOC).

The senior phase presents a complete field environment where students receive evaluations on land navigation, tactics, and leadership.

There are final exams that candidates need to pass in academics and physical fitness.

Candidates are also subject to peer evaluations along with final TAC (Training, Advising, and Counseling) Officer assessments.

Do you get paid during OCS?

Yes, every recruit begins to earn compensation from the U.S. Army once they reach boot camp.

The amount you receive in pay is based on your Army rank.

Army OCS candidates earn the rank of Sergeant (E-5) while attending Officer Candidate School.

Therefore, your pay is at the E-5 level until you graduate and receive a formal commission.

Army Officer Candidate School graduates students into the lowest officer rank – Second Lieutenant (O-1).

OCS candidates that are administratively eliminated or medically disqualified from OCS will be reduced in grade as determined by the Commandant, OCS.

Is Army OCS Physically harder than basic training?

Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) is more challenging compared to Basic Combat Training (BCT).

While both training courses push you to the limits in terms of physical fitness, there is more stress on leadership qualities at OCS.

Army OCS candidates are constantly evaluated for their leadership characteristics in addition to physical fitness and tactical skills.

The program is also slightly longer (12 weeks compared to 10 weeks).

The Army purposely makes OCS more difficult compared to basic training.

It prepares high-ranking officers, those that will make difficult decisions out in the field later on down the road.

What happens if you fail OCS?

The U.S. Army has the final call when it comes to whether or not you pass Officer Candidate School.

If you fail Army OCS you have one of two choices:

  • You get discharged from the Army.
  • You complete the remainder of your service agreement as an enlisted soldier.

While it’s certainly frustrating for candidates that don’t pass the officer academy you should not feel too dejected.

Enlisted personnel is the lifeblood of the Army and you can still serve your country in many facets under the designation.

What happens after OCS?

Once you complete the 12-week training course at OCS it’s time for the next step in the process.

A newly commissioned officer of the U.S. Army attends the Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC).

The Basic Officer Leader Course is a three-phase training program that offers initial military training for junior commissioned and warrant officers.

Its purpose is to train new officers on the subject matter specific to their new job (since they only received general leadership and tactical training at OCS).

Army Officers are different from enlisted personnel in that they can make suggestions, yet their MOS and assignment is not guaranteed.

The U.S. Army uses the Order of Merit (OML) list to compare officer candidates to each other.

Those that perform near the top of the metrics generally get assigned to the branch of their choosing.

Meanwhile, lower-performing OCS students will likely get placed wherever there is a need in the Army – and likely not their first or second choice for placement.

Therefore, performing well at Army OCS is critical to getting an assignment that you’ll enjoy.

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Conclusion

Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a training academy for the U.S. Army that prepares new officer recruits.

The intense 12-week training program tests your physical, mental, and emotional competence.

Candidates are sent through a variety of training exercises and constantly evaluated based on leadership performance.

The benefits of attending Army OCS and becoming a commissioned officer are plentiful.

Your experience as an Army Officer prepares you for an exciting career leading and ordering others in your unit.

It will make you into one of the best leaders the world has to offer with the pressure of overseeing and keeping other lives in your unit safe.

Elie P.
Army OCS Guide

Army OCS Guide

4.9 out of 5 (38 Ratings)

Learn more about Army Officer Candidate School (OCS), including what the requirements are, how to get in, and more.
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