A recruiter can tell you if you can you join the military without high school diploma
General Military Questions

Can You Join the Military Without a High School Diploma?

If you are considering joining the military, you might ask if you can join the military without a high school diploma.

Every military branch has its own expectations for enlistment.

These expectations include age, physical ability, citizenship, and education level.

Education level is critical for many military jobs, and some jobs have higher expectations than others.

Also, every military branch has different education tiers for recruits.

While you can join the military without a high school diploma, you still need to complete the General Educational Development (GED) program or have college credits for consideration by military branches.

Related ArticleCan You Join the Military With a GED?

Can You Join the Military Without a High School Diploma? Tiered Military Requirements

can you join the military without high school diploma
Image: army.mil

Each military branch has its own set of expectations for recruits.

Also, recruits fall into one of three educational tiers.

Tier I

Tier I are those with a high school diploma.

However, if you do not have a high school diploma but have at least 15 semester college credits, you fall into Tier I.

Typically, public and private universities require a high school diploma or GED for acceptance.

However, some community colleges and trade schools accept students without those credentials.

The most sought-after candidates for military service are those who fall into Tier I.

Also, those in this Tier compete for access to choice military jobs with higher expectations for educational background and ASVAB scores.

Tier II

Tier II includes those with a GED or an alternative school program certificate.

Also, those with a program certificate from a vocational or technical school could fall into this category.

The military branches limit how many recruits can enlist from this category.

Ideally, those in Tier I get preference over Tier II.

If a military branch considers a recruit from Tier II, the AFQT portion of the ASVAB scores is very high.

Tier III

Tier III covers those without any high school or GED credentials.

These days it is impossible to be a recruit in this situation.

Ideally, those who fall into Tier III must finish school, obtain their GED, or seek acceptance into and complete a course of study in a technical or vocational school to land in Tier I or II.

Related ArticleMarine Corps Requirements

Educational and Scoring Requirements for Each Military Branch

you must meet minimum scores on ASVAB to join the military without a high school diploma
Image: afrc.af.mil

As noted, every branch has its own requirements for the minimum education level for recruits.

Air Force

If you want to join the Air Force, your best bet is to have a high school diploma.

It is possible to join with a GED, but you have better odds of getting in if you have both a GED and 15 college credits.

Also, the Air Force attaches different minimum scores on the ASVAB test for each Tier.

Essentially, the lower the Tier, the higher the test score.

A high school grade needs a score of 31 on the AFQT portion of the ASVAB.

On the other hand, those with only a GED require a minimum score of 50. Even then, the Air Force only recruits a small percentage of Tier II trainees, usually less than 1 percent. 

Keep in mind having the minimum score may not open the doors to all job fields in the Air Force.

Because of the Tiers and the different minimum scores, Air Force positions are competitive.


The Army expects recruits to have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Also, the equivalent is the GED or 15 credit hours of college courses.

To join the Army, you also need a minimum score of 31 on the AFQT portion of the ASVAB test.

Like the Air Force, the Army requires an AFQT score of 50 to join with a GED. However, they also accept a larger number of Tier II recruits than other branches, about 10 percent. 

It is important to note that if you receive a score of 50 on the AFQT, you open up the possibility of enlistment bonuses in the Army. 

The Army is known to be the most lenient compared to other military branches.


Like the other military branches mentioned so far, you need a high school diploma or GED with 15 college credit hours to be a Tier I Navy recruit.

Also, your ASVAB score must be a 31 for consideration.

Like the Air Force, your AFQT score must be 50 to join under Tier II. The Navy allows between 5 and 10 percent of Tier II recruits every year.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard sets high educational expectations for its recruits, which makes it a challenging branch to gain acceptance.

Because of this high expectation, becoming a Coast Guard recruit with a GED is a challenge.

Therefore, if you are Tier III, it is impossible to join.

If you do have a GED, you must score a 50 or better on the AFQT.

Remember, if you manage to earn the 15 college credits without the diploma, you still get into the Tier I category.

If you are Tier I, you have the first choice of available Coast Guard jobs.

Also, those in Tier II may choose from what positions remain.

The Coast Guard expects a score of 40 on the AFQT part of the ASVAB exam as a minimum. You’ll need to score 50 with just a GED.


In general, the Marines typically accept only 5% or fewer recruits who do not have a high school diploma or the 15 college credits necessary to be in Tier I.

The Marines first select the most highly educated and prefer recruits with a High School Diploma.

If you have a GED and want to be a Marine, you need an AFQT score of 50.

However, if you wish to be a Marine and have a high school diploma, you need an AFQT score of 31.

Related Article10 Best ASVAB Study Guides

Frequently Asked Questions

the Navy has strict education requirements for recruits
Image: wikimedia.org

We address some common questions related to joining the military without a high school diploma below.

What is the AFQT Test?

The AFQT test is the Armed Forces Qualification Test.

This test is a subtest of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) exam.

Also, the AFQT calculates arithmetic reasoning, mathematics, paragraph comprehension, and word knowledge.

Furthermore, the scores from the AFQT are essential because they help the military branches decide who best meets enlistment eligibility.

You can learn more about the AFQT in our in-depth article here.

Will I receive a higher rank with college credits?

Yes, if you have college credits, you may qualify for an advanced rank.

Some military branches are more generous than others with advanced ranks, so it is best to talk to your recruiter.

Can I get my GED before joining?

If not having your GED is an obstacle to joining the military, you have options.

Many recruits sign up for their GED as a plan to meet the education requirements.

The amount of time it takes depends on how far you made it through high school.

However, three months is the average amount of time it takes to prepare for the GED exam.

Related Article12 ASVAB Tips & Tricks To Help You Get The Best Score


Generally speaking, the higher your level of education before enlistment, the better your odds of joining the Armed Forces.

Educational requirements have three different Tiers.

The first Tier is for those with a high school diploma.

However, you can make it to Tier I even without a diploma as long as you have 15 college credits.

Tier II is for those with a GED.

However, if you do not have a diploma or GED, you are in Tier III.

Priority is given to those in Tier I, and in many cases, those in Tier II need a higher AFQT score to gain entry.

However, if you wish to join and find not having your diploma or GED to be an obstacle, you can work towards your GED in about three months.

Since some branches are more strict than others regarding educational background, it is best to speak to a recruiter to learn about your potential. 






Rob V.
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Wondering whether or not you can join the military without a high school diploma? Find out what the High School / GED requirements to join the military are here.

Originally posted on 08/14/21

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