Getting into the military is not as simple as it used to be where you show up to an office and are sent to basic training.
The modern military standards require an intense amount of screening to make sure each candidate is going to be able to fulfill their duties without any issues.
One of the most common areas that new military members struggle with understanding what vision they need to enter into specific branches of the military.
With this article, we hope to break down the specific requirements for each branch of service so you know whether or now you would be able to join the branch.
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Army Vision Requirements
The army is the largest branch of the military as it encompasses most of the ground movement and basic combat roles the military operates with.
Since the army itself ranges from jobs like standard ranger to helicopter pilots, we need to look at some of the specific requirements for jobs within the army.
In general, you need vision that corrects to acuity of 20/20 in one eye and 20/40 in the other.
Pilots in the army are not very common unless you are looking to pilot a helicopter or specialized army aircraft.
Those pilots in the army need to have vision that is or can be corrected to 20/20 in both eyes to qualify whether that is through glasses, contacts, or laser eye surgery.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Techs
EOD operatives need to have excellent vision as they need to spot devices that could be a threat to an entire unit.
The requirements for EOD specialists is to have 20/200 bilateral that is correctable to 20/25 without color blindness.
Army rangers are the standard infantry unit for the army, so their vision requirements align directly with the standard requirements for the army branch as a whole.
The Airborne units of the army have slightly different vision requirements as they are not quite as standard of a unit as the rangers.
Airborne troops need to have a distance acuity that corrects to 20/20 in one eye and 20/100 in the other.
Army Special Forces
The special forces are a more elite division of the army that requires 20/70 or better in both eyes with both being correctable to 20/20 as they rely on strong vision.
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Navy / Marine Corps Vision Requirements
Despite the Navy being primarily based on the water, they also have a substantial amount of air power that requires a vision requirement.
Most of the standards for the navy are going to be similar to other branches unless the job itself is highly specialized.
Despite being one of the most elite organizations in the entire Military, Navy SEALS only need a vision with 20/40 in the best eye and 20/70 in the worst eye that corrects to 20/25 with both eyes,
A Navy or Marine pilot needs to have a base vision of 20/40 in both eyes that is correctable to 20/20.
Navy divers have the same vision requirements as Navy EOD specialists.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Techs
The EOD requirements for the navy are the same as the Army EOD requirements of 20/200 bilateral that corrects to 20/25 with no color blindness.
Marine Recon operators need to have a 20/200 visual acuity to qualify for the force.
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Air Force Vision Requirements
As we saw with the Navy, Air Force requirements are not as strict as they once were with newer correction abilities helping candidates who need assistance.
In general, most of the Air Force vision standards are going to be around 20/70 that corrects to 20/20 in both eyes with corrective changes.
Air Force Pilots
A pilot must have vision no worse than 20/70 that corrects to 20/20 in both eyes to qualify for basic flight training with normal color and depth perception being required.
Air Force Pararescue (PJ)
The pararescue vision requirement is the same as that of the Air Force Pilot.
Air Force Combat Controllers (CCT)
Once again, the vision requirement of a CCT is the same as a pilot.
Tactical Air Control Party (TACP)
Entry requirements for TACP are an uncorrected vision of 20/200 that corrects to 20/20 in both eyes.
Combat Systems Officer (CSO)
The CSO requirements are going to be the same as the Air Force Pilot.
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Coast Guard Vision Requirements
Being the smallest branch of the military, there are not many specialized jobs that the coast guard offers that present unique vision requirements.
Because of their small size and fairly standard operations, the Coast Guard has set their overall requirements as having an uncorrected vision of 20/200 with a corrected vision of 20/20 in both eyes.
The strength of the lenses someone wears and having normal color perception are also something that the Coast Guard will consider when picking applicants.
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List of Vision Disqualifications in the Military
If someone is considered legally blind to a point where no correction will allow them to see, this is an immediate disqualification from every branch of the military.
Being blind in one eye is also going to be just as disqualifying as if you were to be blind in both eyes.
For obvious reasons, complete or partial blindness is going to disqualify you from military service as you will not be able to fulfill the duties required by being enlisted in the military at any level.
While there is no specific standard for color vision in the military, you will be tested on your ability to perceive different colors when getting tested for the military.
The standard for color vision within the military revolves around the idea that you must be able to easily distinguish between different objects that vary in color by a significant amount.
This also means that you will need to be able to tell the distinct difference between objects that are red and green to prove you don’t have color blindness.
Not being able to pass these tests or noting that you are color blind on your medical application will be an automatic disqualification for service in any branch of the military.
An astigmatism is a defect in the shape of an eye’s cornea is not correctly shaped from either birth or another accident.
The reason this condition can be a disqualification is because some people who have astigmatisms have very blurry vision or poor image perception without very strong corrective lenses.
Because of this, any astigmatisms that are over 3 diopters are going to be an immediate disqualification for service while less intense astigmatisms will have to be tested to understand the viability of military service.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can you wear glasses or contacts in the military?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions when people wonder if they qualify for service.
The question can often be hard to answer because there is a large amount of variety into how glasses can affect someone’s vision, it is hard to determine if someone with glasses can qualify.
In the vast majority of cases, you can join the military and wear corrective lenses during your service.
With contacts, you are allowed to wear them when you graduate basic training to correct your vision as long as they do not alter your eye color.
Can I get PRK or Lasik eye surgery?
Lasik is something that is considered by many who are about to or already in service with the military.
The elimination of the need for glasses is especially useful for pilots and combat troops.
In recent years, the rules surrounding PRK and Lasik have changed to allow people who have undergone the procedure to be allowed to qualify for flight training and standard military operations.
Will the military pay for PRK / Lasik?
Depending on the situation and need for vision correction, there are some cases in which the military may be able to subsidize some or all of the cost for Lasik or PRK procedures.
If you are hoping to join the military in hopes that they will cover the procedure cost for any random soldier, you are mistaken.
Are there any waivers for bad vision in the military?
Like we have seen with many of the other issues involving vision, most vision issues that require waivers are looked at on a case by case basis.
This means that some candidates may be easily accepted into service with a waiver while others may require additional testing or be disqualified if they present a valid waiver.
Learn more about the Military Medical Waiver process for each branch of the military here.
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No matter which branch of the military interests you the most, there are a lot of considerations you need to make regarding eligibility.
As we have seen with vision, there is much more that goes into the vision requirements than just how well you can see with or without glasses.
From the individual branches to specific jobs within those branches, there is a wide range of vision requirements that make a future candidate eligible.
We hope this information has helped you understand where you may want to look into the military now that you know a bit more about their vision requirements.
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