hardest military branch
General Military Questions

What’s The Hardest Military Branch? 5 Toughest Ranked For 2023

When considering joining the military, you might wonder which is the hardest military branch.

Typically, when contemplating this question, people think about boot camp. However, others might wonder which branch is the hardest military branch to get into.

Plus, training does not end with boot camp, and each branch has ongoing training depending on the MOS, or job.

Figuring out the hardest military branch depends on individual challenges because what is hard for one person might be easy for another.

However, recruits usually have their eye on the difficulties of boot camp, but we will cover tough training within each branch and required ASVAB scores.

#1. US Marine Corps

The marines are often considered the hardest military branch
Image: wikipedia.org

The Marine Corps’ boot camp length is 13 weeks.

Also, the 13 weeks of boot camp break down into four different phases.

The first phase covers induction and transitioning into military life.

Also, you immediately begin physical and mental endurance training.

The second phase covers your swimming qualification and more physical training. 

The third phase includes marksmanship, the gas chamber exercise, and the 54-hour-long Crucible.

The final phase includes your final drill, where you show off everything covered in boot camp.

You’ll also prepare for and complete graduation. 

However, before you even get an opportunity to join the Marines, you must pass the Physical Fitness Test to ensure you have the physical stamina to make it through boot camp.

Also, the Marines require an ASVAB test score of 31, which is one of the lower acceptable scores for all military branches.

Furthermore, the Marine Corps is the toughest when it comes to age; you cannot be older than 28 to become a recruit.

Tough jobs within the Marines

If you can make it through Marine boot camp, you might find the challenge is not over. There are some tough Marine MOS training to consider, as well, and we cover a couple.

USMC Combat Engineer (MOS 1371)

Combat Engineers specialize in explosives, recovery, and building and demolishing structures.

Often, Combat engineers are on the front lines with those in the infantry.

Furthermore, Combat engineers go to all the advanced training and take what they learn to the battlefield.

USMC Scout / Sniper (MOS 0317)

Scout Snipers are another Marine MOS with excellent training in shooting.

To become a sniper, you must be a part of the infantry and hope you have an opportunity for a screening where the Marines weed out potential snipers to find the best.

Then, you might go to sniper school, where the passing rate is rather low.

#2. US Army

army is the 2nd hardest military branch
Image: Army.mil

The Army’s boot camp is 10 weeks long, and each week involves new challenges.

At the beginning of Army boot camp, recruits learn the Army’s regulations, rules, and values.

Next, introductions to the drill sergeant begin with working on both physical and mental endurance.

Soon, marksmanship becomes the focus as well as the marksman qualification training and course.

Later weeks include combat skills and a three-day Victory Forge that highlights all learned skills.

The Army also has a low limit for the ASVAB score at 31.

Also, the Army has an upper age limit of 35 years old, which is one of the higher ages a recruit can be and still join.

Tough jobs in the Army

Many who join the military have aspirations of going into special forces.

However, the training before even making it to the official special forces training is, by design, going to weed out everyone but the best.

However, that does not mean those who do not make it are weak. The failure rate means the training is that hard.

Army Diver (MOS 12D)

Army Divers are another field with demanding training.

A Diver can conduct reconnaissance underwater as well as demolition and construction.

You learn about special warfare, explosives, hyperbaric, and a whole lot more.

After boot camp, there are 29 weeks of advanced training.

Plus, the ASVAB score for this field must be, at a minimum, 98 for General Maintenance and 107 for General Technical, and 106 for Skilled Technical.

3. US Navy

The Navy has tough standards for ASVAB scores
Image: bootcamp.navy.mil

Boot camp for the Navy is 7- 9 weeks long.

Your first experience at boot camp for the Navy is your in-processing, where all the paperwork happens.

Then, you get into a routine.

At first, you learn about Navy life, take classes, and how to operate in the Navy.

Then, you work through your initial swim qualifications, learn about marching, and do a whole lot of physical conditioning.

Eventually, you move on to the marksmanship test, damage control on a ship, and make plans for your future Navy careers.

At the end of Navy boot camp, you have drill inspection and a lot of testing to ensure you learned what you need before advancing in the Navy.

The Navy allows recruits as old as 41 years. 

Also, the ASVAB test requirement is at least 31 to qualify for the Navy.

Related ArticleHow To Prepare Physically for Navy Boot Camp

Tough jobs in the Navy

Just like the other branches of the military, the Navy has its own set of challenging jobs (called “Ratings” or “Rates”).

They include:

Nuclear Field

One of the more challenging jobs to get in the Navy is in the Nuclear Field.

This field of work includes several specifications, and both officers and enlisted members make up this field.

As an enlisted seaman, you might be an electronics technician, an electrician’s mate, or a machinist’s mate.

To get into this field, you must score well on the science, electronics, and math sections of the ASVAB test.

Once through boot camp, the first round of advanced training, called “Nuke School.”

Then, depending on which area of Nuke you are in, you have more schools between three to six months in length.

Also, the second school is not the end of it because you still have a six-month training program where students learn, hands-on, how to operate a nuclear propulsion plant.


Another tough Navy job is Special Warfare.

The community of seamen making up Special Warfare is close to 8,000 strong.

However, the Special Warfare Operators, or SEALs, make up a smaller percentage of the community (about 2,400 on active duty).

Just getting to the training (BUD/S) in Special Warfare is tough. However, making it through SEAL training is something else entirely.

Related ArticleNavy SEAL Weapons & Gear

#4. US Air Force

air force basic training schedule
Image: Wikimedia.org

Air Force basic training is just over seven weeks in length.

Every week, Air Force recruits pick up new skills.

Your time at Lakeland Air Force Base at Air Force boot camp begins with a physical fitness assessment to see where you initially stand.

Also, you will learn the basics of Air Force customs and other expectations.

Next, you begin some classroom training that covers Air Force history, weapons, and drills, and you will also continue physical fitness.

Around week three, you have a physical fitness assessment where you face being recycled into a new group if you are not on track.

As your training continues, you pick up on combat skills.

Eventually, everything you learn brings you to the final week, where you demonstrate everything you learned during Air Force boot camp.

Upon completion of Air Force basic training, you’ll move on to Tech School, where you’ll learn how to do your job. 

The Air Force has one of the stricter requirements for the ASVAB test. You need a minimum score of 31 to join, and 50 if you have a GED.

However, if you are no more than 39 years old, you have the potential to join the Air Force.

Tough jobs in the Air Force

hardest military branch
Image: af.mil

The Air Force has several job opportunities, and some jobs are rather intense.

Cyberspace Defense Operations (1B4X1)

For instance, a career in Cyberspace Defense Operations means you handle cyberspace capabilities for the Air Force.

Your skills include defending against cyber-attacks and handling command and control of cyberspace forces and operations.

Those in this field tend to have a lot of STEM experience, and some have some college coursework in technology.

Technical training is five months to become an apprentice.

The field itself has ongoing and continuous training throughout your career.

SERE Specialist (1T0X1)

Another tough career option in the Air Force is the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Specialist.

A SERE Specialist’s goal is to train others to survive in all situations.

In this field, you are an expert in hostile territory and have the know-how to complete a mission when things do not go as planned.

However, there is a minimum score of 55 in the General Knowledge section of the ASVAB.

Plus, there is a stamina and physical abilities test before you are up for consideration for this field.

If you make it, you have a SERE Specialist training orientation course.

Afterward, you have a nearly six-month apprentice course in Washington, where you will become an expert in your AFSC.

Related Article4 Best Air Force Combat Jobs

#5. US Coast Guard

coast guard special forces
Image: PxHere

While the Coast Guard might be considered the easiest military branch in terms of physical fitness, it is by far the hardest to join.

Because this branch is the smallest, their recruiting requirements allow them to be a bit more picky about who they let in (and who they don’t).

The Coast Guard has eight weeks designated for boot camp, which is conducted in Cape May, NJ.

Many recruits count the first week of Coast Guard training as the most challenging.

The first week is when physical conditioning begins, and recruits begin rigorous classroom work.

There is a stringent test for the required knowledge, which is as important as the physical fitness tests.

Also, recruits learn marksmanship, seamanship, and firefighting skills at boot camp.

The last three or so weeks of Coast Guard boot camp include learning your duty station and training in first aid, CPR, and getting ready to move on after graduation.

The Coast Guard is one of the stricter military branches regarding age; you cannot be older than 31 years to join.

Also, the Coast Guard has the highest expectation for the scores on the ASVAB test.

You must score at least a 40 for consideration.

Tough jobs in the Coast Guard

While there are several tough jobs in the Coast Guard, a couple stands out.

Aviation Survival Technician (aka Rescue Swimmer)

Rescue Swimmers, or Aviation Survival Technicians, have a physically demanding job.

Therefore, they must remain in top physical shape, and they have monthly tests to prove they are able.

The monthly test includes the usual push-up and sit-ups. However, rescue swimmers must demonstrate they can do a 500-yard swim within 12 minutes, an underwater swim for 25 yards, and a 200-yard swim while towing a buddy.

The Rescue Swimmer training includes a four-month course even to get ready for the Rescue Swim course.

If you can make it through the initial course, you continue with your training.

Related ArticleASVAB Scores for Coast Guard Jobs


Every military branch offers a challenge.

Also, every potential recruit has their own set of skills and abilities.

Therefore, what is deemed “tough” for one person may not be a challenge for another.

When looking at the difficult challenge of military training and life, one must consider the physical demands of boot camp and the basic requirements that might hold someone up from acceptance into a military branch.

For instance, age can be a factor.

Also, the ASVAB test has its own set of challenges.

Lastly, once you get through boot camp, the added challenge of training within a military job can redefine how you look at the hardest military branch.









Rob V.
Latest posts by Rob V. (see all)
Hardest Military Branch

Hardest Military Branch

4.8 out of 5 (83 Ratings)

Find out what the hardest military branch in the US is, including why it's the toughest. We ranked all 5 military branches in terms of how difficult their training is, specific jobs, and more.

Originally posted on 03/20/22

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2 Replies to “What’s The Hardest Military Branch? 5 Toughest Ranked For 2023

  1. I am an old disabled Marine Corps veteran ! I was a 0331 machine gunner and loved it ! I went through boot camp at Paris Island and did my infantry training school at Camp Pendleton and then went on to sea school ! I decided to go back out into the fleet Marine Corps instead of guard duty on a ship ! I love the corps and I would do it all over again in a heart beat ! It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it made me the man and husband and father and grandfather that I am and installed pride, honor , duty and perseverance in me that I could not have gotten anywhere else ! Being a Marine makes you know that you are the Red, White and Blue, America’s Son and I am glad I claimed the title with all of my brother and sister Marines !

  2. I think one thing about Marine Corps boot camp Paris Island is that missed is the psychological part. They on your ass every minute and if you show any signs of metal problems they will find it and usher you out.

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