which branch of the military should I join
General Military Questions

Which Branch Of The Military Should I Join?

Jump To A Branch Of The Military

Should I Join The Navy?

Should I Join The Army?

Should I Join The Air Force?
Should I Join The Marines?

Should I Join The Coast Guard?

Conclusion

Deciding on which branch of the military you want to join is easy for some, and not so easy for others.

Some have their hearts set on a particular branch for a wide variety of reasons, including:

  • A family member who may have served in a particular branch, like a father that served in the Air Force
  • A lifelong dream to serve in one particular job in the service (like wanting to be a Navy SEAL)
  • Potential careers after service

Related Article:  Top 20 Reasons To Join The Military (And 7 Reasons NOT To)

For others, choosing whether you want to join the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, may be a difficult choice.

Unlike some other sites you may have come across, this article isn’t some military branch picker quiz that asks you useless questions like:

Do you like the beach, ocean, land, or air?

What’s your favorite color?

Etc.

Joining the military can be one of the biggest decisions of your life, and no quiz will give you the full insight you need to make an informed decision.

The purpose of this article is to help you get a better understanding of what it’s like to serve in each branch of the armed forces.

We’ll discuss what the basic training is like, some cool jobs, some un-cool jobs, what a typical day is like, and the pros and cons for each military branch.

Should I Join The Navy?

It is commonly understood that within the military that the Navy has the best base locations in the US Armed Forces. Although there are minor exceptions, every Navy base is on a coast. So, if you want to serve and the beach life calls to you, consider joining the Navy.

best jobs in the navy
An aircraft carrier gets resupplied at sea

If you’re thinking about joining the Navy, one of the biggest decisions you need to make is whether or not you’ll be OK spending months at a time on a boat.

While most jobs in the Navy will require some time at-sea, this isn’t true for every one. Make sure that you know what to expect before signing up if going out to sea is an issue for you.

What’s Navy Basic Training Like?

Located at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, the “Quarterdeck of the Navy” is the one and only location in the US that Navy recruits go for basic training.

is navy boot camp hard
Sometimes it gets very cold at Navy Boot Camp

While it can still be physically difficult, it really doesn’t compare to that of the Army or Marine Corps boot camps.

Click Here to read our full article on how hard Navy Boot Camp is.

Instead of drill sergeants or drill instructors, Recruit Division Commanders are the guys who will be getting in your face when you screw up.

Throughout Navy Boot camp, you will do things like:

  • Learn about Navy customs and history
  • Learn about the “ship” you’re living in
  • Have inspections conducted of your living quarters and work area
  • Learn how to stand watch
  • Learn how to Marlinspike

Basic training lasts 8 weeks, at the end of which you’ll be able to invite your family to your graduation.

Navy boot camp graduation

Cool Jobs In The Navy

One of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make joining the Navy is choosing your rate.

There’s an old saying in the Navy (and the military in general) that goes like this:

Choose your rate, Choose your fate

Your rate is essentially the job you pick and is grouped into the following categories:

    • Aviation
    • Construction
    • Medical
    • Administration
    • Deck
    • Technical
    • Weapons specialists
    • Engineering
    • Hull

Within each category is a multitude of specific opportunities, also known as “ratings.”

The Navy has some really cool, really unique ratings.

You’re probably aware of the Navy SEALs, some of the most hardened warriors the US military has to offer.

Navy SEALs conducted a beach landing.

However, the training to become a SEAL (called BUD/S) is very demanding, and has an attrition rate of as much as 80%.

Related ArticleBUD/S Class 234: Where Are They Now?

As a result, it’s a good idea to keep your options open.

Here’s a short list of other cool jobs in the Navy that you might not have heard of:

  • Navy Diver (ND)
  • Hospital Corpsman (HM)
  • Nuclear Field (NF)
  • Intelligence Specialist (IS)
  • Gunner’s Mate (GM)
  • Yeoman (YN)
  • Navy Security *Military Police

All of these jobs have their own unique features and benefits, too much to discuss in this article.

Speak with a Navy recruiter and they will be able to tell you everything you need to know about each of these ratings.

Not So Cool Jobs In The Navy

Additionally, while every rating plays a part in the overall success of the Navy, here’s some that sound painfully boring:

  • Ship’s Serviceman (duties include laundry and operating gas stations)
  • Aviation Maintenance Administration (duties include paperwork, paperwork, and—oh yeah—paperwork)
  • Culinary Specialist (exactly what it sounds like, you’re a cook)
navy hull technicians at work
Navy hull technician sweating it out in the bowels of the ship

Related Article: 5 Absolutely Worst Jobs In The Navy

You should also consider the fact the life as an officer and life as an enlisted man can be considerably different.

What’s A Typical Day In The Navy Like?

Like all of the other branches, a typical day in the Navy will depend heavily on what your rate is and where you’re stationed.

For arguments sake, let’s take the typical day of a popular rating in the Navy: Boatswains Mate (BM).

Assuming he or she is on a ship, a normal day could look something like this:

0600 – 0745: Wake up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast.

0745 – 0800: Muster.  You’ll gather around with your fellow sailors and discuss the days work ahead.

0800 – 1200: Go to work. For a BM, this can range from things like painting the outside of the ship, to standing watch on the bridge of the ship.

1200 – 1330: Eat lunch.  Lunch times are considerably long, but the reason for that is lines are often very long.  I.E. you could be standing in line waiting to get food stacked on your tray for 30 – 40 min.

1330 – 1700: Back to work, typically whatever you were doing that morning.

1730 – Knock-off, which is Navy slang for stop working.

1730 – 1900: Eat dinner

Throughout the day, you may also be involved in ship maintenance tasks like sweeping, cleaning, and other assorted jobs.

Pros And Cons Of The Navy

In summary, here’s the pros and cons of joining the Navy.

Pros

  • You’ll get to see the world
  • Food is better than almost all the other branches
  • Has some really cool jobs
  • Potential for post-military careers is huge and varied
  • G.I. Bill

Cons

  • Mostly likely you’ll have to spend months at-sea
  • You’ll have almost no privacy, unless you’re an officer
  • Ships quarters are very small and cramped
  • While there are some really cool jobs, there are an equal amount of very boring ones
  • You won’t have internet access (but you may have access to email)
  • Like most of the other branches, the pay isn’t very good

3 Common Reasons For Joining The Navy

  1. Travel to exotic locations throughout the world.
  2. The food in the Navy is reportedly the best out of all of the branches
  3. There’s no other way to put it, the Navy’s uniforms are great

Should I Join The Army?

The Army is the oldest branch of the US Military, and as such, has quite the history.

army recruiters don't get a commission
Army recruiter speaking with high school students

Unlike with the Navy, soldiers in the US Army are strictly stationed on land military bases all over the world.

The vast majority of bases are here in the US, and they include places like:

  • Fort Benning – Georgia
  • Fort Hood – Texas
  • Fort Campbell – Kentucky
  • Fort Bragg – North Carolina

If you join the Army, there’s a good chance you will end up at one of these bases.

What’s Basic Training Like?

Army Basic training is considered one of the tougher ones in the US Military, although not quite as tough as the Marines (more on that below).

army recruits are issued boots in basic training
Army recruits are issued gear in their training

Officially known as Basic Combat Training (BCT), it’s comprised of 3 phases and lasts 10 weeks.

Click Here to find out how hard Army Basic training is.

Throughout basic, you will do things like:

  • Complete physical fitness tests and training
  • Learn the Army core values and heritage
  • Learn basic rifle marksmanship
  • Conduct field training exercises
  • Run obstacle courses
  • Conduct tactical foot marches

Oh yeah, and you’ll also go through a bit of an unpleasant experience: gas chamber training.

army gas chamber training
Army gas chamber training

Don’t worry, though…

It’s a heavily monitored drill that nearly every solider in the US military goes through. (except the Coast Guard)

Once you complete BCT, you will be official designated a US Army soldier.

Cool Jobs In The Army

Just like with the Navy, jobs in the Army all boil down to one thing: what MOS you choose.

MOS stands for Military Occupation Code, and is a 9 character code that is used to identify a specific job.

army medic conducting an evacuation of a patient
Army medic conducting an evacuation of a patient

There are literally 100’s of MOS’ in the Army, and they range from everything to a carpentry specialist to an aviation mechanic.

Here are a few of the more common MOS’ in the US Army:

  • 11B – Infantryman
  • 12B – Combat Engineer
  • 19K – M1 Armor Crewman
  • 37F – Psychological Operations Specialist
  • 15T – UH-60 Helicopter Repairer

Now, it’s important to mention that choosing an MOS is one thing.

Qualifying for an MOS is a completely different one…

It will all depend on how well you score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB.

Do well on your ASVAB, and you may have the job of your choice

If you score high, your options could be far ranging.

If you score rather poorly, it may significantly limit the types of Army jobs you qualify for.

If you’re thinking about joining ANY branch of the military, it is essential that you score well on the ASVAB.

Not So Cool Jobs In The Army

As I mentioned earlier, your quality of life in the Army will almost completely depend on what MOS you choose.

Picking the worst job in the Army is very difficult, mainly because it’s completely subjective and everyone has a bias.

With that said, some of the more “hated” jobs in the Army include:

  • Culinary Specialist (92G)
  • Joint Fire Support Specialist (13F)
  • Shower/Laundry and Clothing Repair Specialist (92S)
  • Plumber (12K)
US Army culinary specialist at work

Keep in mind that, while some of these jobs aren’t the most fun, they do offer some pretty goo incentives after your service is up.

For example, retiring from the Army as a chef could have you working for a 4 or 5 star restaurant making upwards of $67K a year.

Same goes for plumber, which has an average base salary of $55,687 per year.

What’s A Typical Day In The US Army Like?

Like most other branches of the military, a typical day starts very early in the morning (5 am) and ends around 5 pm.

Army unit training early in the morning. Image: Defense.gov

Most of the day will be spent training, marching, or otherwise performing whatever job it is you have.

For the typical infantryman (one of the most popular jobs in the Army), a typical day might look something like this:

0600 – 0630: Formation.  Basically you will line up with your platoon and prepare for physical evolution.

0630 – 0800: Conduct physical training.  This includes things like pushups, jumping jacks, situps, running, and calisthenics.

0800 – 0900: PT ends, and you hit the showers, get in uniform, and go to breakfast.

0930 – 0945: Report for duty.  This is basically where you report back in formation and receive the days orders.

0945 – 1130: This changes everyday depending on the needs of the unit, but essentially involves performing whatever tasks are necessary.

1130 – 1300: Chow time.  You hit the dining facility for lunch.

1300 – 1630:  Usually varies on a day to day basis, but you can expect to be training during this time.

1630: Back in formation.  Review of the days events, and thorough review of the following days events are broadcast.

1645: Release.  You have the rest of the day to do what you want.

Obviously this is the most basic of what a typical day in the Army looks like, so don’t take all of this as gospel.

Pros And Cons Of Joining The Army

Pros

  • Numerous benefits, including health care, subsidized food, and housing and education benefits.
  • Decent job prospects upon retiring
  • Travel to exotic locations throughout the world
  • Learn new skills

Cons

  • Some of the jobs can be very boring
  • Like the other branches, you’ll be waking up very early

3 Common Reasons For Wanting To Join The Army

  1. Adventure / travel benefits
  2. GI Bill
  3. Honor and respect of your peers

Should I Join The Air Force?

The Air Force is one of the most well-funded branches of the US military, and it’s core missions include:

  • Air and Space Superiority
  • Rapid Global Mobility
  • Global Strike
  • Global Integrated ISR

While serving in the Air Force, you’ll sometimes feel like you’re working more in a corporation than in a branch of the military.

Some even liken it to being on a college campus, with more discipline of course.

Actual administration building at Randolph AFB. Looks like a college campus, doesn’t it? Image: Wikipedia.org

The Air Force has bases all over the world, with some of the larger ones in the US being:

  • Wright-Patterson AFB – Ohio
  • Macdill AFB – Florida
  • Scott AFB – Illinois
  • Joint Base – Texas
  • Edwards AFB – California

Depending on your job in the Air Force, you actually have the option to list which base you would like to serve at on a “dream sheet”.

What’s Basic Training Like?

Unlike the Army or Marines, Air Force basic training is considered way easier for a number of reasons.

For one, there’s a lot less focus on the physical fitness of candidates, and more of a focus on drills, marching, chores, and Air Force customs.

A typical day at Air Force basic training

With that said, it’s no cakewalk either.

Also known as Basic Military Training (or BMT), it lasts 8.5 weeks and is conducted exclusively at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, TX.

Throughout BMT, you will learn things like:

  • Basic rifle firing techniques
  • Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, and high yield explosives training
  • Deployment training
  • Airmanship skills

Once you complete BMT, you will be officially designated a United States Airman.

Cool Jobs In The Air Force

The obvious first choice for everyone here is easy: pilot.

Air Force pilots walking on the flight line

However, with only 1,100 pilot slots available every year, competition can be stiff.

You should also keep in mind that 500 – 550 of those pilot slots are reserved for Air Force Academy graduates, and 350 – 450 spots are reserved for ROTC members.

As a result, your prospects of landing a pilot slot are very low.

With that said, there are a wide variety of great jobs in the Air Force that don’t involve piercing through the sky at Mach 1.

Some of the best jobs in the Air Force include things like:

  • Logistics planner
  • Cyber Warfare
  • Air Traffic Controller

Those last 2 jobs actually are some of the best paying jobs the military has to offer, especially when you retire and move on to the civilian world.

Related Article: 10 Best Air Force Jobs For Civilian Life In 2019

If you’re 100% set on becoming a pilot, then you should consider going the Air National Guard route.

Air Force National Guard units are essentially the military reserve force, as well as the militia Air Force, of each state.

Air National Guard members in Louisiana

They fly all of the same aircraft that the regular full-time Air Force does; F-16’s, F-15’s, A-10’s, and even large  cargo planes like the C5 Galaxy.

The upside is, there’s no full-time commitment.

You still have to go to basic training, but you’ll only serve in a part-time role.

Not So Cool Jobs In The Air Force

While most others in the military consider the Air Force more of a college campus than a branch of the military, it’s not without its downsides.

While many Air Force jobs are actually considered exciting, there are several jobs that aren’t exactly considered the “most fun” or “interesting”.

Those include:

Base Security

Like sitting in a truck guarding several rows of parked fighter jets for 10 hours at a clip?  Then this might not necessarily be the “worst” Air Force job for you.

An Air Force Security Forces member guarding an A-10 ‘sounds fun’, but can get very boring.

UAS Sensor Operator

Always wanted to be a pilot, but would much rather sit in an air-conditioned trailer in the middle of the Arizona desert and stare at a bunch of computer screens all day?

Then this job might be right for you.

Fuels (2F)

You’re basically a gas station attendant, except instead of filling the tank in a $45,000 car, you’re gassing up a $45,000,000 jet.

Not necessarily the worst job, but also not the most fun either.

What’s a typical day in the Air Force like?

This is actually one of the hardest branches of the military to describe the day-to-day activities of.

It’s heavily contingent upon what job you have, and the jobs are so varied, that there isn’t really anything “typical”.

With that said, generally speaking most jobs in the Air Force follow a very “civilian-like” regiment.

Since we’re talking about the Air Force, it would make sense to describe what a typical day might look like for one of the most important jobs: Fighter Pilot.

Here’s what it might look like:

0430 – 0600: Wake up, eat breakfast, get showered and dressed

0600 – 0830: Mission scheduling and planning.  You’ll go over the flights for the week, the objectives, airspace boundaries, communications, flight routes, and much more.

0830 – 1000: Flight briefing.  Here you’ll discuss the intricacies of the flight with the other pilots. Everything from the types of weapons you’ll be carrying, how they should be dropped, and tactical events will be scrutinized and meticulously gone over.

1000 – 1030: Head to life support.  Here you’ll suit up for the mission, donning your G-suit, harnesses, equipment, and prepare your helmet.

1030 – 1100: Head to the Aircraft / perform pre flight.

1100 – 1130:  Engine start, weapons armed, flight check in, and taxi.

1130 – 1300: Sortie takes place.  This will vary widely, and could be anything from dog-fighting, to bombing training targets on the ground.

1300 – 1330: Maintenance debrief.  After landing, you’ll talk to the maintenance guys and tell them if the jet needs any repairs or issues you might have experienced during flight.

1330 – 1400:  Back to life support to strip down out of your gear.

1400 – 1600:  Flight debrief.  Here you’ll go over everything about the flight, including reviewing tapes, doing a play by play review of the mission, and discussing any issues.

1600 – 1800: “Queep” time.  This is the time where you complete your continuing education training, and involves things like training on the use of fire extinguishers.  Seriously…while this time has been cut considerably in the last few years, it’s still  very much a part of Airman duties.

As you can see, the life of a fighter pilot is nothing like the movies portray it to be.

Pros And Cons Of Joining The Air Force

Pros

  • Better quality of life compared to the other services
  • Basic training is considered the easiest
  • They have some cool jobs that translate to real world careers
  • Great housing options living on base
  • GI Bill

Cons

  • Requirements to get in are a bit tougher than those of the Army, Marines, or Navy
  • Some of the services consider the Air Force more of a corporation than a branch of the military
  • Some of the jobs require very long hours
  • You might end up at a base you don’t necessarily want to be at
  • You might have joined to become a pilot, but end up flying unmanned drones (UAVs) instead

3 Common Reasons For Joining The Air Force

  1.  You’re treated more like a human than the Army and Marines
  2.  Even when you’re deployed to some foreign hotspot, you’ll likely have better housing than any other branch. (IE you won’t be ‘roughing it’ like they are)
  3.  Unless you’re a pilot, you likely won’t see a minute of combat

Should I Join The Marines?

The US Marines is actually a department of the Navy, and some Marines like to call it ‘the men’s department’ 🙂

Marines patrolling in Afghanistan

They operate both on land and on sea-going ships, and historically have been tasked with responsibilities like:

  • Seizing and / or defense of Navy bases and supporting Naval campaigns
  • Development of amphibious landing tactics in conjunction with the other service branches.
  • Asymmetric warfare

Some guys that join the Marines have their sights set on it from a very young age, and it’s not necessarily the branch of the military that you just “join up for fun”.

What’s Basic Training Like?

There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it…

Marine boot camp is by far the toughest out of all of the military branches.

Marine boot camp is tough

For a number of reasons, it has to be.

Marines are one of the first branches to deploy to worldwide hotspots, and is often on the front lines of battle.

As a result, they need to train soldiers to be the most aggressive.

Sure, there’s lots of yelling, sometimes to the point where you feel like you might cry.

With that said, it’s all done with a purpose.

Marine Boot camp is divided up into 3 phases:

Phase 1: Weeks 1 – 4

Throughout this phase, you will undergo strenuous physical training, martial arts, and learn about the Marines history.

Marine recruits training for a tan belt in martial arts.  Image: Marines.mil

Phase 2: Weeks 5 – 9

Throughout this phase, recruits will begin training on a wide variety of weapons systems.

Most importantly, they will be trained on how to become an expert rifleman.

Phase 3: Weeks 10 – 13

In 3rd phase, recruits will undergo a variety of advanced training, including:

  • Defensive driving
  • Swim qualifications
  • First Aid
  • Drill and inspections

After 14 long weeks, the recruit will finally be able to call him / herself a United States Marine.

Cool Jobs In The Marines

Like the Navy, jobs in the marines are divided up into MOS’, or military occupation codes.

Just like with the other branches, your job will completely depend on what your ASVAB score is.

A lot of guys that sign up for the Marines sign up for one job only: Infantryman.

This is the most common job in the Marines, and puts you on the front lines of most foreign conflicts.

Marine infantrymen training on 50 caliber machine guns. Image: Marines.mil

With that said, there are plenty of other job opportunities in the Marines.

Some of the more rewarding and marketable ones include:

  • Cyber Security (MOS 0689)
  • Cryptologic Linguist (translator)
  • Signals Intelligence (MOS 2629)

As I mentioned earlier, most Marine recruits sign up for the infantry.

But it’s always a good option to keep your eyes peeled for jobs like the ones above, especially if you’re considering your options after enlistment.

Not So Cool Jobs In The Marines

Like most other branches, the Marines have their fair share of jobs that are considered “the worst”.

However, unlike the Navy, Army, or Air Force, they’re considered the “worst” for different reasons than you might think.

As I mentioned earlier, most guys join the Marines for one key reason: to see combat.

If you end up doing the following jobs, there’s a good chance you will be nowhere near the fight:

Military Police (MOS 5811)

While working as an MP in the Marines, it will almost certainly prepare you for a career in law enforcement after your service is up.

marine military police escort a mock prisoner
Marine military police escort a mock prisoner. Image: Marines.mil

This is something you should heavily consider when deciding which branch of the military to join, as you’ll only be serving for a short portion of your life anyway.

With that said, it’s considered by some as the worst MOS in the Marines for a few reasons:

  1. As a general rule, people don’t like cops.  I think it’s ridiculous, but it is what it is.
  2. Shifts can be very long, up to 20 hours a day in some circumstances
  3. It can be very stressful

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technician (MOS 1161)

Another job that isn’t necessarily a favorite in the Marines is Refrigeration and A/C Technician.

Again, most join the Marines to get in the fight, not fix a broken refrigerator.

Instead of doing the cool stuff like shooting off mortars or firing a 50 cal. machine gun, you’ll be squatting underneath an air handler in 95 degree heat.

Keep in mind that while both of these jobs are generally “hated” in the Marines, it can set you up for a really good career when you get out.

I cant stress how important this is enough!

What’s A Typical Day Like In The Marines?

Depending on the job, a typical day in the life of a US Marine can vary dramatically.

US Marines training. Image: Getarchive.net

For simplicity, we’ll examine the day to day life of one of the most popular MOS’ in the Marines: Infantryman.

When not involved in an active war (IE peacetime), a typical day for an infantryman might look something like this:

0500: Wake up and get dressed for physical training (PT).

0515 – 0545: Team, squad, and platoon formation.  This is the time that everyone essentially forms up to get ready for the mornings events.

0545 – 0615: Company formation.  All platoons in the unit will join up and report to the company commander, company 1st sergeant, and gunnery sergeant.

0615 – 0815: Physical training.  This changes daily, and can be everything from a 10 mile run, practicing hand to hand combat, and stretching and calisthenics.

0815 – 0900: Break for showers, shaving, and breakfast.  As you’ll see, you don’t really have a lot of time for this.

0900 – 0930: Back in formation with your company.  Throughout this time, your company commander will discuss any vital information with the company.

0930 – 0945: Break out into your individual platoons.  Here the platoon commander will essentially discuss the days events.

0945 – 1200: Work on the days tasks with your squad.  This could be everything from cleaning and maintaining weapons, to more PT.

1200 – 1245: Break for lunch.

1245 – 1315: Back in formation with your team, squad, platoon, and company.  The afternoons events will be discussed, along with any tasks assigned.

1315 – 1800: Back to work / PT.

1800 – 1900: Form back up with your company and be secured from the days events.  “Secured” essentially means “we’re done working for the day, you can change out of your uniforms and into civilian clothes”.

Once a week on Thursday, the platoon will clean literally everything.

Pros and Cons of the Marines

In summary, here are the pros and cons of joining the Marines.

Pros

  • First to fight when a war comes along
  • You’ll be a part of an elite fighting force, respected by all
  • They have the coolest uniforms out of all the military branches (sorry Navy, I have to agree!)
  • You’ll have lifelong brothers

Cons

  • Very strict standards for everything from uniform appearance to your haircut
  • Not as many jobs to choose from as some of the other branches
  • Slower promotions
  • Lots of “hurry up and wait” type situations
  • Lower quality of life than some of the other branches

3 Common Reasons For Joining The Marines

  1. Be a part of something bigger than yourself
  2. True job security.  We’ll always need Marines
  3. Honorable history

Should I Join The Coast Guard?

The US Coast Guard is the one branch of the military that is probably the least understood.

Coast Guard cutter at sea in rough conditions. Image: Wikimedia.org

While most people don’t realize it, it actually is a branch of the US Military.

And they’re not just involved in search and rescue operations like the ones you see in movies and on TV.

Other responsibilities of the Coast Guard include:

  • Drug interdiction
  • Escorting civilian ships with dangerous / hazardous cargo
  • Intercepting immigration trafficking vessels
  • Inspect container ships for illegal cargo
  • Conduct safety and security exams of US based vessels
  • Environmental protection

There are Coast Guard bases all over the US, with some of the larger ones being:

  • Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak – Alaska
  • Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City – North Carolina
  • Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater – Florida
  • Coast Guard Island – California

The cool thing about the Coast Guard is you can actually be guaranteed a location upon graduating.

It’s not always possible, but you certainly have a better chance of landing the base of your choice vs. the other military branches.

The Coast Guard will do everything in their power to see it that way.

What’s Coast Guard Basic Training Like?

All Coast Guard basic training is conducted at one location in the US: Cape May, New Jersey.

Coast Guard recruits training on the beach in Cape May, NJ. Image: Dodlive.mil

Growing up in New Jersey, I’ve been to Cape May several times.

I can tell you this, it’s not the part of New Jersey that most people think of when they think of NJ.

It’s actually a very nice part of the state, and just so happens to be a popular vacation destination.

Aerial view of Coast Guard training facility

Like the other branches of the military, Coast Guard boot camp lasts 8 weeks, and the very first thing you’ll be tested on is your physical fitness.

Here’s a handy chart for what’s expected for both men and women:

coast guard basic training physical requirements

While boot camp is located on the beach, it’s certainly no vacation!

Throughout boot camp, seaman recruits will do things like:

  • Firefighting
  • Water training, including a 100 meter swim and treading water
  • Marching
  • Physical training
  • Marksmanship

After boot camp, Seaman recruits will then be assigned to one of the many bases throughout the country.

Cool Jobs In The Coast Guard

As with most other branches of the military, choosing which job in the Coast Guard to pursue will be unique to every individuals interests.

One of the most elite jobs in the US military, Coast Guard rescue swimmer. Image: Defense.gov

What’s interesting to note is that most of the jobs in the Coast Guard are the same ones you would find in the Navy.

Of course, there will be some major differences between jobs for enlisted personnel and jobs for officers.

With that said, some of the coolest jobs for enlistees in the Coast Guard include:

  • Gunners mate
  • Aviation Survival Technician (Rescue Swimmer)
  • Damage Control

Not So Cool Jobs In The Coast Guard

While leaping from helicopters in the middle of a hurricane sounds like a boat-load of fun, there are a few jobs that aren’t necessarily the most popular among the ranks.

Just like with the Navy, you could be stuck doing one of these jobs:

Operations Specialist (OS)

While an operations specialist is a vital role, it’s not without it’s downsides.

Basically operations specialists spend a good majority of their time standing watches.

By that I mean they will literally be sitting around in a room ‘standing watch’ for as much as 12 hours a day, 2 – 3 days a week.

You’ll basically be monitoring things to make sure there aren’t any fires or flooding, and that everything is running smoothly.

It’s a very boring job, but an important one nonetheless.

Electronics Technician

While this is sort of a wide ranging rate, generally speaking if you’re an ET than you are the guy that works on radios, radar systems, and computers.

You’re the guy that fixes stuff.

While some guys seem to love the job, others seem to absolutely despise it.

It really depends on where you end up.

What’s A Typical Day In The Coast Guard Like?

Just like the other branches, this depends exclusively on what rate you hold and where you’re stationed.

The various districts of the US Coast Guard

Unlike most of the other branches, however, it was nearly impossible to find out what the typical day in the Coast Guard would be like.

It varies so dramatically that I’ve decided to leave it out in this article.

If anyone who has served in the US Coast Guard wants to send me an email with their a brief recap of their day-to-day activities, it would be greatly appreciated!

Pros And Cons Of Joining The Coast Guard

Now that you have a better understanding of what they do, what basic training is like, and cool / uncool jobs, it’s time to sum it up.

In summary, here are the pros and cons of the Coast Guard:

Pros

  • You won’t be deployed to a foreign war
  • Much smaller branch, so you will form personal relationships with men and women of all ranks
  • Really cool bases, all located on or near a beach
  • Possible to get your choice of base guaranteed
  • Deployments are usually shorter than other branches (around 4 months)

Cons

  • Getting in to the CG can actually be difficult due to the small amount of recruits needed to fulfill the mission
  • Some jobs are very dangerous
  • Cutters are very small, and as such, living quarters are kind of cramped

3 Common Reasons For Joining The Coast Guard

  1. Always stationed by a beach, sometimes in very nice resort areas.
  2. Travel.  You’ll get to see unique parts of the county you likely have never been before.
  3. Save lives.  This is probably one of the biggest reasons people join the Coast Guard.  Not only will you be saving lives, but you’ll be getting paid too!

Conclusion

There are a ton of factors you should be thinking about if you’re deciding to join the military, the most important being:

  • You’re individual personality.  You should be able to figure out if a job suits you based on your own unique interests.
  • Career opportunities after service.  Think big picture here.  If you’re simply a rifleman in the Army, you may be severely limiting your career choices after your service is up.
  • Officer or enlisted route.  There are huge differences, both in terms of quality of life and advancement, when deciding to go the officer or enlisted route.  Act accordingly.

Your best bet is to visit a local recruiter for each branch of the military, and talk to them in depth about the various career opportunities.

Hopefully this article informed you enough to make the right decision on which branch of the military you should join!

Which Branch Of The Military Should I Join?
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Rob V.
Rob V.
Rob V. is the founder of OperationMilitaryKids.org. While he never actually served in the US Military, he has a passion for writing about military related topics. Born and raised in Woodbridge, NJ, he graduated from the New Jersey Institute Of Technology with an MBA in eCommerce. His hobbies include beach volleyball, target shooting, and lifting. Rob is also a commercially rated pilot with over 1,500 hours of flight time.