Military Enlistment Terms


The typical military enlistment is a four-year commitment. However, depending on the desired career, background and branch of service the enlistment term can be as short as two years or as long as six or eight years. For some branches of service, a longer initial enlistment term may allow a recruit to enter the service at an advanced rank.

Typical Enlistment Term

  • Most people entering the military enlist for a four-year term on active duty with an additional fours years in a reserve component, usually the inactive reserves. Without previous experience, most will enter active duty as an E-1. However, there are other options available for those interested in a shorter or longer contract.

National Call to Service

  • Under the National Call to Service Program, men and women are able to join the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force and serve a term of only two years on active duty. At the direction of Congress the services were required to develop a shortened enlistment program that requires only a 15-month active duty service commitment plus training time. The program still requires an eight-year total commitment and usually requires enlistees to serve in the reserve or National Guard components.

Longer Enlistment Equals More Benefits

  • Each service offers benefits for men and women who choose to enlist for a longer term. In the Army, a three to eight-year enlistment will earn an enlistment bonus that can be several thousand dollars. In the Air Force, an enlistment of six years will allow a potential Airman to enter active duty as an E-2 or E-3. The Marine Corps and Navy have similar programs with rank and monetary benefits for longer enlistments.

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