Explore Careers

Explore a Career in the Military

If you want to serve your country, enjoy generous education benefits, and earn an outstanding retirement package, a career in the military may be for you, provided you're prepared for the serious obligation required and the real possibility you'll go to war.

In addition to uniformed personnel, the military hires civilians – more than 25,000 in Oklahoma – for many kinds of support roles, from food service workers and forklift operators to doctors and engineers.

While active-duty military at Oklahoma bases are assigned here by their service branch – typically in two or three year stints – National Guard, Reserve, and civilian personnel can be based in Oklahoma by choice.

National Guard and Reserves

The National Guard and the Ready Reserve are mainly made up of civilians serving part-time while attending college or working at other occupations. They may be and often are called to active duty for up to two years. Guard and Ready Reserve personnel go through basic training and military job training and then continue training two days a month with a local unit and two weeks a year, usually in the summer.

In general, the Ready Reserve supports active duty forces in rescue missions, installation and repair of equipment, and transport of troops and material.

The National Guard supports military operations too but also responds to state emergencies like floods and wildfires.

Military Benefits

National Guard and Reserve personnel are eligible for an impressive benefits package, including training, education, retirement and other enticements.

Training – You'll be trained for an occupation based on your preferences and aptitudes and the needs of the military. The training may also prepare you for a civilian occupation.

Education – You may qualify for more than $10,000 in education benefits under the longstanding Montgomery GI Bill, additional Tuition Assistance up to $250 per semester hour, and further benefits if you serve on active duty. See the Guard and Reserves Education Benefit User's Guides at Military.com.

College benefits are doubling under a new Post-9/11 GI Bill passed in 2008. Benefits went up 20 percent almost immediately, and beginning in August 2009, full in-state tuition plus housing and book allowances are covered. Some benefits are transferable to family members.

In addition, the Oklahoma National Guard Tuition Waiver program gives qualifying Army and Air Guard personnel free enrollment at state-supported colleges and universities.

With two GI bills in effect side by side, rules have become even more complex, so study the details carefully to make best use of your options.

Retirement – You'll be eligible for retirement pay at age 60 if you've completed 20 years of qualifying service. See Retirement at defenselink.mil and Military Retired Pay Overview at Military.com.

Other benefits. Other perks may include health care, life insurance, VA home loans, space-available travel, and preference for government employment. 

A Dangerous Occupation?

How risky is military service? One study found that the death rate among U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq during the first three years of Operation Iraqi Freedom was about 2.5 times higher than the rate among young American men at home. The number wounded in Iraq was about 7.5 times the number who died. Tempering those figures, most military personnel in recent years never get anywhere near Iraq or any other war zone.

Your Commitment

Enlisting in the military means an eight-year commitment, part of which may be spent in inactive Reserve status. National Guard and Reserve enlistments can range from one to six years of active part-time duty, subject to possible full-time deployment. Longer enlistments earn greater education and other benefits.

Entrance Requirements

To join the military, you must meet age, fitness, citizenship, character, and aptitude standards. You also need a high school diploma or GED, although that and other standards can sometimes be waived.

You can join the military at age 18, or 17 with consent of a parent or guardian. The upper limit is age 42 for National Guard enlistment and varies for Reserve units.

The aptitude requirement is based on verbal, math and technical tests in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). Scores determine if you qualify to enlist, train for specific occupations, and get enlistment bonuses, so good test preparation is recommended.