Should I Join the Marines? What to Know About Becoming Part of the Elite Military Branch

Dec 05, 2023

a U.S. Marine

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If you’re considering military service in the United States, you might ask “Should I join the Marines?”. This guide gives you an overview of joining this elite group of men and women, the opportunities you have in the corps and reasons why it could or could not be right for you. 

Who Are The Marines?

Marine with rifle outdoors.

The Marine Corps is one of the most specialized military forces around the globe. They are part of the US Navy, but have their own hymns, logos and traditions. They serve on Navy ships, bases, American embassies and are ready to deploy their infantry quickly and efficiently to protect the nation and its interests around the world. 

More than 182,000 people currently serve in roles such as flying planes and helicopters, driving armored vehicles, operating radar equipment, surveying and mapping territory, gathering intelligence, maintaining and repairing equipment. 

The Marine Corps describes itself as the US’s “911 force.” While the Army and other branches typically deploy for long-term missions, the Marines are the first responders when crises occur and are always ready to quickly and efficiently handle conflicts and disasters. 

Marine Occupational Specialties (MOS)

Marines inside boat looking at research documents.

Though the branch prides itself in their saying that “every Marine is a rifleman,” only 15% of the service is made of infantry units. There are more than 300 jobs in the corps that cater to different interests and abilities. 

Specialty areas include administration, linguists, engineering, food service, accounting, avionics, law, meteorology, oceanography and music. 

After Marine Recruit Training – commonly referred to as “basic training” – you can enter one of the many fields for the remainder of your career. The Marines provide educational and on-the-job experience. Many attend college for free or little cost thanks to this program. 

Requirements To Become a Marine

The following are the basic requirements for joining. You must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien.
  • Have a high school diploma.
  • Meet physical, mental and moral standards.
  • Be between the ages of 17-28. Seventeen-year-olds must have parental consent.
  • Take and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.

Note: Though there is active progress ongoing, there are still some combat roles currently unavailable to women. 

The ASVAB Exam 

In order to enter the Marine Corps, you must pass the ASVAB aptitude exam. It consists of 10 brief tests that cover mathematics and arithmetic reasoning, general science, reading comprehension, mechanical comprehension, electronic competency, coding speed and auto and shop operations. Candidates who received less than the minimum score for the ACT or SAT must get at least a 115 on the Electronics Repair composite. 

While you’ll receive scores for each individual test, you’ll see three final scores of the exam: math, verbal and academic ability. 

Recruit Training 

New York Armed Forces Recruiting Office.

There are four phases of Marine Recruit Training, each designed to push candidates to their physical and mental limits. It determines your readiness to complete an operation, no matter the obstacle. 

Phase I

During the first portion of training, trainees step on yellow footprints to represent the start of their journey. They’re taught Marine Corps values and taught the knowledge that will benefit them throughout their training and potential career. 

While it isn’t particularly easy, it is the less exhaustive part of the process. You’ll receive your equipment, complete the initial strength test, get a rifle and complete your weapons training. 

Phase II

Your endurance challenges increase in the second phase, as you begin to the required mental and physical strength to become a Marine. 

Aside from academic instruction, you’ll undergo combat water survival training, intense workouts and combat conditioning and martial arts training. 

A Marine lifting weights outdoors.

Phase III

The hardest phase of training includes warrior and marksmanship training and other field skills. It ends with The Crucible. 

Enduring The Crucible 

Technically part of the third training phase, The Crucible is its own beast. It is a 54-hour day and night test that you must complete while you encounter sleep and food deprivation. In a simulated combat scenario, you’re tested on how you react to different stressors. You must rely on your team members to win the battle and make it through to becoming a Marine. 

Phase IV

If you make it to this phase, you can take a breath. It is the final part of your entrance into your new life. 

Thirteen weeks after you begin training, you’ll get your final uniform, complete new physical and academic exams, have guided leadership conversations and complete any remaining standardized training requirements. Then, you get to graduate. 

Benefits of Joining the Marines 

There are many benefits of joining the Marines, including the following:

  • Income: The corp offers a steady income and you’re always paid on the 1st and 15th of every month. The amount you’re paid depends on your status. 
  • Paid Vacation: You can earn up to 60 days of vacation every two years of service. 
  • Tax Advantages: Only your basic pay is subject to state and federal taxes. 
  • Allowances: You can get other tax-free money for reason like basic substance, food, uniform and housing. 
  • Advancement: Regardless of what field you go into, you have promotion opportunities
  • Health Care: While you’re active duty, you get free medical and dental care. 
  • Life Insurance: You can select up to $400,000 in term life insurance at a low price. 

Disadvantages of Joining 

There are some disadvantages to consider before you enlist in the Marines. 

Multi-Year Commitment

When you get an enlistment contract, you’re allowed to choose the number of years you want to serve. The minimum time commitment is four years. However, your first contract adds four years to the number you choose–making it so you are locking into eight years of service. During those remaining four, you can be called back into active duty at any time. If you don’t think you want to be an active member in a few years, joining the Marines might not be for you. 

Lack of Self-Expression

The Marines have strict appearance standards that do not include body art, piercings or unnatural hair colors. When you enlist, you must disclose where and what any tattoos are. You’ll need to cover up any piercings. You must have any body modifications seen under your uniform approved by your commanding officer. If you want to add a modification during your service, you need to get approval before you do it. 

While everyone has different personalities, you are required to take orders and act as a cohesive unit throughout your service. You follow the instructions of your higher-ups and don’t get to stray if you don’t agree with something.

Ownership Limitations

While you’re a Marine, you are property of the US government. You’re not allowed to own a vehicle without your commanding officer’s approval. You’ll live in the barracks and then base housing and you go where you’re told to go. That means you could technically live in a different state every year of service. 

Mortality Risk 

Becoming a Marine is dangerous. The mortality rate for the marines is around twice the amount of any other military branch. A military contract is nearly impossible to get out of once you sign it, so cold feet are not an option. Even in fields that aren’t combat-intensive, there is always the chance you’ll be called to the battlefield. You’ll always have that possibility in the back of your mind and must make peace with it. 

Should You Join the Marines?

Becoming a Marine is a noble way to serve your country. Marines are a family and can help you find a sense of belonging. There are positives and negatives to any occupation. Knowing the process and its pros and cons can help you determine whether enlisting is the right choice for you. 

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.