How to Become a Military Officer

How to Become a Military Officer

Can you take and give orders? Do you have self-discipline, perseverance and initiative? Are you willing to be placed in dangerous and high-pressured situations?


If so, a career as a military officer is worth considering. Here are some quick highlights of working in this field:


• An opportunity to put your physical, emotional and intellectual strength to use

• The opportunity to learn combat, leadership and management skills

• An excellent compensation and benefits package

• The opportunity to forge close friendships and travel the world


If you want to know more about the ins and outs of this career, then read on; we’ll fill you in on the details, including an overview of what military officers do, how much you could earn, and what you’ll need to become one!



Education Needed to Become a Military Officer in Canada

To become an Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, you must have a university degree that relates to your chosen occupation.


If you are already have a degree, you will join the Armed Forces under the Direct Entry Program. 


If you join under the Paid University entry plan, or you are attending the Royal Military College of Canada, you will complete the Basic Military Officer Qualification course during the summer between first and second year of school.


Following basic training, you would begin occupation training, which introduces the basics of your chosen career in a military environment. 



Education Needed in the United States

To become an officer, you typically need to have at least a bachelor’s degree. You may also choose to complete a degree and training through the federal service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine), or through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs offered at many colleges and universities.


Please Note: You may need to have education beyond a bachelor’s degree. For example, if you want to become a military lawyer, you will need a law degree.




Military Officer: General Job Description

Military Officers (also known as “Commissioned Military Officers”) are the managers, problem solvers, key influencers and planners who lead Enlisted Soldiers in all situations.


They plan, organize and lead operations and training exercises in the armed forces, and are responsible for the morale, well being and discipline of their units.



General Job Duties

The job duties you would perform as a military officer would vary, based on your specific assignment and other factors. In general however, you would be responsible for the following:


• Planning, organizing and managing the activities of military combat crews

• Developing and creating military policies and procedures

• Leading subordinates in training

• Coordinating and directing the activities of units

• Reviewing unit performance and preparing reports for superiors

• Taking direction from superior officers

• Commanding units during various missions

• Ensuring that the equipment subordinates use is properly maintained



Salary of a Military Officer: How Much You Could Earn

The base pay you would earn as a military officer is based on rank and time in service. You may receive additional pay based on your job assignment or qualifications. 


For example, you would likely receive additional pay for foreign, hazardous, submarine, or flight duty, or for being a medical or dental officer. Retirement pay is also generally available after 20 years of service (United States).


Financial benefits are also typically included as part of the compensation package, and may include environmental allowances, annual holidays, clothing upkeep allowance, pension plan, free medical and dental coverage, and education allowance.



Salary for Canadian Military Officers

There are separate rates of pay for general officers and specialist officers. Specialist officers, including medical, dental, legal and pilot officers, have higher pay scales than general service officers. The 2013 sample annual salary ranges for general service officers are (per annum):


• Second Lieutenant: $53,000 to $79,000 

• Lieutenant: $53,000 to $89,000

• Captain: $74,000 to $98,000


(Source: Alberta Learning Information Service)



Salary for American Officers

The lowest salary earned by an officer in the Armed Forces is $2,972.40 monthly. This would increase as time of service increase, as well as with an increase in rank. The maximum amount of base pay one can achieve as an office is $16,072.20 per month (not including aforementioned additional pay).


(Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics)





Personal Traits Needed to Become a Military Officer

In order to do all that is required of a military officer, you will need the following characteristics:


• Self-discipline, perseverance and initiative

• The ability to conform to rules

• Emotional maturity, and the ability to exercise good judgment

• Should enjoy coordinating information to command activities

• Should enjoy implementing military policies and procedures, and supervising subordinates

• Mentally and emotionally able to handle stressful situations that can occur during military operations

• Physically fit enough to participate in, or support, combat missions that may be difficult or dangerous

• Ready and able to report for military assignments on short notice



Career Advancement Opportunities

Regular promotions through the ranks would take place based on your successful completion of required training, and on the length of time you’ve served as a military officer.


As you climb the ranks, you would be given more responsibility, and be entitled to an increase in pay, and possibly an increase in other financial benefits (if applicable). 



Life After the Military

When you return to civilian life, you may be qualified for civilian roles that relate to your chosen career and area of specialty within the military.


You may also be qualified for many management and leadership roles; officers in the military are trained in leadership, and how to effectively manage resources, people and time. These skills could prove to be very applicable to a civilian career, and highly valued by employers.



Careers Similar to Military Officer

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Military Officer, as they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities:


• Airline Pilot

• Civil Engineer

• Helicopter Pilot

• Military Engineer

• Police Officer

• Registered Nurse

• Sports Coach



Scholarships for Becoming a Military Officer

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a Military Officer. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a military officer:


• National Defence & The Canadian Armed Forces: “Career Options” (n.d.). Government of Canada - Canadian Armed Forces Jobs. Retrieved January 23, 2017.

• Careers & Jobs: “Becoming an Army Officer" (12A). (n.d.). United States Army. Retrieved January 23, 2017.

• Occupational Profile: "Canadian Armed Forces Personnel - Commissioned Officer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 23, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Military Careers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 23, 2017.



Relevant Areas of Study in Our System

We have career guides written for over 60 subjects/majors, some of which are applicable to becoming a military officer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with a degree in one of these fields!


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