Can I Join the Military at 38 Years Old?

Joining the U.S. military later in life may not be the usual route that most service members take, but it still holds opportunities and provides benefits for those who qualify. Whether it's a sense of patriotism, a desire to change careers or the benefit of healthcare coverage for service members and their families, individuals in their thirties join the military for various reasons. If you’re 38 years old, all branches of the military except the Air Force will be out of your reach if you want to sign up for active duty. But you’ll also find a place in the Navy and Coast Guard reserves if you want to join at age 38.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Joining the military at 35 years of age is possible in the Army. But if you're as old as 38, you can also join the Air Force active duty, reserve and guard. You can also join the Navy and Coast Guard reserves.

Branches of the U.S. Military

Military members do not have to be citizens of the United States. Non-citizens must live in the U.S., have a permanent resident card (known as a green card) and fluently speak, read and write English.

The U.S. military has five branches, which include:

  • The Army. As the largest and oldest branch of the military, founded in 1775, the Army conducts combat operations on the ground.  
  • The Navy. The largest navy in the world, the U.S. Navy recruits, trains, equips and organizes combat-ready troops to ensure safety for sea travel and trade.
  • The Air Force. As the newest branch of the military, created in 1920, the Air Force also has a space program that detects the launching of ballistic missiles and tracks satellites, among other tasks.
  • The Marine Corps. The Marines are America’s expeditionary force that conducts missions on land, sea and air.
  • The Coast Guard. This smallest branch of the military is tasked with search-and-rescue missions, environmental protection and drug interdiction, among other roles.

Military Age Requirements

Each branch of the military has specific maximum age requirements, but all branches have the same minimum age requirements. The minimum age requirement is also required of the military service academies. Candidates for military service or any of the service academies must be at least age 17 (with parental consent) or 18 (without parental consent). Academy applicants must reach the minimum age requirement as of July 1 of the year they enter the academy.

The maximum age requirements as of 2019, include:

  • The Army age limit, which is 35 for active duty, reserve and guard, and 23 for the service academy.
  • The Navy age limit, which is 34 (active duty), 39 (reserve) and 23 (service academy).
  • The Air Force age limit, which is 39 (active duty and guard), 38 (reserve) and 23 (service academy).
  • The Marine Corps age limit, which is 29 (active duty and reserve) and 23 (service academy.)
  • The Coast Guard age limit, which is 27 (active duty), 39 (reserve) and 22 (service academy).

Military Educational Requirements

In addition to age requirements, the U.S. military also has educational requirements. All candidates must have a high school diploma or a GED, although military options may be more limited with a GED.

Military Testing Requirements

Candidates must also take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, which is comprised of 10 subtests. The scores on all these tests produce the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score, which determines the military branches that an applicant may join as well as the jobs that are available for each candidate to pursue.

Military Health and Fitness Requirements

Regardless of age, all candidates must pass a military entrance medical examination, which includes a physical exam as well as hearing and vision tests. Each branch of the military has its own fitness standards and physical requirements.

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