Can I Join the Military at 38 Years Old?

The United States military offers prospective recruits opportunities to enlist in their late thirties.

The United States military offers prospective recruits opportunities to enlist in their late thirties.

You can join some branches of the United States military at the age of 38 years but not others. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard each has its own minimum and maximum age requirements for enlistees, including for new recruits in the active-duty ranks, the Reserves and the National Guard.


The Army offers the most opportunity for older recruits. The Army has a maximum age for enlistment of 42 years for active-duty recruits, making it the only one of the branches to take new enlistees who are older than 34 years old. The Army Reserve accepts new soldiers who are 40 years old or younger. Other opportunities for enlistment if you are 38 years old include the Navy Reserve, which has a maximum entrance age of 39 years; the Air Force National Guard, which has a maximum entrance age of 40 years; and the Coast Guard Reserve, which has a maximum entrance age of 39 years.


The Marine Corps is the only branch of the military that you are ineligible to join in any capacity at the age of 38 years. The Marines have the most strict age limits among the branches, requiring that new recruits in either the active-duty or Marine Reserve be no more than 29 years old. You also cannot enlist in the active-duty Navy, which has a maximum entrance age of 34 years, or the active-duty Air Force and Coast Guard, which have a maximum entrance age of 27 years. The Air Force Reserve has a maximum entrance age of 34 years. The Marines, Navy and Coast Guard do not have personnel in the National Guard.

Other Age Requirements

Each branch of the U.S. military maintains a minimum age requirement of 17 years for those potential recruits who receive formal consent from their parents to enlist. If you cannot get parental consent, you must be at least 18 years old. The only exception among the branches is with the Navy Reserve, which requires that you be at least 18 years old. You cannot enlist in that branch at 17, even with parental consent. Each of the military service academies share the same age requirements for students wishing to enroll: Each student must be at least 17 years old and no older than 22 years.

Other Enlistment Requirements

As with the age requirements, many of the physical and personal requirements for enlistment vary depending on the branch of the service. For instance, each branch requires recruits to be in good physical health, but the judgment of what is acceptable health often is made on a case-by-case basis. Similarly, recruiters will review a new enlistee with a criminal record on an individual basis to determine whether the nature of the crime should prevent enlistment. In the same way, new recruits who are not American citizens can join the military, but different branches have their own restrictions for those types of cases. New recruits must have either a high school diploma or the GED equivalence.


About the Author

Tom Gresham is a freelance writer and public relations specialist who has been writing professionally since 1999. His articles have appeared in "The Washington Post," "Virginia Magazine," "Vermont Magazine," "Adirondack Life" and the "Southern Arts Journal," among other publications. He graduated from the University of Virginia.

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