What Are ROTC Programs and
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ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps, and this program is offered in 1,700 universities and colleges throughout the US. ROTC helps college students, male and female, to prepare to enter a military career as officers in one of the three branches in which it is offered: Army, Air Force, and the Navy/Marines. The Coast Guard doesn’t have an ROTC program for students interested in a career in this particular military branch.

Students in each branch of the ROTC benefit from scholarships, monthly stipends and a career that is guaranteed after graduation. Students in ROTC also derive benefits from learning how to develop valued leadership skills, discipline and good physical fitness.

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What is the ROTC?

The simplest answer is that ROTC is leadership development. In each military branch of the ROTC, universities and colleges treat the program as an elective curriculum that students take on top of their required coursework.

In ROTC, you’ll have experiences that you will fall back on throughout your life. You’ll learn how to develop time management and mental discipline skills that will serve you in your military or civilian career, should you leave the military. ROTC consistently looks for students who want to excel, as well as students who are seeking a career in the military. Enrolling in ROTC means you will take classes in military drill; you’ll participate in “live” exercises that help you to develop as a person.

ROTC is also a source of scholarships. If you maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, you may qualify for a scholarship. If you enroll into the Army ROTC program and you win a scholarship, you will be required to complete a specified time of service in the Army. The same condition applies to students entering the advanced course.

Do I Need to Have Participated in JROTC?

No. JROTC training aids you, but it is not mandatory for enrollment in ROTC. If you stay in JROTC for the full four years of high school, you still will not be required to commit to ROTC or military school upon graduation from high school.

Benefits of JROTC include being eligible for certain school-specific scholarships if you are in JROTC as early as the 9th grade. If you are awarded one of these scholarships, it will pay for your education at one of 260 colleges or universities. You may also be more likely to win an outside scholarship because of your leadership training.


To be eligible to enter and enroll in ROTC, you have to meet several requirements.

  • You must be a US citizen, a naturalized US citizen, or be in the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the US. If you will be applying for any ROTC scholarships, you must already be a US citizen for the scholarship to be activated. If you are in the middle of this process, you are required to obtain your citizenship within the first year that you are in school. This will be after the begin date of your scholarship.
  • If you are a dual citizen, you must renounce your citizenship to the other country for your scholarship to activate.
  • You must be no less than 17 years old, and younger than 23 by commissioning. If you have prior service, you must not yet be 29 years old before commissioning.
  • You may need to pay an application fee to attend one of these programs.
  • You also want to be aware of the college program application deadlines.

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How You’ll Attend

Entering as a Cadet

Initial entry training is for those cadets who want to complete their Army ROTC training in one year instead of two. You accomplish this by completing a 28-day training program at Fort Knox, Kentucky. This program is challenging, but when you complete cadet initial entry training (CIET), you’ll come back to school ready to begin the advanced course.

If you plan to complete your basic elective course in two years, speak with the Army ROTC Enrollment Officer on campus. You’ll also learn about scholarships and incentives. Junior college students and graduate students are able to enroll in ROTC as well.

Entering as an Enlisted Soldier

If you have prior service as an enlisted soldier and you are thinking of becoming an officer, the ROTC program is one way of meeting your goal. The process of enrollment after prior service is the same as for students who want to become cadets in the basic elective course—speak to the Enrollment Officer on campus.

As with beginning cadets, you may be eligible for one of several ROTC scholarships. As a prior-service student, you should keep your age and the age limitations of ROTC in mind as you consider your options.

Entering While Part of the National Guard or Reserve

As a member of the Army National Guard or US Army Reserve, you are able to enroll in Army ROTC under the Simultaneous Membership Program or SMP. By enrolling in the ROTC SMP, you’ll be able to attend additional training events and get more experience. As an ROTC cadet, you will be able to serve as an officer trainee in your Reserve or National Guard unit at the same time that you are attending your regular college classes. You’ll be taking on responsibilities and duties of a commissioned officer, leading enlisted soldiers during weekend drills. In addition, you’ll be able to continue earning your normal Guard or Reserve pay and benefits at the same time you receive ROTC allowances.

Branch-Focused ROTC’s

Air Force ROTC

By enrolling in the Air Force ROTC program, you are positioning yourself to become a leader, either in the military or as a civilian. You’ll be able to take specialized classes that assist you in developing your leadership skills. These classes include leadership laboratories, where you learn about the various functions of military leadership.

When you graduate from college and go through your commissioning ceremony, you’ll be walking straight into a managerial role in the US Air Force. While you are in ROTC, you’ll learn what your career path could be before graduation. Your skills prepare you for a leadership role anywhere.


Army ROTC cadets learn about leadership as they prepare to lead enlisted and non-commissioned officers through dangerous and challenging situations. As you move through your courses, keep in mind that famous alumni passed through ROTC before you: Colin Powell, Samuel Alito, and George S. Marshall. Army ROTC trains and commissions about 60% of the second lieutenants who move on into active Reserve and National Guard duty.

Each of your cadet programs (basic and advanced) give you the tools you need to find and develop your leadership abilities. ROTC also teaches you how to use self-discipline skills; working in training experiences, you’ll use all of these skills.

Navy and Marine Corps ROTC

Navy ROTC trains cadets who choose whether to go into the US Navy or the US Marines. This program runs for several years and is designed to operate alongside a cadet’s regular university degree program. As cadets are taking classes required for their degrees, they are also attending Naval Science classes, participating in physical training, drills, and other ROTC activities.

Leadership training is a major part of the military training a Navy ROTC student receives. Cadets also go through classes that teach them the ethics and ideals that a military officer is expected to hold.

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ROTC College Program Requirements

Academic Requirements

ROTC cadets who receive ROTC scholarships are now under an obligation to complete several academic requirements while obtaining an associate diploma or bachelors diploma.

These include:

  • Taking and satisfactorily completing at least 12 credit hours each semester—variations must be approved by the Professor of Military Science and the student’s ROTC advisor. Variances are not granted unless an extreme emergency has developed
  • Scholarship cadets have to take both classes and ROTC labs
  • Must participate in every field training exercise (FTX)
  • Take professional development classes in human behavior, written communication skills, and military history
  • Three-year Advanced Designees Scholarship (3 yr ADS) winners must maintain a 2.0 GPA by the end of their first year and must complete at least 27 semester credits to receive scholarship funds.

Cadets receive paychecks from their scholarships once monthly. Freshmen receive $300; Sophomores, $350; Juniors, $450; Seniors, $500. Scholarships are awarded once per year. Students must apply before November 15, and selections are made on a rolling basis until May 15. Four-year scholarships must be applied for between March 1 and November 1.

Physical Fitness Requirements

AFROTC cadets are required to maintain good physical condition. They must also adhere to weight and fitness standards that have been set forth by the US Air Force. This helps them to maintain a good degree of professionalism and appearance while in uniform.

AFROTC cadets are also required to pass a Department of Defense (DoD) Medical Exam Review Board medical examination (DoDMERB). NROTC students will be entering a physically demanding profession. They must be physically prepared and be in good health. Every applicant and nurse applicant is expected to complete a Navy ROTC Applicant Fitness Assessment, then provide this to their recruiter. This is a mandatory part of their application to ROTC.

As with AFROTC, Navy ROTC applicants must take a DoDMERB exam and forward this to their recruiter.

Military Service Obligations and Requirements

Upon being commissioned into any of the military services under which you entered ROTC, you will be obligated to serve for a defined amount of time.

Army ROTC students who are enrolled in the ROTC Advanced Course or who receive an Army ROTC scholarship must agree that they will complete eight years of service in the Army. This can be split up by spending four years on active duty (scholarship winners) or three years (cadets who took the advanced course). Some cadets may opt to serve part-time in the US Army Reserve or Army National Guard at the same time they are working in a civilian career.

Navy ROTC cadets must maintain their active US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) for unlimited horsepower (engine) or unlimited tonnage (deck). They must serve for at least six years. Every Strategic Sealift Readiness Group (SSRG) member is required to finish 12 days of ADT (Active Duty for Training) each fiscal year after graduation. They must also undergo a Physical Health Assessment annually.

AFROTC graduates are obligated to a four-year active duty service commitment; pilots have a 10-year service commitment. Combat System Officers and Air Battle Managers are obligated to a six-year service commitment.

Where are These Programs?

During the Civil War, Congress passed a bill that helped to provide free land for non-military colleges that agreed to give military instruction to students. in 1916, this system, known as the “land-grant” system, was transformed into today’s ROTC.

More than 1,700 universities and colleges maintain an ROTC program on their campuses. ROTC programs were first initiated in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Defense Act of 1916 authorizing the program. After the end of World War Two, Congress passed the ROTC Vitalization Act. This authorized ROTC units to be formed on college and university campuses.

Three hundred host campuses have an ROTC program that follows and instructs in at least one of the military services (Army, Air Force, or Navy/Marines).

Is ROTC Right for You?

If you are considering joining ROTC, you need to know if this is the right program for you. If you don’t want to be obligated to a service commitment, you’ll enroll in the basic course. You’ll take ROTC classes for two years. You’ll also gain skills that will benefit you throughout your life.

While you will be obligated to take part in some activities, it shouldn’t get in the way of your other classes. Students in ROTC benefit by earning a higher GPA and developing a high level of athletic and academic success.

You will be required to have a well-groomed haircut. Men should wear their hair off their ears and shoulders. They are also expected to be clean-shaven. During training and your ROTC classes, you are required to wear a uniform; your classes will teach you how to wear it properly.

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ROTC Scholarships

If you have decided that you want to join the military as a commissioned officer, then ROTC is an excellent choice. You’ll gain basic and advanced knowledge about the military and becoming an officer.

Once you have decided to commit to spending time in the military, an ROTC scholarship can help you defray the costs of tuition, fees, and textbooks. A monthly stipend helps you to cover personal expenses.

Beyond the financial help that scholarships offer, you will benefit by knowing you’re going to move straight into a position in the service of your choice (Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines).

  • Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Scholarship Program
    Amount: Varies
    Link: https://www.nrotc.navy.mil/MSI.htmlService Requirements:

    NROTC provides a small number of scholarships for students attending minority serving institutions. The main focus of this scholarship is on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), universities with a High Hispanic Enrollment (HHE), and other Minority Institutions. Eligible cadets should be Navy option applicants (not to include Nurse Corps or Marine Corps).

  • Four-Year College Scholarship
    Amount: Varies
    Link: https://www.goarmy.com/rotc/college-students/four-year-scholarships.html50

    This scholarship is awarded to high school students who have made their decision to attend a four-year college or university program. Students must be US citizens between 17 and 26 years of age. Their high school GPA must be at least 2.50 and the student must have a high school diploma or GED.

  • Green to Gold Division Commanders Hip Pocket Scholarship Program
    Amount: Varies
    Link: https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/current-and-prior-service/advance-your-career/green-to-gold/pocket-scholarship.html

    This “Earn While you Learn” scholarship is given to eligible soldiers who are completing their undergraduate degrees and earning a commission through ROTC. Division commanders are able to nominate cadets they feel are deserving of this award. These cadets can receive two-, three-, or four-year Green to Gold scholarships.

  • In-College Scholarship Program (ICSP)
    Amount: $18,000 to full cost of tuition
    Link: https://www.afrotc.com/scholarships/college/types/

    This scholarship has three types. Type 1, Commanders’ In-College Scholarships (CICS), is awarded to cadets who are enrolled in a technical degree program. It covers 100% of tuition and authorized fees at any state college/university or private institution that has an Air Force ROTC detachment.

    Type 2 goes to all cadets chosen through ICSP. Scholarship payments are capped at up to $9,000/semester or $6,000/quarter. Students receive a monthly living stipend and an annual book stipend.

    Type 3, the Nursing Scholarship Program, is awarded on a competitive basis to sophomores and juniors. Students must be accepted to a nursing program at an institution accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  • Airman Scholarship & Commissioning Program (ASCP)
    Amount: Up to $18,000 per academic year
    Link: https://www.afrotc.com/scholarships/enlisted/ascp-soar/

    Once an enlisted airman enrolls in college and receives the ACSP scholarship, they are allowed to separate from active duty. They will receive a scholarship each year while they continue to pursue an undergraduate degree and a 2nd lieutenant’s commission through the Air Force ROTC.

    Students are full-time college students and enrolled in ROTC as cadets. They receive annual textbook allowances and a monthly stipend for personal expenses. After graduation and commissioning, selectees are commissioned into the US Air Force.

  • New American Scholarship (Arizona State University/New American University)
    Amount: Varies
    Link: https://students.asu.edu/scholarships/newamericanuniversity

    Navy ROTC cadets are eligible to receive the New American Scholarship to cover room and board, provided they already have tuition paid for through their NROTC scholarship. New freshmen are considered for this scholarship (merit-based) when they are admitted to Arizona State University. Scholarship is renewable for eight consecutive semesters (4 years).

  • Scholarships for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC (SOAR)
    Amount: Up to $18,000
    Link: https://www.afrotc.com/scholarships/enlisted/ascp-soar/

    This scholarship program invites enlisted personnel to enroll in a university degree program and ROTC, then separate from active duty. They receive an annual scholarship while they are working toward their undergraduate degree and, simultaneously, a commission through the Air Force ROTC. This scholarship also provides an annual textbook allowance and monthly stipend.