You do not have to join the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines to take on a military-type job. You can also join the Reserves or the National Guard. However, your post-military benefits might be better if you join one of the four major branches.
Many young people who are not sure what they want to do with their lives, or who might not have excelled enough in high school to get into the college of their choice, take federal military jobs not only for the adventure, but also for the fringe benefits that they will have as a result of their service and training once they return to civilian life.
Taking on a military type job will give you access to training and education of the highest caliber in a field that you love. While you are in the service you will also enjoy a base salary, full insurance benefits, access to many types of discounts for you and your family, and a certain measure of recognized respect.
While you are in the military, you will get to travel the world at no cost to yourself; sometimes on a pleasure basis rather than just a duty basis. You will learn discipline and basic skills that can really benefit you in your civilian life once you return to it (if you do not pursue a lifelong military career and become a top-level officer). And you will have perhaps a never-before-known sense of pride from knowing that you served in defense of your nation and family, a sense of pride that can fuel your personal and career endeavors after you have returned to civilian life.
The first main step in applying for the military is taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. You will be tested in: arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, word knowledge, and paragraph comprehension, along with a few other sections. These count toward your Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT) score—the score that says whether or not you are qualified for the U.S. military. You will also be tested on the ASVAB to see if you are qualified for any enlistment bonuses or particular military occupational specialties. The higher your score the higher your chances of getting placed where you want to go. Free practice ASVAB tests are available, and if you are considering joining the military you should absolutely try a few of them out to prepare yourself.
If you get into the military, you will next have to be prepared to go through boot camp. This is the part that frightens most people who have never been in the military. They have seen movies and heard all about how hard it is, and they wonder if they will be able to handle it and get through it. But boot camp is really designed for your success. In truth, the U.S. military has no interest in you failing. So, if you are going to take a federal military job, you will need to know how to successfully pass your boot camp training.
Once you know you are going off to boot camp, get yourself into shape. You might want to start going running, perhaps start working out with kettle bells, and so on. They are going to push your body really hard in boot camp once you are there, so the better shape you are in when you get there the better for you.
See boot camp as a challenge to become stronger and smarter, not as an opportunity for failure. If you have a negative attitude then now is the perfect time to adjust your attitude and get a more positive outlook on the world around you. This is an adjustment that can help you later on in life, not just in the military. Be prepared mentally for all the disciplinary measures, the yelling, and so on. The drill sergeants and officers want you to learn so that you are best able to help your fellows and so you will live and be best able to avoid harm if you should be deployed in battle. Nothing that they say to you is personal; they are trying to toughen you and make you stronger, not beat you down or insult you.
Unlike with most job trainings, you do not want to stand out in boot camp. You can stand out later, once boot camp is over. For now, be prepared to call as little attention to yourself as possible and run with the pack.
Remember that boot camp and basic training do not last forever. If you get through these times you will be all set for a brilliant career either for the rest of your working life in the military or for enjoying the rest of your service time and knowing how to be in top physical condition before you can apply your new skill set and physical conditioning to your civilian life.