Do You Need a Diploma to Join the Army?

Basic Combat Training, also known as "boot camp," is required of all new enlisted Soldiers to create a strong foundation for their Army experience and future goals. Basic training lasts for 10 weeks and the trainee will go through 4 phases that cover core values, physical training, first aid, Army programs, weaponry, combat skills, obstacle course, rifle basics, combat development, field training, advanced weaponry, marksmanship, and navigation course. Fort Jackson is the U.S. Army's main production center for Basic Combat Training. The installation trains roughly 50 percent of all Soldiers and more than 60 percent of women entering the Army each year. (U.S. Army photo by Robin Hicks)

Have you thought about joining the military? If so, you might have wondered, “do you need a diploma to join the Army?”

The Army, known for its strict standards and structured lifestyle, requires various qualifications for enlistment. If you’re pondering this career path, understanding these prerequisites, particularly regarding educational background, is crucial.

In today’s guide, let’s dive deep into the Army’s requirements, focusing on the role of educational qualifications, to provide clear, actionable information. Here, you’ll find out if you need a high school diploma, or an equivalent, to pursue a career in the United States Armed Forces.

Understanding the Basics: Educational Requirements for the Army

First, let’s address the fundamental query: does joining the Army mandate a high school diploma? The straightforward answer is yes, but with nuances.

Army’s education requirements are:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent for enlisted soldiers
  • A college degree for officers by the time they are commissioned

However, the Army also acknowledges that life can be unpredictable and, at times, conventional educational paths aren’t feasible for everyone. Therefore, while the preferred requirement is a high school diploma, there are provisions for individuals with a GED (General Educational Development) certificate or other equivalents.

The Importance of the ASVAB

Beyond education credentials, a prospective enlistee must also pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). This is a standardized test issued by the Army that measures your skills and aptitude in various subjects to help determine your eligibility for specific career paths in the military.

The ASVAB score is a crucial part of your military application. This standardized test assesses a recruit’s knowledge and skills in various areas, determining your qualifications for enlistment and specific roles within the Army.

A high ASVAB score can bolster your application significantly, sometimes mitigating the absence of a high school diploma. Preparing thoroughly for this test is essential, so consider official study guides and sample tests to strengthen your application.

GED Holders: The Army’s Position

If you hold a GED instead of a traditional high school diploma, enlistment in the Army is still within your reach, but there are caveats.

The Army typically limits the number of recruits with GEDs, often due to the competitive nature of enlistment quotas. Why? Statistically, recruits with a solid high school background tend to adapt better to the challenges of military training and life.

According to, here are some of the caveats that a GED holder should expect to encounter when pursuing a career in the Armed Forces without a high school diploma:

  • GED holders are considered a Tier 2 recruit, while high school diploma holders are considered Tier 1 recruits
  • GED holders are less likely to be accepted into a branch of service than diploma holders
  • Tier 1 recruits need to score 31% or higher on their ASVAB exams, while Tier 2 recruits are required to score at least 50% or more.

While there is a common perception that it is easy to join the military, this could not be further from the truth. The United States Armed Forces, no matter the branch, maintains strict standards for servicemembers and requires a solid educational background as part of the recruitment and assignment processes. For diploma holders, it is much easier to join the military than it is with a GED.

Exploring Alternate Pathways

Some adults who want to join the military without a high school diploma may feel discouraged, but there are paths forward.

It’s understandable for an adult to not want to return to a traditional high school setting. Depending on your career, daytime or nighttime classes in an in-person institution may not be doable either.

The easiest way to earn a diploma at your own pace, and on a schedule that makes sense for you, is to take classes with an accredited online high school. Unlike traditional schools, an online high school allows greater flexibility, more decision-making over your educational future, and enhanced levels of access to resources and instructors. Plus, if you have a GED, this does not prevent you from also earning your diploma.

Charting Your Path Forward

So, should you have a diploma to join the Army? The preferred and most straightforward path to joining the Army is with a high school diploma in hand. While the Army offers alternatives, there’s no denying that a traditional high school background positions you far better for success. It’s a testament to your dedication, adaptability, and alignment with the Army’s standards.

If you are looking for a way to earn your high school diploma to pursue a career in the Army, consider earning your diploma at Citizens High School. Our accredited online high school allows you to work in a more flexible environment with more control over your learning schedule with enhanced access to instructors.

To learn more, visit our enrollment page today.

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