Can I Join US Army Without a High School Diploma?

Do you need a high school diploma to join the military? Maybe not anymore. Previously, enlisting in the US Army was limited to only candidates with at least a diploma or its equivalent (GED). But according to a recent Joint Base San Antonio Report under the auspices of the US government, high school drop-outs or students without a GED or diploma can enlist in the US regular army.

This means that students who could not complete their secondary education for financial reasons or due to a health challenge can participate in the recruiting process for the regular army. 

Although this initiative – enlisting applicants without a diploma – is not new, it has been on a limited basis such that only a few out of the thousands of applicants are selected. Which, to some extent, was discouraging. But with the new recruitment program, more applicants stand a chance of joining the US Army without a high school diploma or GED.

Nevertheless, applicants who go through the route are considered only for a one-time contract. In order to be reconsidered, you must strive to earn a diploma or GED, as it is mandatory. 

Do you need a high school diploma to join the military? Follow through as we review the requirements for joining the US Army.

Can You Join the US Army Without A High School Diploma or GED?

For a long time, The US Army had strict rules guiding its recruitment process, one of which was that applicants must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent to qualify. But following the steady decline in the numbers of potential army recruits in the job market, not only has education kept applicants out of the pool, but also selection factors such as weight, health status, height and criminal records have drastically limited the numbers over the years. 

According to a study on Americans by the Pentagon, a whopping 71% of Americans in their prime are not eligible to serve in the US military primarily because of the standards for selection. Worse still, more than 85% of this number are willing to enlist in the army but cannot. This means that only a slim number can meet the requirements of joining the military. 

As light as this may sound, it is worrisome. Because for a country like the US with global relevance, there is a need to continually enlarge and fortify its military base, and there are only a few ways to go about it. 

There are only a few remedies to this situation: one of which is to adjust the educational requirements, including the GED and the high school diploma.

But before we delve deeper into analysing what it takes to join the US Army, find out what a GED stands for.

What Does GED Stand For?

There are several definitions of GED and what it represents. GED, Generally meaning Educational Development, is a test, a high school diploma equivalent for students who cannot complete their entire high school year. Students take the GED test to show proof of knowledge, especially concerning primarily high school education. 

Of the other definitions of GED, some also exchange the meaning for General Educational Diploma or Graduate Equivalency Degree.

All the same, you can only take a GED test if you are above 16 and are out of school. Applicants who are still active high school students may not be allowed to take the test. 

GED is widely recognised by organisations, employers, universities and colleges across the US. Visit your local website to find a listing of trusted centres for your GED test. 

Also, find out the 13 Best Online High School Diploma In 2023

Do You Need a High School Diploma To Join The Military?

You may wonder, do you need a high school diploma to join the military?

Generally speaking, you will require a high school diploma or an equivalent credential such as a GED (General Educational Development) to join the military in most countries, including the United States. The military typically has educational requirements for enlistment, and a high school diploma or equivalent is often considered an essential qualification.

However, exceptions or alternative paths may exist if you still need a high school diploma. For example, some military branches in the United States consider applicants with GED or equivalent credentials, although additional requirements or restrictions may exist. 

Additionally, in some cases, individuals with specialised skills or training, such as those in demand in technical or medical fields, may be eligible for enlistment even without a high school diploma.

Preparing for College? Find answers to: Can you go to College with a GED | Best Answers

Requirements For Joining the US Military

The military can be a thriving zone for individuals who do not have an eye for business or academics. Some of the essential requirements for joining the military include the following: 


Presently, you require a high school diploma or equivalent to join any military branch. 

While the army may accept you with a GED, applicants in this category must score higher on the ASVAB test (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test) or have up to 15 credits in college courses. 

Regardless, there is a strict rule guiding GED enlistments. As a result, the number of GED applicants is usually limited. 

While some military branches may consider GED candidates, the US Marine screens them out. 

Career Possibilities

The US military’s defined hierarchy provides a straightforward way to grow as military personnel.

Enlisted soldiers have chances of career progression in the profession. Military careers often provide structured career paths with clear opportunities for promotion, professional development, and training.

Military personnel typically progress through ranks based on their performance, experience, and leadership abilities. Advancement in rank often comes with increased responsibilities, higher pay, and more opportunities for leadership roles.

In addition, Military careers offer opportunities for specialisation in specific fields such as engineering, intelligence, logistics, aviation, healthcare, and more. These specialised roles may require additional training and education, allowing individuals to develop expertise in their chosen field.

In terms of diverse career paths, the military offers a wide range of career options. This includes opportunities to work in various environments, such as combat operations, support roles, and administrative positions. This allows military personnel to explore diverse career paths and find roles that align with their interests, skills, and goals.  

How is the Military Tier Classified?

The military classifies recruits into three tiers concerning their academic qualifications. They are as follows:

Tier 1: This includes potential recruits who possess a high school diploma.

Tier 2: The tire two category includes recruits with just a GED

Tier 3: Under tier 3, potential recruits neither possess a GED nor a high school diploma

More on Do You Need a High School Diploma to Join the Military?

Tier 2 recruits can transition to Tier 1 by earning at least 15 college credit hours. However, some military recruiters suggest enlisting as a Tier 2 recruit or taking the ASVAB test before pursuing college credits to qualify for Tier 1. The Department of Defense employs this system to prioritise applicants with more robust qualifications who are more likely to fulfil their initial military obligation.

 As a result, the Department of Defense mandates that at least 90% of all recruits must come from Tier 1.

Each military branch establishes its criteria for the percentage of Tier 2 recruits they can enlist annually. While most military arms only accept tier 3 recruits under specific circumstances or exceptions made on a case-by-case basis.

Eligibility Requirements for Joining Any Military Branch

Air Force 

  • Applicants must be between 17-39 years. 
  • Must have a maximum of two dependents.
  • Score at least 36 in the Armed Forces Qualification Test and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. 


  • Applicants must fall within the ages of 17-35
  • Must have a maximum of two dependents.
  • Have a minimum test score of 31 in the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.

Coast Guard

  • Applicants must fall within 17-27 years.
  • Must have a maximum of two dependents
  • Have a minimum test score of 40 in the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.
  • Be willing to engage on or around the water actively.


  • Must meet specific mental, physical and moral standards.
  • Must fall within 17-28 years.
  • Have a minimum test score of 32 in the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.


  • Must fall within 17-34 years.
  • Have a minimum test score of 35 in the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.

General Requirements to Join the US Army

Do you need a high school diploma to join the military?

Other requirements for joining the US Army are as follows:

Age: Generally, most military branches require applicants to be at least 17-18 years old and not older than 35.

Citizenship: Generally, applicants must be citizens of the US or foreign residents. However, some branches may have exceptions for legal permanent residents or individuals with particular skills or qualifications.

Education: You require a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some positions require higher levels of education.

Physical Fitness: Applicants must meet specific physical fitness standards, including height, weight, vision, and hearing requirements. They may also need to pass a physical fitness test.

Criminal Record: Applicants must have a clean criminal record, although some recruiters may waive minor offences depending on the circumstances.

Medical Health: Applicants must meet specific medical requirements, including good overall health, being free from certain medical conditions, and passing a medical examination.

ASVAB: Applicants must undertake the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, which assesses their aptitude for various military jobs.

Basic Training: Applicants must be willing to undergo and complete basic training, which includes physical and mental challenges to prepare them for military service.

Security Clearance: Some positions may require a security clearance, which involves a thorough background investigation and may have additional requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions – Do You Need a High School Diploma to Join the Military

Do You Need a High School Diploma?

In most cases, having a high school diploma is a common requirement for various opportunities. These opportunities include employment in many entry-level jobs, pursuing higher education at a college or university, and meeting the minimum educational qualifications for specific certifications or licenses. It would be best to have a high school diploma to attain some level in the military. 

However, there are exceptions, and some jobs or programs may have alternative requirements or allow for equivalent qualifications, such as a GED (General Educational Development) certificate, vocational training, or relevant work experience.


  • – U.S.Army Requirements
  • Quora – Do you need a high school diploma to join the military
  • BlogGED – What is a GED
  • SOFREP – US High School Requirements and GED
  • Indeed – FAQs on Joining the Military
  • – Eligibility Criteria for Joining the Military

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