How to Become an Officer in the Marine Corps
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There are a few different paths to becoming a Marine Corps officer. One path is to attend a 4 year college/National Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC). They can attend the U.S. Naval Academy, or they can go from an enlisted Marine to an officer. If you are looking for a Place to Connect and Share® with others who have loved ones in OCS or TBS, you'll want to join our Facebook group. You must answer all three questions to be accepted into the group.
4 Year College/NROTC
For 4 year universities there are two different paths you can take to become an officer. One path is you can take part in the NROTC while at your university. While earning your degree you will receive a military education and participate in Marine Corps training courses. After you successfully earn your bachelor's degree and complete the required Marine Corps courses and training requirements you will be commissioned as a Marine officer.
The other option is to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS). The mission of OCS is to train, screen and evaluate candidates, who must show high leadership potential and commitment.
Regardless of the which route is taken, after being commissioned you will attend The Basic School (TBS). While at TBS newly commissioned officers will learn basic tactics of an Infantry Platoon Commander and develop their leadership and knowledge of the Marine Corps.
After completion of TBS, Marine officers will be assigned their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). They will be assigned either a Ground MOS, Air MOS or Law MOS based on the needs of the Marine Corps.
U.S. Naval Academy
To enroll in the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), students must receive a nomination from a member of Congress or the President of the United States. USNA students hold the rank of midshipmen. Training consists of Plebe Summer, seven weeks of physical training, naval education and moral and ethical development. Upon graduation, you will be commissioned as a Marine officer.
Just the same as with 4 year college/NROTC, following their commissioning, Marine officers will attend TBS. Following completion of TBS, they will be assigned their MOS.
Enlisted to Officer
The final option in becoming an officer is to switch from an enlisted Marine to an officer. There are two different ways this can be accomplished, one for active duty Marines and one for reservist Marines.
Active Duty: First for active duty Marines who possess a bachelor's degree and show exceptional leadership skills can talk to their chain of command about the Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP). The ECP allows qualified enlisted Marines to apply for assignment to OCS and receive their commission. For enlisted Marines who do not possess a bachelor's degree they may take part in the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Program (MECEP). MECEP offers qualified, active duty enlisted Marines the opportunity to go to a 4 year college full time, while maintaining their active duty status and pay. After completion of OCS the Marine will be commissioned as an officer. After that they will attend The Basic School and then be assigned their MOS.
Reservist: Reservists will have a similar path to active duty but with different names for their programs. First, if a Marine reservist possesses a bachelor's degree they will approach their chain of command about their eligibility for the Reserve Enlisted Commissioning Program (RECP). This program allows qualified Marines in the Select Marine Corps Reserve Program (SMCR) to apply for assignment to OCS. Second, if a Marine reservist does not possess a bachelor's degree they will have to talk to their chain of command about the Meritorious Commissioning Program Reserve (MCP-R). This program allows Commanding Officers to nominate qualified Enlisted Marines in the Marine Corps Active Reserve (AR), for assignment into OCS. After completion of OCS the Marine will be commissioned as an officer. Afterward they will attend The Basic School and then be assigned their MOS.
Written by David Ogden, Sgt. USMC ''
David was a Sergeant with the United States Marine Corps from He is a combat veteran. He has worked at Marine Parents as a writer since he left the Marine Corps. He is currently in college and writes for the organization full-time. Click here to read more about the author.
The Marine Commissioning Programs offered provides opportunities for enlisted Marines, college students, and high school students to earn the coveted title of Marine Officer. The Marine Corps takes incredible measures to ensure that its Officers are trained and evaluated properly prior to leading Marines.
Platoon Leaders Class (PLC)
If you are currently enrolled in college, PLC is likely going to be your best bet. The program consists of two 6-week Officer Candidates School sessions. In most cases, you will attend one session during the summer after your sophomore year and one session between your junior and senior years. However, this could vary quite a bit depending on your situation. Some PLC candidates end up waiting two or more years between sessions due to medical or other reasons. Attending PLC Seniors before you graduate college means returning to school prior to commissioning. If you attend after graduating you will commission immediately and go straight to The Basic School.
If the college you are at has an NROTC program you may want to compare the two options.
Officer Candidate Course (OCC)
If you already have a college degree and you are not an enlisted Marine then OCC is the commissioning program for you. The course consists of a week session at Officer Candidates School. Essentially, the OCS program is the same as that of the two 6-week sessions for PLC. OCC is a bit shorter because there is only 1 week of in processing and 1 week of out processing whereas PLC has 2 weeks of each.
Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC)
NROTC offers prospective Marine Officers the opportunity to train for Officer Candidates School while attending college. Most Marine Option Midshipman are also able to receive scholarships to attend college. In addition to the scholarship benefits, Midshipman are only required to attend one 6-week session of Officer Candidates School in the summer before their senior year. However, being in NROTC means that you will have significant time commitments to your unit. This could impact your desire to join clubs and other social organizations. It is definitely possibly to enjoy college while in NROTC, but it is more difficult.
Related: A Case For Joining NROTC. It’s Truly A Great Decision.
U.S. Naval Academy
The U.S. Naval Academy is a military university that immerses students in an environment far different from other colleges. Prospective Marine Officers enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy are not required to attend Officer Candidates School. However, becoming a Midshipman at the academy does not guarantee that you will be able to commission into the Marine Corps. Rather, it is an opportunity to become an officer in either the Navy or Marine Corps.
Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP)
Enlisted Marine who already have a bachelors degree have the opportunity to become Marine Officers through the ECP. Marines accepted into the program attend Officer Candidates School and commission immediately.
Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program (MECEP)
The MECEP gives enlisted Marines without a college degree the opportunity to attend a university while remaining on active duty. Accepted Marines attend a week session at Officer Candidates School prior to starting their education. Marines in MECEP become attached to NROTC units where they act as additional staff members.
Note: Prior to , Marines in the MECEP attended one 6-week session of OCS prior to their senior years in college. Marines in the program now attend OCS prior to attending college.
Reserve Enlisted Commissioning Program (RECP)
The Reserve Enlisted Commissioning Program allows Enlisted Marines in the Selected Marine Corps Reserve (SMCR) Program to apply for assignment to Officer Candidates School. Upon completion Marines will be commissioned as officers in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
Meritorious Commissioning Program Reserve (MCP-R)
The Meritorious Commissioning Program Reserve allows commanding officers to nominate qualified Enlisted Marines in the Corps and in the Marine Corps Active Reserve (AR) Program for assignment to Officer Candidates School. Upon completion Marines will be commissioned as officers in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
CAPT GOLINO, OFFICER SELECTION OFFICER
PATHS TO LEADERSHIP
Not everyone has the willingness and determination, the judgment and the leadership, or the mindset and the skillset to stand out in front of our Nation as an officer of Marines. Those who think they may will find out quickly at Officer Candidates School (OCS), where success is only achieved by giving everything you have.
The process of becoming a Marine Officer begins with your application as an Officer Candidate submitted by the Officer Selection Officer (OSO). The specific training path you will follow depends on where you are in your college education, your qualifications, and your occupational specialty preferences.
The four most common paths to becoming a Marine Officer are the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC), the Officer Candidate Course (OCC), the United States Naval Academy and the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC).
PLATOON LEADERS CLASS
The Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) undergraduate commissioning program allows college students who are currently enrolled full time in any accredited college or university to pursue a commission in the Marine Corps without interrupting academic careers. PLC is the most common path to becoming one of us and all training sessions take place in Quantico, VA. This path has two training options:
Two six-week summer training sessions for college freshman and sophomores
One ten-week training session for college juniors
OFFICER CANDIDATE COURSE
OCC is a week commissioning program in Quantico, VA for college seniors and graduates interested in earning the title as a United States Marine Officer. Upon completion, newly commissioned Marine Officers will begin active duty at The Basic School (TBS) as Second Lieutenants.
U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY
Aspiring Marine Officers may have the opportunity to earn a commission by attending the United States Naval Academy. This four-year undergraduate university challenges students to overcome physical and mental battles and prepares them to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion.
NROTC MARINE OPTION
The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Marine Option allows those with a fighting spirit the opportunity to earn a commission in the United States Marine Corps as they complete their studies at a participating college or university. If they rise to the challenge, they may become officers of the Marine Corps.
MARINE CORPS SCHOLARSHIP OPTIONS
United States Marine Corps Commissioning Programs
There are several ways to gain a commission in the United States Marine Corps, whether one is currently enlisted or a civilian college student/graduate.
For those Marine Officers not attending the U.S. Naval Academy, the road to a commission as a lieutenant in the Corps begins with one of several programs at Officer Candidates School: The Officer Candidates Class, the Platoon Leaders Course, or the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. Each course is a screening process, with the mission to motivate, train, evaluate, and screen potential officers.
There is no longer a specific officer candidate academic test for Marine Corps Officer applicants. Those wishing to apply for a commission in the Marine Corps must achieve one of the following minimums:
- A combined score of on the verbal and math sections of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
- Combined math and verbal score of 45 on the American College Test (ACT)
- (can be waivered to ) on the Marine Corps EL composite score of the ASVAB
Aviation officer applicants must also take the Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Selection Test Battery.
Other minimum qualification requirements include:
- Minimum of a Bachelor's Degree (upon commissioning)
- Must be a United States Citizen
- Age: Between 18 and 28 (no older than age 30 for current enlisted)
- Must meet normal accession medical standards
- Must be eligible for a security clearance (either SECRET or TOP SECRET, depending on the job assignment)
- High moral character: Applicants convicted of any felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude are rejected. History of addiction to any narcotic, illegal drug, or alcohol is disqualifying.
The United States Naval Academy
A percentage of each class at the U.S. Naval Academy receives a commission in the Marine Corps through a selection process. The academy offers a bachelor of science degree and reserve commission as a second lieutenant to graduates. Academy candidates should begin their nomination requests during their junior year in high school.
Officer Candidate Course
Under the officer candidate programs, male and female graduates of an accredited four-year college or university, and graduates of accredited law schools licensed to practice in a state or federal court are eligible for a reserve commission.
Upon successful completion of a week screening and evaluation program, candidates are commissioned as second lieutenants in the Marine Corps Reserve. Even though graduates receive a "Reserve" commission, graduation and acceptance of a commission incur a minimum active duty (full time) service commitment.
Upon completion of this program and commissioning, second lieutenants are assigned to The Basic School at Quantico for 26 weeks of officer training. After completing The Basic School, aviation officers undergo flight instruction for an additional 18 to 24 months, while ground officers attend specialty schools of varying lengths.
Ground officers have an active duty obligation of three and one-half years after commissioning. Pilots have an active duty obligation of six years if trained as a helicopter or fixed-wing turboprop aircraft pilot and eight years if trained as a jet pilot. Naval flight officers (NFOs) have an active duty obligation of six years.
Aviation candidates must be at least 20 years old upon entering the program and no older than 27 upon commissioning. Ground officers must be less than 28 years old upon commissioning.
Platoon Leaders Class
Marine Platoon Leaders Class is available to full-time enrolled, physically qualified undergraduate freshmen, sophomores, and juniors attending accredited colleges. Pre-commissioning training consists of two six-week sessions or one week session during summer breaks at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, VA.
PLC students may choose ground, aviation, or law contracts, and may apply for a financial subsistence allowance of $ a month upon completion of one summer training session. Aviation students may join the Flight Indoctrination Program and receive civilian flight instruction during their senior year of college. PLC members may also apply for the Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program and receive as much as $5, per year for tuition assistance.
Upon graduation from college, PLC participants receive reserve commissions as second lieutenants. Officers are then assigned to The Basic School at Quantico, VA for 26 weeks of basic officer training.
Students opting for ground or law training must be at least 17 years old upon entering the program and less than 28 upon commissioning. Pilot candidates must be at least 17 upon entering the program and less than 27 upon commissioning. Aviation may be guaranteed to freshmen if qualified.
Minimum active duty obligation for ground officers and lawyers following commissioning is three and one-half years. Following flight training and designation as a naval aviator, the minimum active duty obligation is six years if trained as a helicopter pilot or naval flight officer and eight years if trained as a fixed-wing pilot. Minimum active duty requirements are extended six months for receiving financial subsistence allowance and 18 months for receiving tuition assistance.
Navy and Marine Corps ROTC
Navy and Marine Corps ROTC programs at more than 65 colleges and universities across the country offer Marine Corps commissions to college students who complete four years of naval science study on campus. The two types of programs are the College Program and the Scholarship Program. In addition to students already enrolled in college programs, or planning to attend college, some enlisted personnel is eligible to apply for a Navy/Marine Corps ROTC Scholarship.
Four-year scholarship program. Students are selected from a national competition and are appointed midshipmen, U.S. Naval Reserve, and identified as Marine Corps options. They may be granted the compensation and benefits authorized by law during the Basic Course for a total period of not more than four years. During this period of college, the Department of the Navy pays tuition, fees, and textbooks, and provides uniforms and a subsistence allowance of up to $ for each academic month. Upon completion of naval science requirements and graduation, students receive reserve commissions as a second lieutenant with a four-year active duty obligation.
Four-year college program. Students are selected from among those applying for enrollment at each Navy/Marine Corps ROTC unit. During the first two years in the Basic Course, students have the status of civilians who have entered into a contract with the Navy. Upon completion of one term of the Basic Course, students may apply for a change to a Marine Corps option. Upon enrollment in the Advanced Course, College Program students enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve.
Upon graduation and completion of naval science requirements, students are commissioned as second lieutenants in the Marine Corps Reserve with a three-and-one-half-year active duty obligation. The Navy provides uniforms, naval science textbooks, and up to $ for each academic month for a maximum of 20 months during the Advanced Course. Three-, two-, and one-year scholarships are available to College Program students nominated by their NROTC unit commanding officers. The Commandant of the Marine Corps makes those selections.
Two-year scholarship and college programs. Students selected are those with advanced college standing who qualify for enrollment in the Advanced Course. They must first complete the six-week course at the Naval Science Institute. Those enrolled in the two-year scholarship and college programs have the same privileges and obligations as those in the respective four-year programs.
The U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School
The U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School, located at Newport, RI, accepts applications from active duty and inactive reserve enlisted members of the Marine Corps. The Naval Academy admissions board considers applicants for the Naval Academy Preparatory School.
The application is made to the Naval Academy. If someone is not selected for admission to the academy, they could be selected for the Naval Academy Preparatory School. Entrance requirements are based on the whole person evaluation of overall abilities and potential and are similar to those of other prep schools.
Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training
The Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) offers active-duty enlisted men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 the opportunity to receive 10 months of extensive academic preparation to become more competitive for selection to the Naval Academy, Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program and Navy/Marine Corps ROTC scholarship programs. BOOST participants attend school at the Naval Education Training Center in Newport, RI, If not selected for either a Navy/Marine Corps ROTC scholarship, MECEP, or appointment to the Naval Academy, BOOST students fulfill their service obligation to the Marine Corps in the enlisted ranks.
Enlisted Commissioning Program
The Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP) provides enlisted Marines with a four-year degree from an accredited school the opportunity to become commissioned officers. ECP is open to Marines with a minimum of one-year active-duty experience and at least 12 months remaining on their current enlistment contract.
This program provides selected enlisted Marines, ages 20 to 26, with an opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree by attending a college or university full-time. After obtaining a degree and completing officer candidate school, MECEP graduates are commissioned as reserve second lieutenants, provided they are no older than
Meritorious Commissioning Program.
The Meritorious Commissioning Program (MCP) provides a commissioning opportunity for enlisted Marines with two-year degrees, 75 semester hours or more of college work, which have demonstrated rare leadership qualities, and would ultimately better serve the Marine Corps as an officer. Unlike other commissioning programs where the applicant initiates the application process, MCP requires that applicants be nominated by their commanding officers. Marines must have the same basic qualifications for MCP as ECP. Marines are given a reserve commission and serve on active duty.
Enlisted program reserve commissioning
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