With the cost of higher education skyrocketing, it’s no surprise that college-bound students are looking for ways to finance their education. In some cases, they need not look further than Uncle Sam. The best and brightest can receive a four-year education and salary at one of the U.S. military academies. This education is not free – men and women who agree to accept this education are obligated to serve in the branch of the military that educated them for a minimum of five years after graduation.
A military academy is an educational institution that prepares candidates for service in the military. University-level institutions in the U.S. award Bachelor’s degrees. In the United States, the term “military academy” does not mean that the institution is run by the armed forces to train military officers. It can also mean a public or private institution that instructs its students in a military fashion with discipline and tradition. Graduate institutions already catering to officers in service are often called staff colleges or graduate schools.
A college level military academy is an institution of higher learning of all things military. It is part of the military education and training institutions. The primary goal of a military academy is to provide a high quality education that includes significant coursework and training in military tactics and military strategy. The amount of non-military coursework varies by both the institution and the country. The amount of practical military experience gained varies as well. A military academy may or may not grant university degrees. In the United States, graduates have a major field of study. They earn a bachelor’s degree in that subject.
There are two types of military academies: national (government-run) and state/private-run. Graduates from national academies are typically commissioned as officers. The new officers usually have an obligation to serve in the military for a certain number of years. State or private-run academy graduates have no requirement to join the military after graduation. Most of these schools have gotten away from their military roots and now enroll both military and civilian students. The only exception in the United States is the Virginia Military Institute which remains all military.
All three service academies – The U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy – are choosy. Applicants are encouraged to begin the admissions process early in their high school careers. At West Point the typical cadet has a minimum verbal and math SAT of 600 or better and a GPA averaging 3.8. There is a nomination process. Nominations must be from a member of Congress, the President, the Vice-President, or a member of the Department of the Army. Applicants can’t have legal dependents and must be in good health. Currently, women make up fewer than 20% of the cadets. Cadets can major in a variety of academic areas. What is emphasized is “intellectual, physical, military and moral-ethical development” for all its cadets. These traits and skills make the best officers and will benefit graduates who will later enter the business world. It is not all academics at the academy. Summers are spent in military training. When cadets are upperclassmen, they go all over the world serving in active units. Graduates must serve in the Army for at least five years.
The U.S. Air Force Academy is also highly selective. The average GPA and test scores are very similar to the U.S. Military Academy. These applicants must also be nominated. Summers are spent in military training and the academic year is spent studying. Graduates must serve in the Air Force for a total of eight years: five in active duty and three as a reserve officer.
The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland prepares midshipmen for both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines. The academic core curriculum emphasizes engineering, science, mathematics, and humanities. Summers are spent in military training or placement with the Navy or Marine Corps. Admission is very selective and requires a special nomination. After graduation they become officers in either the Navy or Marines and are required to serve for at least five years.
Choosing a military academy is not for everyone. The commitment to serve in the military post-graduation and the possibility of active duty carry enormous risks that must be evaluated carefully by each individual. For those who are patriotic and possess the values emphasized in the military, a military education is an honorable option.
The United States federal government operates the following Federal Service Academies:
Several institutions were founded as military academies, but currently maintain both a corps of cadets and a civilian student body. These colleges, along with the Virginia Military Institute, create the six Senior Military Colleges. The colleges are:
Five institutions are considered military junior colleges. These schools participate in the Army’s Early Commissioning Program. This is an Army ROTC Program where qualified students earn a commission as a second lieutenant after two years of college. The five military junior colleges are: