At this point you’ve probably decided working a dead-end job or accumulating $100,000 of student loan debt isn’t for you.
You might also just love the country and want to give back.
As someone who has been in your shoes, I can assure you you’ll never regret joining the military.
But, there may still be that HUGE question of which branch of the military should I join looming over your head.
In this review I want to explain the pros and cons of each military branch, so you can find the branch that fits YOU best.
Keep in mind when people give you advice, they aren’t you, and what you want/enjoy is likely very different from what they do.
I’ll do my best to give unbiased and impartial advice. After you check out this page, you might also like page on what is the best military branch here.
3 Main Considerations when Choosing a Military Branch
Here are 3 major considerations to help you find the right branch for you. As you go, I recommend trying to cross branches off the list until you’re choosing between 2 or 3.
#1. Your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is WAY MORE Important Than the Branch!
I cannot stress this enough. Your MOS (the military’s name for a job) is actually a lot more important than the branch you choose.
The biggest mistake I see young people (and especially those with a bad recruiter) make is signing an open contract or just taking whichever when is available. An open contract means that the branch you join can literally assign you any job.
And guess what, the ones they assign you are usually the worst ones that nobody else would sign up for.
Your recruiter might even tell you that the job you want is closed right now, but if you sign an open contract you can pick your job after boot camp.
That’s SO FAR from the truth. Your recruiter might assure you that you’ll be able to get your dream job as a nutrition specialist and help your peers live a healthier life.
THEN next thing you know you’re assigned to an explosive ordnance division wearing a bomb suit and trying to remember which color to wire to snip.
Okay, that’s a very extreme example but you get the idea.
Where Most People Recommend You Start, But Not Me
A lot of people will recommend you start by walking into the recruiting office of each branch and seeing what they have to offer you.
I actually don’t recommend this.
If you haven’t already heard recruiters don’t only have your best interests in mind. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for recruits, but they have a tough job and need to meet quotas.
For the most part, they’re going to tell you what you want to here.
I can GUARANTEE you that they aren’t going to say, for example, Jimmy after hearing what you’re looking for the Army just doesn’t have anything for you. Let me take you over to the Navy office. I think they’ll have what you’re looking for…
Remember, they’re trained to get you to sign that contract. Once you do, the sweet-talking ends.
Where I think you should start.
In my opinion, you should do some research before heading into a recruiter’s office, so you already have a good idea of what each branch has to offer and show up with a list of questions.
Along with helping you see through the recruiter’s BS, they’ll be impressed that you are prepared and aren’t just wasting their time. They’ll be able to give you better advice and answers.
The truth is each branch probably does have something to offer you, but my goal for this page is to help you find the ABSOLUTE BEST branch for you.
Let me give you a quick example before I go more in-depth and explain the pros and cons of each branch.
Are you someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, shooting guns, hiking, and wouldn’t mind spending a lot of times overseas? If so, the Marines and specifically the Marine Infantry would be a great fit for you.
On the flip side, if you’re someone who is more interested in educational benefits and learning a skill that will transfer in the civilian world, then you’ll probably want to look at another branch like the Air Force, Navy, or Army.
#2. Military Branches Pros and Cons
Keep in mind that there are pros and cons of joining the military as a whole. Maybe I’ll list those out too, but this list only applies to the specific branches. This is actually a lot harder than I thought it would be because a “pro” to one person might be a “con” to another. I’ll do my best here!
Marines – Motto “Semper Fidelis” meaning always faithful
- The proudest branch (comradery)
- Most respected by civilians
- Every Marine is a rifleman
- Highest physical standards
- Marines are highly disciplined
- Good branch for those looking for a physical challenge
- Badass uniforms
- Amazing and proud history
- Good if you like to spend time outdoors
- Everyone learns martial arts
- Limited MOS (job) choices
- Lack of funding
- Deploy the most (to not the nicest places)
- The most dangerous
- Your body will hate you even when you get out
- Bad duty stations (like 29 palms)
- Not as many educational opportunities
- Mainly made up of men (good news if you’re a girl although sexual harassment is a problem)
- Very slow to promote (means less pay)
Here is a video I found on YouTube. The Marine in the video is talking about why he choose the Marines. I recommend skipping to 2:15 in the video.
Funny sayings and things people use to make fun of Marines.
People call Marines knuckle draggers and there is the saying “muscles are required intelligence not essential.” My A** rides in navy equipment. Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children.
A lot of Marines are Infantry, and they say the only skill they learn while in the military that applies to the civilian world is how to be homeless (since they spend so much time outdoors/camping).
Air Force – Motto – “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win”
- Best living conditions
- TONS of educational opportunities
- A wide range of Jobs
- Great signing bonuses and incentives
- Treat their people amazing
- Best living conditions
- Best chow halls and food
- Highly value education for their people
- Usually promote faster than other branches (means more pay)
- Many jobs that align with the civilian sector
- Safest of all the branches (I actually read it’s safer than being a civilian)
- Good ratio of men to women
- Other branches tend to look down on you
- Not the same pride when you get out (typically)
- Can be harder to get into (Due to ASVAB scores, but still not hard)
Funny things people say about the Air Force
Civilians in Uniform, Chair Force, Air boys, flyboys, Service Blues Bitches, Cross into the brown, wing nuts
Navy – Motto – “Forged by the Sea”
- Travel (You’ll go around the world to a lot of nice places)
- A wide range of jobs
- Well funded
- Educational benefits
- Nice duty stations
- Treat their people well
- Long deployments
- A lot of time spent at sea
- Cramped living quarters
Funny things people say about the Navy
Never Again Volunteer Yourself
Army – Motto – “This We’ll Defend”
- The largest branch
- Well funded
- Proud history
- Widest range of jobs
- Good educational opportunities
- Good living conditions
- Nice duty stations
- Good travel opportunities
- Standards can be a joke
- While there are a lot of highly motivated people in the Army, there a lot of people just there for the benefits.
Funny things people say about people in the Army
Ain’t ready to be Marines Yet
This Joke Best Sums Up Military Stereotypes
How Each Branch of The Military Locks Down Secures a Building
Army: Tell the Army to secure a building and they’ll set up a perimeter and make sure nobody gets out.
Marines: Tell the Marines to secure a building and they’ll kick down the front door, kill everybody inside, set up defenses and make sure nobody gets in.
Navy: As the Navy to secure a building and they’ll turn off the lights and lock the doors.
Air Force: Ask the air force to secure a building and they’ll sign a 10 year lease.
#3. Consider the Mission of Each Branch
Marines: The Marine Corps is the smallest of the major military branches. Marines are responsible for carrying out amphibious (land and water) and expeditionary (away from established bases) operations.
The Marines Corps is also known as the nation’s force in readiness and is more “combat oriented” than the other branches. Due to the nature of their mission, the Marines have an intense warrior culture and take pride in being able to operate and live in harsh conditions.
While there are many jobs to pick from in the Corps, every Marine is a rifleman above all else. This means that even if you sign a Legal Administration or Parachute Rigger contract you’ll still receive extensive training in marksmanship with an m4/m16 service rifle and learn basic infantry tactics.
You’ll also be required to take part in regular hikes during your time in the operational forces and maintain higher physical fitness standards than the other military branches. That’s not to say that the other branches don’t have people that are in exceptional shape, but the standards in the Marines are the highest.
The tasks of the Army and Marine Corps often overlap. Both branches have highly capable infantry units. As far as infantry goes the major difference is the overall culture and their fighting specialties and tactics. Marines mission is more geared toward winning battles whereas the Army’s is to preserve peace and providing defense
If you’re looking for educational benefits and an easy 4 years, stay away from the Marines. Along with having the longest boot camp, life if the Marine Corps is generally the hardest and most stressful.
That said, if you’re looking for a challenge and want to join an organization full of pride and that has an unbelievable history, the Corps may be for you! In my opinion, the Marines have the most pride of all the branches. When you’re driving around take a look at the number of Marine Corps stickers on cars, it’s definitely a disproportional amount.
Army: The Army is the oldest of all the military branches and specializes in land warfare. The Army is the largest military branch, coming in at twice the size of the Marine Corps.
For those of you looking for educational opportunities and a wide range of jobs to choose from, I recommend checking out the Army.
Navy: You probably already know what the Navy does so I’ll keep this short. The Navy specializes in naval and amphibious warfare. This type of warfare may include the use of ships, submarines, and air crafts. The Navy is a very important branch even during peacetime, as they provide a strategic defense to key ports and also provide nuclear defense.
The Navy has a lot of unique jobs and they do have a lot of good incentives to join. While the Navy isn’t often thought of as “cool” they do have some of nations highest top tier warriors. If you like to swim and are really looking for a challenge, check out the Navy’s Special Warfare program.
Air Force: In modern times the Air Force might be the most important of all the military branches. They are well funded and have a TON of jobs to choose from. From flying drones to aerospace medicine, you’d be hard pressed to find something you don’t like in the Air Force.
Think the Air Force is just for brainiacs and geeks? Think again. The Air Force also has their studs. If you’re looking for more of a combat-oriented job they have some the highest rated operators like Pararescue Jumpers and Combat Controllers.
That said, the Air Force has a lot more jobs that require brain power than they do muscle power.
If you join the Air Force people in the Marines and Army might make fun of you and say you’re in the “Chair Force,” but in reality, a lot of them are just jealous of how well the Air Force treats their people and all the benefits they get.
Coast Guard: Honestly, I think all the military branches ragged on the Coast Guard until Ashton Kutcher made it cool when he starred in the movie The Guardian.
This is actually one of the most underappreciated and overlooked branches of the service. They’re a maritime, military, multi-mission service that provides maritime law enforcement in both domestic and international waters. The Coast Guard operates under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and can be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the president or congress at any time during war.
Let me know if this page helped you or if you have any questions in the comments below.
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines. As an outdoor enthusiast, he has been testing outdoor and tactical style gear for over 20 years. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. On this website, we only write about things within our range of expertise like tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. Check out the “About Us” tab to meet the team.