The military is notoriously known for the strict requirements and regulations they place on new and potential recruits, and their rigorous training techniques.

No matter which of the five branches you plan on joining, they require you to fall into a specific age bracket.

After all, they need to be sure that you are old/young enough to keep up with their physical standards.

So, while the Department of Defense makes a lot of the rules that the military goes by, the different branches are allowed to set their age requirements, as long as they fall within the recommended age bracket the Department of Defense set for all military branches, which is 17 if you have consent from your parents, and 28 if you don’t to 35 years. As a result, each branch has its specific age requirements that are also affected by some other requirements and conditions.

As strict as these age requirements are, some recruits are given some waivers and allowances based on certain conditions. For example, most military branches consider prior service when admitting recruits.

In such cases, the recruits’ ages are adjusted, and their years of active service are deducted. If the adjusted age falls under the age bracket, the recruits may be allowed to join.

These cases don’t always turn out the same way; however, so not everyone will have the same experience.

Age requirements in military branches. Source: Military Benefits



The Army has different requirements for its recruits, depending on their stations and prior training.

This means that if a potential recruit has served in the same capacity in the Army or any other military branch, they may get an age waiver. However, these happen under specific circumstances, and the applicant’s skills determine this.

Non-prior service

Army active-duty

If the recruit has no prior service, the age limit remains 35 years.

So, a recruit has to enter the Army’s basic training before they turn 35. Although, sometimes, an allowance is made for recruits who began the enlistment process before 35 but didn’t get to the basic training on time.

The age limit used to be 42 for a short while, but the Army reverted to its old limit of 35 years in 2011. The minimum age is 17 with parental consent and 18 without. Also, any recruit with a GED has to be at least 18 years old before they would be allowed to join.

Army Reserves

The Army reserves follow the same procedures as the active-duty recruits with a 35-year age limit. Recruits also have to be at least 17 years old with parental consent or 18 years old without.

Age limits for prior service enlistment

In the Army, for a recruit to qualify as a prior service applicant, they must have served in the military for at least 180 days or finished any military job training.

Compared to other branches of the military, the Army is perhaps the most accepting of prior service applicants, and the waiting lists are not as long as others.

While prior service applicants don’t have to go through the Army boot camp, they must attend a Warrior Transition Course that holds for four weeks.

This does not apply to former Army soldiers and Marines unless they had a break in their service years that lasted longer than three years at a time.

Army active-duty

For recruits with prior service, the Army may adjust their age limit to accommodate them. They can either increase the age limit to admit the recruit or subtract the years of prior service from the recruit’s current age.

Also, the years of prior service have to be in a comparable or similar area of service before they can count.

Army Reserves

The age requirements remain the same among reserve officers too. Recruits that want to get into the Army Reserves with prior service have to come from a similar position in any of the other branches. In fact, the Army reserves tend to admit more applicants than other branches, except the applicant has a specific skill that makes them useful as active-duty officers.

Distribution of military officer among the different branches. Source: Our military

Army Special Forces

Army National Guard

The National Guard only admits officers from 20 to 30 years old without prior service. Meanwhile, those with prior service must be ready for non-regular retired pay before they turn 60, and complete the mandatory 20 years of active service.

Army Service Academies

The Army service academy admits recruits from 17 years to 23 years old, and they have to meet those conditions by July 1st of whatever year they enter.


The Navy is a stickler for its age requirements, and these cover both navy recruits and those looking to enter the Navy Officer Program.

The general minimum age requirement is 17 with parental consent and 18 without their consent, but for Navy Officers, the minimum age is 19, and the maximum is 35 years old.

You can also re-enlist in the Navy if you have prior service, but the age waivers and considerations depend heavily on your specific skillset and the available options.

This means that you have a better chance of re-enlisting if there happen to be slots within your area of expertise that open up. There is usually a waiting list for these positions.

Non-prior service

Navy active-duty

A full-time enlisted sailor is expected to be at least 17 years old, and that’s only with your parents’ consent. Other than that, you should be at least 18 years old and at most 34 years old.

Navy Reserves

The Navy Reserves accepts recruits of 17 to 39, following the same requirements as those in active-duty. Recruits of the Navy Officers program also need a college degree from an accredited college to qualify.

Age limits for prior service enlistment

The requirements for prior service recruits in the Navy are pretty much the same as others, even though the Navy doesn’t usually admit them in large numbers.

Prior service in the Navy refers to an officer that has at least 180 days of active-duty service, and those days must be consecutive.

If an applicant has over 180 service days with breaks in between, they will be treated as non-prior service applicants.

The age waivers are not handed out so easily, but with a good RE code, they may be considered.

Prior service recruits have a better chance of being selected if they have specific skills for a job that’s in high demand; otherwise, they could be on the waiting list for over a year.

Also, not every recruit will be made to go through the boot camp again. Those decisions are made after testing each individual and analyzing their military knowledge.

Navy active-duty

For recruits to be accepted as active-duty naval officers with prior service, they must be at least 17 years old and at most 42 years old. They also need specific and valuable skills to be considered.

Navy Reserves

The reserves are more accommodating of prior service officers, and they have the same age requirements as the active-duty officers.

Navy Special Forces

Navy SEALs

Navy SEALs are naval Special Forces, so they have a lower maximum age of 28. This means that all recruits must have started their Navy SEAL training before turning 28.

Navy Pilots

Navy pilots have to begin their training before they turn 27, and they cannot be younger than 18.

Navy Service Academy

The Navy service academy admits recruits from 17 to 23 years of age as of July 1st of that year.


The Air Force has a reputation for being the military branch with the smartest officers and the easiest basic training. They also have the highest maximum age of enlistment, which is 39 years.

Recruits also have to be at least 17 years old or 18 years old without parental consent. For Air Force officers, however, the minimum age is 18 years.

Due to the high number of highly-skilled jobs in the Air Force, some of these age requirements may be adjusted to enlist someone with a highly sought after skillset. But, these situations don’t occur very frequently, and they depend largely on any available opportunities.

Non-prior service

Air Force active-duty

Your method of entering active-duty without prior service determines your age requirements. For active-duty officers, the minimum is 18, while for regular recruits, it is 17. Both careers have a maximum limit of 39 years.

Distribution of active-duty officers among the different military branches. Source: Pew Research center

Air Force Reserves

The age requirements for the reserves are the same as that of active-duty Airmen.

Age limits for prior service enlistment

The Air Force is notoriously hard to enlist as a prior service officer when compared t other branches, and the waiting list can take years.

Even in the rare case that they take a prior service officer, it is usually in the reserves or a skilled position in very high demand. In either case, the Air Force uses the adjusted age method, and recruits are expected to be younger than 40 years.

To qualify as a prior service applicant, you need to have at least two years in active-duty service in total.

Anything less than 24 months and you’re classified under previous service and treated as a non-prior service applicant, although, you will also get an RE code and waiver. Luckily, most prior service won’t be made to repeat basic training.

Rather, they will attend an Air Force familiarization course which lasts 101 days and is held at the Lackland Air Force base.

Air Force active-duty

The minimum age limit with prior service is 18, and the maximum is 48 with some special age waivers.

Air Force Reserves

The minimum for the reserves is 18, with a maximum of 39 after your age has been adjusted. The adjusted age is calculated by subtracting the years of prior service from the current age. You should be less than 40 years old at the time of enlistment.

Air Force Special Forces

Air National Guard

The Air National Guard uses the same age requirements as other Air Force sections, but the age limits don’t stand alone. There are other requirements to beat and also the same waivers that can be applied in some cases.

Air Force PJ/CCT

Air Force pararescuemen, also known as PJs, are some of the most highly trained rescue teams in the country, so the enlistment requirements are pretty tough. The age minimum is 17, and the maximum is 28, but they also need a high score on the ASVAB test, amongst other requirements.

Air Force Service Academy

The age limits for pilots entering flight school s 18, but they are generally around 23 years old when they enter. You have to start the admission process before you turn 29 years old.

Distribution of military officers by age. Source: CFR


The Marine Corps is known for bringing out some of the most elite military officers in the country, so it understandable that they have the lowest maximum age limits. You need to be at least 29 years old to enlist as a member f the corps and at least 17 years old with permission from your parents.

You can join the Marines as a private, or as an officer, but the age and other requirements differ. Officers must become commissioned before they turn 28, but privates have an additional year.

The rigorous training and skills that Marines have to follow is a big reason why the age limits are so low compared to the general military-age limit.

Non-prior service

Marine Corps active-duty

The minimum age for active-duty Marines with no prior service is 18, or 17 with parental consent, while the maximum age is 29.

Marine Corps Reserves

The Marine Corps reserves use the same age limits as the active-duty officers.

Age limits for prior service enlistment

The Marine Corps defines prior service as having at least 180 uninterrupted days of active-duty service. You also must have completed basic training in your previous service, or get a waiver for that. Although waivers can be made for prior service applicants, the age limits are never higher than 32.

Any prior service officers are expected to go through the Marine Corps boot camp regardless of their skillset.

The Marine Corps boot camp is considered one of the toughest basic training courses, so it makes sense that other service members are made to go through it.

Marine Corps active-duty

Marine Corps officers have an age limit of 18 to 32 years old. They usually use the age adjustment method where the years of service are subtracted from the current age.

Marine Corps Reserves

Marine reserves also use the 18 to 32 years limit.

Marine Corps Service Academy

You can decide to enlist through the National Reserve Officer Training Corps or the Naval Academy. For the NROTC, you must be at least 17 years old by September 1st of the year you start, and at most 23 years old by June 30th of your graduation year.


The coast guard is one branch of the military, which has lasted long as a uniformed branch. They operate under the department of homeland security, but they can also come to the aid of the Navy whenever they are needed.

The coast guard has an intricate list of requirements that recruits have to meet along with their age requirements.

The age requirements in the coast guard span from 27 years to 32 years, depending on how you enlist. You can either enlist regularly or join their advanced training school soon after you enlist. You can get waivers for certain conditions.

Non-prior service

Coast Guard active-duty

The age requirements for active-duty coast guard service are a minimum of 17 years and a maximum of 27 years; 32 if you become commissioned. Different programs may have different age requirements also.

Coast Guard Reserves

The coast guard reserves have a minimum of 17 and a maximum of 39 years. If you don’t have any specialized skills, like medical skills, the age limit is 28 and 35 if you have specialized skills.

Distribution of reserve officers among the different branches of the military. Source: Pew research center

Age limits for prior service enlistment

Prior service for coast guards is a vague definition because they take anyone who has served in any previous service for any length of time. There are no specifications, so the applications are left open for anyone.

As for the training, any prior service with less than two years of active-duty service is expected to go through the basic training while the ones with more than two years of training go through a one-month training called the Pit Stop.

Coast Guard active-duty

Prior service coast guards are given waivers on a case by case basis, but the age limit doesn’t exceed 35.

Coast Guard Reserves

The coast guard accepts applicants under 30 years old if you have any military experience and a rank lower than E-3. If you rank higher than E-3, then you have a limit of 40 years.

Coast Guard Service Academy

The coast guard service academy only admits people aged 17 to 22 years. For the officer training school, you need to be at least 21 years old and at most 26 years. Still, officers with prior service can get waivers, but they are not allowed to exceed 31 years old.


If you’ve always wanted to join the military, it may not be too late for you. You can join certain branches if the military well into your thirties, and you still have time to have a fulfilling military career.

If you have prior service and you’re finding civilian life challenging, re-enlistment can bring you closer to the military life you love. The sooner you join, the lesser the chances of missing an age bracket. So, why wait?

Age Limits within Military Service Branches

Comments are closed.