Your Military Career: Basics of Officer Candidate School

College graduates considering a career in the military can earn a commission in the U.S. Armed Forces through Officer Candidate School (OCS) or Officer Training School (OTS). These education opportunities are programs offered by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard. These commisioned officers generally must serve their obligation on active duty.

People who are training in certain health professions may qualify for direct appointment as officers. In the case of those studying for the health professions, financial assistance and internship opportunities are available from the military in return for specified periods of military service.

Prospective medical students can apply to the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, which offers free tuition in a program leading to a doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree. In return, students must serve for seven years either in the military or the U.S. Public Health Service. Direct appointments are also available for those qualified to serve in other specialty areas, such as the judge advocate general (JAG, or legal) or chaplain corps.

Flight training is available to commissioned officers in each branch of the Armed Forces. In addition, the Army has a direct enlistment option to become a warrant officer aviator.

Each service has different criteria for promoting personnel. Generally, the first few promotions for officer personnel come easily; subsequent promotions are much more competitive. Criteria for promotion may include time is service and in grade, job performance, a fitness report (supervisor's recommendation), and the passing of written examinations. People who are passed over for promotion several times generally must leave the military.