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Education and Training: Requirements vary
Average Salary: $17,000-$35,000 per year
Job Outlook: Good

A soldier is an enlisted man or woman who works for a branch of the government’s armed forces. While all enlisted soldiers are trained in basic combat, their actual job descriptions can vary widely, depending on their branch and their expertise. Soldiers may specialize in any of the following areas in the United States military: administration, which includes maintaining personnel files, financial records, legal records, and more; combat specialty jobs, including infantry and artillery specialists; construction specialties; electronic equipment specialties; engineering and technical specialties, which may include working with health and safety, intelligence, or delicate military machinery; healthcare specialties; human resources specialties, including recruiting and training other military personnel; machine operations and production specialties; public affairs specialties, which includes recording and transmitting audio, video, and more for the military to use in advertising or for public relations; support specialties, including chefs and counselors at military bases and in the field; transportation and vehicle specialties, including mechanics and the handling of various military materials.

Soldiers typically alternate periods of deployment in foreign countries with periods in the United States, often living on a military base. In many branches, soldiers move frequently, taking their families with them from one base to the next. Deployment times vary by national situation and the branch of the military that a soldier is involved with.

Education and Training Requirements

Enlisted soldiers need at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, and they must be at least eighteen to enlist. Those who wish to become officers must earn a bachelor’s or graduate degree, depending on the branch of the military. Most branches also have physical and mental requirements that recruits must meet before they can be enlisted. The military has its own testing to help recruits find their particular niche once enlisted.

Training for military jobs is usually done through the military, though some specialties will require training at a college or university. Training is typically paid or reimbursed by the military, depending on a recruit’s status and military branch.

Getting the Job

Most people who enter the military do so as high school or college graduates. To enlist, talk with your local recruiting office, being certain to understand the differences between each branch of the military to find the best fit for your skills. Take the military aptitude exam to see how well you score, since your score will largely determine your placement within the military.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Job prospects for military recruits are good, as not many people make the military a lifelong career. From the role of enlisted soldier, one can go on to become an officer or to specialize in a particular area.

Many who enlist in the military and get their training there serve only the minimal amount of time before taking their new skill set to the civilian world. Others develop their careers by becoming lifelong military men or women. These men and women must only serve for twenty years before they are eligible for retirement with full retirement benefits.

Working Conditions and Environment

Working conditions for soldiers can be quite stressful, particularly during times of deployment. Soldiers must be away from home and family for long periods of time, and must often work under dangerous conditions. Work environment varies, though, depending on a soldier’s specialty or area of expertise.

Salary and Benefits

Basic pay for a military recruit with less than two years of experience is about $17,000 per year, but can go up to $27,000 per year for a staff sergeant. Soldiers are paid progressively more with their level of experience. Beyond salary, soldiers receive free health and dental benefits, free or subsidized housing, benefits from the Veterans Administration, and subsidized education.

Where to Go for More Information

U.S. Air Force
Local Recruiting Offices Nationwide

U.S. Army
Local Recruiting Offices Nationwide
(888) 550-ARMY

U.S. Marines
Local Recruiting Offices Nationwide

U.S. Navy
Local Recruiting Offices Nationwide

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service