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Military Services:  Marine Corps Officer
Photo: collage of marines standing in front of the Iwo Jima Monument, a male and a female soldiers, and the Marine Corps logo.


The United States Marine Corps has two missions; to make Marines and win battles. Comprised of smart, adaptable men and women, the Corps has served as the aggressive tip of the American military spear since its inception in 1775. Often thought of as “First to Fight”, the Marines are a smaller, more dynamic force than any other in the American arsenal. Marines operate around the world as America’s quick strike expeditionary force, ready at a moment’s notice to effectively insert elite warriors into any situation in any place that calls for it. Marines are trained to attack enemies from the air, land and sea with a fury unmatched by any other military organization in the world. And the men and women who join do so because they have always known they belong among kindred spirits.

The Marines are part of the Department of the Navy and operate in close cooperation with the U.S. naval forces at sea. The Marine Corps’ mission is unique among the armed services. Marines serve on U.S. Navy ships, protect naval bases, guard U.S. embassies and provide a quick, ever-ready strike force to protect U.S. interests anywhere in the world. All Marines are trained to move on a moment’s notice to match up with equipment stored on floating bases on the world’s oceans. This remains an essential capability for our country.

To perform the many duties of the Marine Corps, approximately 178,000 Marines excel at everything they do. Their intense training and drive for excellence is world-renowned. The self-discipline and abilities gained in recruit training pour over into 300 different individual specialties in which they may become an expert. And each year, the Marine Corps accepts approximately 1,500 new officers into its ranks to lead them. As important as enlisted Marines are to the Marine Corps, Marine Officers are essential to success.

A Few Will Lead

Not everyone can be a Marine. And not every Marine can be an officer. Officers of the Marine Corps must prove that they are not only capable of being Marines but also capable of leading them at an age when most of their college counterparts are in entry level positions. It’s quite a challenge and the Corps takes only the best and brightest.

While young men and women who join right out of high school enlist in the Corps, officers are college graduates who have attended and completed Officer Candidates School in Quantico, VA during college or shortly after graduation.

Marine Corps Officer Programs

Marine Corps Officer Programs are a great choice for ambitious college-bound students. As college freshmen, sophomores, or juniors, students can enter Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class (PLC), continuing full time education while attending Officer Candidates School during the summer months. By the time a young man or woman is ready to receive a degree, he or she is also ready to receive an officer’s commission. If a student is a senior or has already obtained a degree, he or she is eligible to enroll in Officer Candidates Course (OCC), after completion of which, a commission will be awarded.

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Those who wish to become Marine Officers must first complete the equivalent of recruit training, called Officer Candidates School (OCS). Upon completion, these Marines are offered an officer’s commission and proceed to The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico, Virginia. At TBS, Marine Officers are first trained to lead as rifle platoon commanders and also are assigned a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in Ground, Aviation, or Law. There are over twenty MOSs to choose from when selecting a career path. Infantry officers go on to perfect their ability to lead Marine ground forces into battle, and Aviation Officers undergo training to become either Naval Marine Aviators or Naval Flight Officers. Officers who elect a law discipline will become Judge Advocates within the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office.

Potential Marine Corps Officers are young men and women of high moral standards who have or will have a four-year college degree, are physically fit, and have demonstrated potential for leadership. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and pass the initial Marine Corps physical fitness test. Additionally, applicants must take either the SAT, ACT, or AFQT/ASVAB aptitude tests. Minimum acceptable scores are: SAT – combined verbal and math scores of 1000; ACT – 22; and AFQT/ASVAB – 74. The only age requirement is that a person must be at least 20 and less than 30 (waiverable to 35) years of age at the time of commissioning. Applicants for law programs must score a minimum of 30 on a 50-point scale, or 150 on a 180-point scale, of the LSAT.

Marine Corps officers are selected from various sources, including but not limited to Platoon Leaders Class (PLC), Officer Candidates Course (OCC) Program, Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Program, and United States Naval Academy.

Platoon Leaders Class

Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) is the most popular route to completing Officer Candidates School (OCS) and becoming an officer.

The PLC Program is for those college freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who have made the decision to pursue a Marine Corps officer commission. Application to this program may be made upon successful completion of the first semester or quarter of the freshman year. Applicants must be pursuing a four-year baccalaureate degree from an accredited college. They are eligible to receive financial assistance after successful completion of their first summer of training.

PLC officer candidates attend summer training sessions at the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia. Freshmen and sophomores participate in two six-week sessions, and juniors participate in one 10-week session.

Aviation guarantees in the PLC-Aviation Program are available to those who qualify. In this program, individuals can receive real flight experience and instruction to familiarize themselves with flying before military flight training begins.

PLC-Law is a post-baccalaureate degree program for law school attendees. Active duty is postponed until a student obtains a law degree and passes the bar examination.

Officer Candidates Course

The Officer Candidates Course (OCC) Program is pre-commission training for college seniors and graduates who desire to be Marine Corps officers. Upon graduation from college, candidates attend one 10-week officer training course and receive a commission upon successful completion of training.

In addition to the programs described above, the Marine Corps has programs for qualified enlisted personnel to earn commissions as officers. These programs include the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP), the Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP), Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST), and the Meritorious Commissioning Program (MCP).

Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC)

With the Marine Corps NROTC program, you have the ability to earn two prized titles at once – college graduate and United States Marine.

The NROTC Scholarship Program offers tuition and other financial benefits worth as much as $250,000 at one of more than 67 of the country’s leading colleges and universities. Four-year NROTC scholarships are available to high school graduates on a competitive selection process in which consideration is given to such factors as high school record, college board scores, extracurricular activities, and leadership qualities.

Two- and three-year NROTC scholarships are available to college freshmen, sophomores, and juniors meeting basic requirements. Recipients are selected in a competitive process similar to that for the four-year scholarship.

U.S. Naval Academy

Since 1883, Marine Corps officers have been commissioned from the U.S. Naval Academy, where graduating midshipmen earn a bachelor of science degree either in one of seven different engineering programs or in one of eleven disciplines offered with an engineering emphasis. Annually, nearly 225 midshipmen of each graduating class receive a regular Marine Corps commission.

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The Marine Corps has developed career patterns to prepare its officers to assume progressively higher command and staff responsibilities. These career patterns are designed to provide individual training and education, followed by operational assignments. They allow officers to learn their professions and progress to sequentially more demanding assignments.

Officer training can generally be divided into three types. First, the Marine Corps maintains a system of professional military education that is progressive in nature. This education prepares officers for the increasing responsibilities associated with more senior grades in the Marine Corps. It is primarily the study of how to be an officer and apply the command and staff knowledge required of a professional. Examples of this type of training are the 26-week Basic Officer Course, which all newly commissioned officers attend, the 42-week Expeditionary Warfare School for junior grade officers and the 43-week Command and Staff College for mid-grade officers.

The second type of training encompasses the many specific skill-producing courses that are conducted to enable the officer to perform in a specialized area immediately upon assignment. Most Marine Corps officers attend one of these courses sponsored by the Corps, but they may also attend others conducted by the Navy or another service. An example of this type of initial training is pilot training conducted by the Navy. An example of follow-on skill progression training is the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course designed for highly qualified aviation and command and control officers.

The third type of training provided to selected officers is either in-house or civilian advanced academic education. This type of training is designed to meet the Marine Corps’ need for officers trained in specific technical, scientific and engineering fields. Examples of this type of training are the Naval Postgraduate School and Naval Test Pilot School.

Each Marine Corps officer’s training begins with the physically and mentally demanding Basic Officer Course and progresses to individual training specifically designed for his or her military occupational specialty (MOS). This unique training of the Marine Corps air-ground team provides all Marine Corps officers with a common background that is independent of their MOS.

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Marine Corps officers are selected for advancement based on their qualifications to fully meet the needs of the Marine Corps. Each individual’s qualifications and performance of duty must clearly demonstrate that he or she would be capable of performing the duties normally associated with the next higher permanent grade. Every aspect of an officer’s performance is carefully evaluated during the selection process to ensure that those selected for promotion are truly the best qualified.

The Marine Corps has an established career counseling system to provide officers with proper career guidance and counsel. Broad guidelines help to channel all officers to a rewarding, successful career.

After initial qualification in an MOS, officers are offered continued professional education, various duty assignments, and further MOS training. Junior officers can expect to perform not only as leaders, but as technicians and managers. Commonly, junior officers are put in charge of units consisting of anywhere from three or four, to more than 100 Marines.

As junior officers become more proficient in their fields, opportunities arise for more challenging assignments and increased responsibility. Performance in these challenging situations directly relates to the continuance of a Marine Corps career. Although promotion boards review many factors, performance is the key to advancement.

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The Marine Corps offers career education at every level in the officer ranks. Not only is formal schooling provided to enhance the professional development of officers, but the Marine Corps has an extensive correspondence course program available to all officers.

Especially inviting are the various graduate education programs made available to qualified officers; the Special Education Program, the Advanced Degree Program, the Excess Leave Program-Law, and the Funded Law Education Program.

Special Education Program

The Special Education Program (SEP) is a fully funded program designed to build up the Marine Corps’ pool of officers with specialties in both technical and non-technical disciplines. Officers accepted into and completing the program earn master’s degrees in designated disciplines by attending the Naval Postgraduate School, the Air Force Institute of Technology, or approved civilian schools.

Advanced Degree Program

Under the Advanced Degree Program (ADP), expenses for the cost of a master’s degree are partially funded. Officers are selected to study in a particular technical or non-technical discipline and may attend the accredited school of their choice. While in this and the SEP program, officers continue to receive all pay and allowances.

A sample of the types of disciplines officers may study while in either the ADP or the SEP includes space systems operations, defense systems analysis, management, public relations, computer science, electronic engineering, and telecommunications management.

Excess Leave Program-Law

The Excess Leave Program-Law (ELP-L) provides qualified Marine Corps officers the opportunity to take time off from active duty to attend an accredited law school at their own expense. While participating in the ELP-L, officers receive no pay or allowances.

Funded Law Education Program

Under the Funded Law Education Program (FLEP), Marine Corps officers attend an accredited law school of their choice, with the Marine Corps paying their tuition and expenses. Full pay and allowances are provided to those officers in the FLEP.

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The Marine Corps Reserve plays a vital role in the augmentation of the regular force. Hard work and dedication are keys to maintaining a combat-ready force capable of responding, at any time, to the call to active duty. Reserve officers have an especially challenging role in maintaining this ready force.

Reserve officers serve in the same types of duties and job assignments as their regular counterparts. The main difference is that they serve part-time, one weekend each month and two weeks of continuous duty each year. Regular officers serve full-time, all year round.

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