Education & Training

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Program

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is a leadership training and development program that prepares full-time, college-enrolled students for service opportunities in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Space Force (the Coast Guard offers a similar program called the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative [CSPI]). Joining ROTC opens a door to professional skills development, scholarship opportunities and tuition assistance, and, upon completion, attaining the rank of officer. Today, ROTC is offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities.


Benefits of Joining ROTC

One of the first questions about ROTC is “Why should I join?” One big reason is that ROTC offers educational benefits and valuable training while still allowing students to have the full college experience.

Education & Financial Benefits

Students who join ROTC can apply for a scholarship. The scholarship covers full or partial cost of tuition, fees and books as well as a monthly stipend for four years. These benefits are in exchange for mandatory active-duty service after completing ROTC. Academic advisors and on-campus ROTC recruiters will be able to answer questions about these benefits and expectations.

Professional Development

ROTC provides the opportunity to develop a professional foundation of technical and leadership skills that can benefit your future no matter what you decide to do. The program provides a structured, proven path to a career after college, including long-term guidance and continued professional education.

Becoming an Officer

When students accept an ROTC scholarship, complete the program and graduate from their college or university, they are commissioned as officers in the Military. Officers oversee and are directly responsible for leading service members under them in the chain of command. Typically, officers are employed in management roles or highly specialized fields that require professional degrees.

ROTC Training and Scholarship

ROTC offers a competitive scholarship program that can make education affordable and help advance a student’s personal and professional goals. It is offered at many traditional four-year colleges and universities, senior military colleges (all branches except the Coast Guard) and junior military colleges (Army and Navy ROTC only).

While it can vary by college and branch, each ROTC program will include some form of classroom instruction, field training exercises, leadership labs and physical fitness.

ROTC General Scholarship Requirements

The requirements for the scholarship may differ by Service branch, however, to qualify for an ROTC scholarship, the applicant must:

  • be a U.S. citizen
  • be at least 17 years of age
  • have a high school GPA of at least 2.50 (3.0 for Air Force)
  • have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • submit ACT or SAT scores
  • meet physical standards
  • agree to accept a commission and serve as an active-duty service member or in the Reserve or Guard

Applications are typically submitted by the end of the first semester of a high school student’s senior year.

ROTC: Scholarship Opportunities

At every stage of higher education, there are ROTC scholarships, stipends and tuition assistance that help make learning and skills development more accessible.

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One key aspect of the Air Force ROTC program is that the opportunity for a scholarship exists during their high school senior year or while they're in college. Buffalo scholarships cover full tuition, so regardless of when a student wants to join ROTC, whether it's before college or while they're in college, an opportunity to receive a scholarship is there. The scholarship opportunities do exist for both private schools and public schools. They have the ability to earn a stipend monthly in their autism scholarship program, as well as to attend multiple and various different professional development training seminars. So, there are a lot of benefits in ROTC.

Initial acceptance into an ROTC program does not guarantee continued scholarship benefits. Participants must adhere to strict academic standards to receive continued funding throughout their degree programs. Each military branch has its own rules and regulations regarding course balance, selection of a major and grade minimums.

Top ROTC College Majors

Some ROTC branches may require completion of a degree from an approved list, especially for a scholarship. Many of the top majors are beneficial for a future in the Military, such as:

  • Criminal justice
  • Engineering
  • Computer science
  • Nursing
  • Education
  • Cybersecurity
  • Business
  • Social work
  • Psychology
  • Information technology

Explore colleges that offer ROTC and majors like these

ROTC Programs Across the Services

ROTC programs are offered by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Space Force. It is designed to instill cadets with confidence as they strengthen their core values of honor, courage and commitment.

The Coast Guard does not offer ROTC, but it does have a similar scholarship program called the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI). This program is for students who demonstrate academic and leadership excellence and a desire to serve in the Coast Guard.


The Army ROTC program is currently offered at more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the U.S. When enrolled, the participants receive an education in topics such as leadership, military tactics, survival training and more. There is also a summer training requirement for certain participants, as well as an elective program involving training for parachute jumps, real-world leadership opportunities with active-duty service members and more.

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Army Major Travis Robinette

Army Major Travis Robinette's military journey began in high school with Junior ROTC, influenced by his father's service. In college, he joined ROTC and the National Guard (via the Simultaneous Membership Program), which helped him balance academics and hands-on leadership courses.


In exchange for a service commitment, Army ROTC can provide a two-, three- or four-year scholarship, which is based on the time remaining to complete a degree. The four-year curriculum combines classroom and leadership work. During the summer between junior and senior years, there is a four-week Advanced Camp (AC) at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Upon graduation from college and successful completion of AC, they are commissioned as officers in their choice of the Army, Army Reserve or Guard.


Those who do not complete the requirements of instruction during the freshman and sophomore years must participate in a four-week training camp, called Basic Camp (also at Fort Knox), except for those who have previously completed any Service-enlisted Basic Training course or have completed a certified Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program. Once Basic Camp is completed, participants are eligible to receive the same benefits as individuals in the four-year program.

Marine Corps ROTC

It may come as a surprise, but the Navy runs the ROTC program for both the Navy and the Marine Corps and this ROTC program is the largest single source of Navy and Marine Corps officers. Students who join Marine Corps ROTC receive education and training that can prepare them for leadership positions in an increasingly technical Marine Corps.

Today Marine Corps ROTC is offered at 77 leading colleges and universities across the United States. 

Earning a Marine Corps ROTC Scholarship

Learn about the multiple paths to earning this scholarship and a Marine Corps officer commission.

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When individuals initially consider joining an organization, they typically ask themselves, "What can this organization do for me? What qualities will I gain, and how can I contribute to making the organization better?"

The NROTC program, which stands for Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, is utilized to commission officers in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The mission of the Marine Corps NROTC program is to mentally, morally, and physically develop midshipmen, instilling in them the highest values of honor, courage, and commitment.

Each recruiting district independently screens its applicants. To apply for the program, students must reach out to their local recruiter. The recruiting districts use a competitive selection board to screen applicants. Those selected on this board receive a four-year scholarship and then embark on their four-year program through the NROTC unit.

There are over 60 NROTC units across the nation, each maintaining its own college program. This offers an opportunity for non-scholarship students to still be a midshipman through two or three-year side-load scholarships. These side-load scholarships provide a chance for students who didn't receive the four-year scholarship or may have missed the application deadline to remain competitive nationally and receive a two or three-year scholarship depending on their college career stage.

Upon acceptance into the program, students embark on a four-year training cycle. The first three years focus on preparing them for Officer Candidate School, after which they return for their senior year and are commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

You can have a completely normal college experience here. I chose kinesiology due to my sports background and a keen interest in learning about nutrition and physical fitness, which I believe will benefit my career. Besides taking additional naval science classes on naval history and warfare, you have the flexibility to study anything, providing a normal student lifestyle.

After graduation and commissioning, I'll be sent to the Basic School for the Marine Corps, immersing me in the role of a basic rifle platoon commander, teaching what it's like to be a true leader of Marines. Officer Candidate School assesses your desire to pursue it, while the Basic School is about putting what you've learned into action.

The program is not just about tuition; while it's a valuable benefit, there are priceless aspects like the responsibilities you gain, the development of leadership skills, and learning to face failures and move forward. These are qualities students acquire throughout the program, carrying them into their Marine Corps career. This program is an investment in the Marine Corps' future, investing four years of tuition to train and develop motivated individuals ready to serve the nation and lead Marines.

When enrolled in Navy ROTC (NROTC) to become an officer in the Marine Corps (i.e., Marine-option cadets), the curriculum includes studying Marine Corps history and traditions, the evolution of warfare, amphibious warfare and all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). Students receive instruction in management, leadership and ethics throughout the four years in the program.

Upon graduation, ROTC participants who complete the academic requirements of the Marine Corps ROTC program are offered commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps.


Offered at 170 colleges and universities across the United States, the primary mission of the Navy ROTC (NROTC) program is to instruct and prepare participants to lead as officers. Much of the professional training that occurs during this four-year curriculum happens at summer training programs. Upon graduation, students who complete all academic requirements in the NROTC program commission as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps (specifics about the Marine Corps ROTC are above).

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Navy Lieutenant Commander James Tiernan

A certain 1980s blockbuster movie about high-flying aviators was all it took to get Navy Lieutenant Commander James Tiernan hooked on joining. ROTC was the first step in a journey that would see him become a naval officer.



The NROTC Preparatory Program (NPP)

NROTC Preparatory Program is a one-year academic and military program that can help improve a student’s eligibility for NROTC scholarships while also providing a foundation for academic success at a sponsoring university. As part of this program, NROTC preparatory scholarship reservations (NPSR) partners with educational institutions to enhance underserved or disadvantaged scholarship applicants’ moral, mental and physical foundations.

Air Force ROTC

The Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) program is designed to develop the leadership and management skills essential for an Air Force or Space Force officer while preparing participants for assignment in a career field related to an academic specialty.

AFROTC is a four-year program offered in nearly 1,100 colleges and universities in the United States, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. It entails two distinct two-year courses: the General Military Course (GMC) and the Professional Officer Course (POC).

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Air Force Major Thomas Mahoney

Air Force Major Thomas Mahoney didn’t begin his military career through ROTC. In fact, after his first five years of service, he decided to enroll in ROTC at Penn State University  to further his career as an intelligence officer.


AFROTC also offers various Professional Development Trainings (PDTs) that consist of specialized classes and opportunities in a variety of Air Force and Space Force fields. PDTs are designed to educate on a wide range of activities and missions that the Air Force and Space Force accomplish. Air Force ROTC cadets compete for slots in PDTs, and the trainings typically occur during summer breaks when school is not in session.

Upon graduation and completion of the program, cadets will become commissioned officers in the Air Force or Space Force.

Coast Guard Pre-Commissioning Initiative

While the Coast Guard does not offer ROTC, it does have a similar scholarship program called the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI). This scholarship is designed for college students who demonstrate academic and leadership excellence and a desire to serve in the Coast Guard.

Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC)

JROTC prepares student participants for life beyond the high school classroom with courses about leadership, health and wellness, physical fitness, first aid, geography, American history and government, communications and emotional intelligence. The program also teaches “soft skills” in the areas of collaboration, personal reflection and critical thinking.

More than 3,500 high schools in the United States offer JROTC, which is run by enlisted and retired service members from various military branches. The JROTC program typically lasts two to four years, with enrollment starting in 9th grade. Some schools also grant credits for core subjects taught in JROTC programs. Unlike ROTC, this program does not grant scholarships or benefits, and there is no service commitment.

College-level ROTC programs do not require enrollment in JROTC, and there is no requirement to enlist in the Military after JROTC participation.

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Navy Lieutenant Commander Nakeisha Hills

Navy Lieutenant Commander Nakeisha Hill’s ROTC story began in high school as a member of her school’s Junior ROTC program, which gave her the skills to successfully jump-start her military future.



Some examples of JROTC programs by Service branch include the following:


  • Army: Raider fitness challenges, STEM camp, emergency first aid
  • Navy: Navigation instruction, communication electronics, ship handling
  • Air Force: Flying model programs, flight science, astronomy
  • Marine Corps: Color guard, air riflery training, volunteer service
  • Coast Guard: Nautical science, calisthenics