Can You Join the Military with a GED? Requirements & Options

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The dream of serving your country in the United States Armed Forces is an honorable pursuit shared by many young Americans. But what if you don’t have a high school diploma? 

Can you join the military with a GED? In this article, we will explore the requirements for military service, the importance of the GED, and what to do if you don’t have a GED but still want to serve.

Understanding the Basics: What’s a GED?

A GED, which stands for General Educational Development, is a high school equivalency credential in the United States and Canada. It is designed for individuals who did not complete their traditional high school education. 

It’s a way for these people to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills typically acquired during high school.

The GED program consists of a series of standardized tests. These cover subjects such as mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts (reading and writing). These tests are developed by the GED Testing Service, which is responsible for setting the standards and administering the GED exams.

Successfully passing the GED tests results in the awarding of a GED certificate or diploma. It is widely recognized by employers, colleges, and other educational institutions as an equivalent to a traditional high school diploma. 

It provides individuals with the opportunity to pursue further education even though they didn’t finish high school. A GED holder can secure better job prospects, and meet eligibility requirements for various programs and career opportunities.

Can You Join the Military with a GED?

The short answer is yes; a GED holder can join the military. Each branch of the United States military, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, accepts GED holders for enlistment. However, there are specific requirements and considerations to keep in mind.

Branch-Specific Requirements

Army recruiting command requirements will differ from the Air Force. So, while all branches of the United States military accept GED holders, it’s essential to note that each branch may have its own specific requirements. This is usually regarding GED scores. 

These requirements can vary. It’s crucial to check with the specific branch you are interested in. Make sure to understand their minimum score expectations before you apply for basic training. 

Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT)

The AFQT is a critical component of military eligibility. It assesses your mathematical and verbal aptitude. The score you achieve on the AFQT will play a significant role in determining which roles you qualify for within the military. 

Scoring well on the AFQT can open up more opportunities for specialized training and career paths.

Background Check

Regardless of your educational background, all potential military recruits must undergo a comprehensive background check. This is another part of the enlistment process. 

The background check examines your criminal history, financial history, and other factors that might impact your suitability for military service.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness is an integral part of military service. You will be required to meet specific physical fitness standards. This may include activities like running, push-ups, and sit-ups. 

Preparing for these fitness tests is essential, as successful completion is necessary for enlisting and maintaining your military career.

Military Occupational Specialties (MOS)

Your GED and AFQT scores will influence the range of Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) you are eligible for. Some specialized roles may have stricter educational and score requirements.  

However, others may be more accessible to GED holders. It’s advisable to discuss your career goals with a military recruiter. This way, you can understand which MOS options align with your qualifications.

Additional Requirement

Apart from educational and aptitude assessments, you will also need to meet other requirements. These include age, citizenship status, and physical health standards. These criteria can vary by branch and may change over time.

Education and Advancement

While a GED can get you started in the military, it’s important to consider your long-term goals. Many service members choose to pursue further education while serving, taking advantage of programs that offer college credits during active duty. This can lead to career advancement opportunities both within and outside the military.

So, basically, joining the military with a GED is indeed possible. However, it requires meeting specific educational and aptitude standards. You also need to meet other criteria related to background checks, physical fitness, and individual branch requirements. 

If you’re interested in a military career but have a GED, it’s advisable to consult with a military recruiter. They can guide you through the enlistment process and the various opportunities available to you.

Options for Those Without a GED

If you aspire to join the military but don’t have a GED or high school diploma, there are still viable options:

High School Completion

You can return to a traditional high school. Many high schools offer programs specifically designed for adults who wish to complete their high school education. These programs often have flexible schedules to accommodate working adults.

Another option is an accredited online high school program. Online high schools provide a convenient way for individuals to earn their high school diplomas at their own pace. These programs are often designed to accommodate adult learners.

Adult Education

Adult education centers offer GED preparation courses. They can be an excellent option for individuals who want to prepare for the GED test. These courses typically cover the subjects tested in the GED exams, including mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts.

Many community colleges offer adult education programs that include GED preparation. These programs provide comprehensive support for adult learners. They can help you build the skills and knowledge necessary to pass the GED exam.

College Credits

Some branches of the military may consider college-level coursework as an alternative to a high school diploma or GED. If you have completed college credit requirements successfully that align with military occupational specialties (MOS), you may be eligible for enlistment. 

You could also pursue a specific career path within the military. It’s important to note that eligibility based on college credits can vary by branch and specific job requirements.

National Guard and Army Reserve

The Army National Guard and Army Reserve are components of the U.S. Army that offer part-time military service. These branches sometimes have more flexible educational requirements compared to active-duty service.

The National Guard and Army Reserve offer opportunities for individuals without a high school diploma to serve their country while pursuing their education. You receive training and gain valuable military experience while maintaining civilian life.

So, while a GED or high school diploma is a common requirement for military service, there are alternative pathways.

What GED score do I need to enlist in the military?

The required GED score can vary among branches of the military. Good math scores or a related article are more important for the Navy or Air Force, for example. However, these requirements may change over time.

Generally, a GED score equivalent to a high school diploma score is acceptable. It’s advisable to check with a military recruiter for the most up-to-date requirements for the branch you’re interested in.


Joining the military with a GED is possible, and many GED holders have successfully served in the United States Armed Forces. However, meeting the specific score requirements and excelling on the AFQT is essential. 

If you don’t have a GED or high school diploma but still want to serve your country, explore your options for completing your education. This can be through a GED program, adult education, or other pathways. 

Military service is a noble calling. With determination and the right qualifications, you can achieve your goal of serving in the armed forces.


Do I need to take the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) if I have a GED?

Yes, regardless of your educational background, you will need to take the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). The AFQT score assesses your aptitude for military service and plays a crucial role in determining your eligibility and job options within the military.

Are there any waivers or exceptions for GED holders who do not meet certain requirements?

Some branches of the military may offer waivers or exceptions for individuals who fall short of certain requirements. These waivers are considered on a case-by-case basis and are subject to availability and specific branch policies.

Can I pursue further education while serving in the military with a GED

Yes, many individuals with GEDs pursue further education while serving in the military. Some branches offer opportunities to earn college credits during active duty service. Additionally, the GI Bill and other educational benefits may be available to help GED holders pursue higher education after their military service.