The Marine Corps is a branch of the military in the United States that will definitely change your life if you decide to join them. Whether the outcome of that experience is positive or negative depends on your effort and the expectations you have when speaking with a recruiter for the first time.
It is essential to remember that there are fewer resources invested into the quality of life programs in the Marine Corps when you compare those funds to that of the other branches of service. The Marines are the smallest service option under the Department of Defense, and only the Coast Guard offers fewer opportunities. That means funding tends to go to the larger branches first.
There can also be an attitude in the Marine Corps from the senior leadership that promotes hardships as a way to make junior enlisted personnel better people. If you’re not used to that kind of treatment, then adjusting to this way of life can be quite challenging.
Are you thinking about joining the Marine Corps? Then these are some of the specific pros and cons you will want to review on a personal level to determine if this branch of the military is your best option.
List of the Pros of the Marine Corps
1. Women have more opportunities for service in the Marine Corps.
The current rules of the Marine Corps allow women to enlist in any occupation that does not require a specialty in combat arms for the rating. That eliminates positions in infantry, tanks, and certain amphibian landers or tractors. Individual exceptions still apply even with this stipulation because the Marines want to put the best people possible into each situation. Even though some critics might see the approach of this military branch as being regressive, it’s actually one of the most progressive approaches available in the American services.
2. You can have your educational expenses paid for by the Marine Corps.
Up to 100% of your educational costs are coverable when you decide to enlist in the Marine Corps. You can pursue an advanced degree, attend undergraduate programs, or pursue specific certificates or 2-year degrees with this advantage. Textbooks, tuition, and fees are all covered for you up to a particular amount. You will want to speak with your recruiter before finalizing your agreement to see what eligibility you have in this area.
3. The Marine Corps will get you into the best physical shape of your life.
The Marine Corps offers one of the most challenging boot camps that you can find in the American military today. Your physical conditioning is a top priority for your initial trainers, which means you are going to be sore and tired for the first couple of weeks after joining. You’ll also discover that your strength will increase, your fitness improves, and you can get into the best shape of your life with their help.
4. Your costs are easy to manage when you join the Marine Corps.
When you are on duty as a Marine, then your uniform becomes your professional attire. You’ll receive stipends to help cover the cost. When you are a junior Marine in the paygrades of E-1, E-2, or E-3, then you will be sharing a room and bath as a way to create unit cohesion and provide team-building opportunities. You’ll get a private room at E-4, and then the option to move off-base at E-6, which means your housing costs are covered.
When you are deployed on active duty, the Marine Corps continues your basic housing allowance to ensure that your leases continue while serving.
5. It is easier to join the Marine Corps than most other branches of the military.
When you work with a recruiter to enlist in the Marine Corps, then you will usually have the requirement to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. The maximum score is 99, but for enlistment, you must score at least 32. The test consists of several different subject areas that will help to define what positions are right for your service. There are skilled technical ratings, mechanical maintenance, electronics, general tech, and clerical spots line items to take that will provide a unique indication of your skills.
6. You’ll have access to an excellent life insurance policy.
When you join the Marine Corps, then you must consider what might happen when you are on active duty or serving in a reserve capacity. All eligible members of the military receive a $100,000 special tax-free payment if you die, regardless of what the cause of death might be. You can also qualify with your enlistment to purchase up to $400,000 in life insurance through your provider to give your family additional financial resources if something were to happen to you while serving.
The average cost of term life insurance in the Marines is about $0.07 per $1,000 of coverage, which is about what the average cost is for all people in the United States – including those without such a potentially hazardous position.
7. There are excellent enlistment bonuses for you to consider in the Marine Corps.
Although the enlistment bonuses are subject to change at any time, there are a variety of different benefits that you can enjoy in this branch of the military. The Marine Corps is investing heavily into its ground combat forces right now, so the 2020 bonus package with kickers can be almost $90,000 for some individuals. If you decide to re-enlist for 4 years, then you might be eligible for an additional $8,000 on top of what you receive for your primary job field bonus.
8. You can get access to the GI Bill after an honorable discharge.
There are several ways for Marines to become eligible for the GI Bill benefits in the United States. If you receive an honorable discharge, then there is no time limit for you to access this advantage either. When you get the funds from this legislation, then there are tax advantages that you’ll receive. It is up to you to decide when to start or stop using it. Options include mortgage guarantees, educational pursuits, retirement options, and the ability to transfer the financial resources to your spouse or a qualifying dependent.
9. You may have the option to attend an officer candidates’ school.
The Marine Corps sees the initial battles that you’ll face as a Marine as an internal fight against your mind, body, and character. You will be refined into an effective leader if you can find success as an officer in this branch of the military. The only way to win these battles is to have the courage to step forward, continue through adversity, and still find the presence to lead.
“It is impossible to lead from the front when you’re falling behind,” the Marine Corps notes on its website. “Officer candidates are expected to turn to their determination when there’s no fuel left and win the battles in front of them where there are Marines in their command. Through mental and physical exhaustion, it is our officers who must not only find the will within – but also convince those around them that they too have more to give.”
10. Marines receive access to free medical and dental care.
If you do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and your employer does not offer a health insurance benefit, then you might want to consider joining the Marine Corps. You’ll qualify for free medical and dental care if you can pass the initial testing requirements. You can include your family on these benefits for a minimal cost as well. There is a requirement to use the medical facilities on base where you’re stationed, but your immediate family can see local providers if you are on active duty.
Additional benefits include 30 days of leave per year, allowances that are free from taxation, and other financial benefits.
List of the Cons of the Marine Corps
1. There are fewer open ratings available in the Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps offers the fewest ratings within the scope of the Department of Defense. Only the Coast Guard provides fewer options, and their funding comes from a different branch of the government. There are roughly 220,000 members in active service at any given time as well, which means the competition can be fierce for some of the most popular vocations that are available.
If you want to secure a specific spot, then you’ll need to score well on your ASVAB to have a shot at doing what you want.
2. Your life will involve basic training for 13 weeks.
Once you work with a recruiter to join the Marine Corps, the requirement of basic training is going to take 13 weeks of your life. This place is where your first battles are going to be won, but it is also going to put you out of touch with your family and friends while you dig deep until there’s nothing left to give. You are going to be facing a fear of the unfamiliar immediately as well, either in San Diego or Parris Island, proving to your drill instructors that you are fit to continue every day.
If you were to join the Navy or the Air Force, you would only have 9 weeks of basic training to endure, while the Army would put you through 10 weeks.
3. You must pass a physical fitness test once per year as a Marine.
The Marine Corps physical fitness test (PFT) is a standardized test that measures your battle-readiness once per year. The focus is on your physical conditioning and stamina. There are only three events that are part of this process, but you must receive a passing score.
You can choose to do pull-ups or push-ups, but the latter will only give you a 70% max score. Crunches are required as well, doing as many as possible in two minutes. Then you must complete a three-mile run in 28 minutes or less for men or 31 minutes or less for women.
4. There is a combat fitness test to pass in the Marine Corps.
The combat fitness test (CFT) operates on a 300-point scale that applies to both genders equally. Men and women perform the same exercises that include a timed 880-yard sprint, a 30-pound ammunition lift for as many times as possible in a set time, and the completion of a 300-yard battle course that simulates the experience of war.
5. The Marine Corps has age requirements that you must meet.
As with any other branch of the military, you must be at least 17 years old before you can join the Marine Corps. There are junior programs that your recruiter can point you toward if you are still in high school and interested in joining this branch of service in the future. There is also a maximum age of 29 for new recruits that must be met. If you have gone beyond that birthday, then you are ineligible for service.
That age requirement is much lower than other branches of the military. The Air Force recently changed their guidelines to accept recruits as old as 39 in some ratings, while the Army lets you join at 35 and the Navy will still take your application at the age of 34.
6. You are going to work harder for your money as a Marine.
The U.S. military applies the same pay grade ratings to every branch. That means you’re going to be an E-1 or at an entry-level officer rate no matter where you decide to join. Because the Marine Corps is going to ask more from you than the other branches of the military (no matter what others might say), you’re going to be working harder for your payday every period. Your base pay upon enlistment, excluding bonuses or allowances, is about $20,0000. As an officer, you would start around $3,100 per month.
7. There are personal appearance standards to consider as a Marine.
Although the Marine Corps has rescinded some of its policies about piercings, body art, and tattoos, there are still more restrictions to follow in this branch of the military compared to the others. The current rules in 2019 allow you to have four or fewer visible tattoos while wearing your standard uniform. You cannot place anything above the collar bone, two inches above the elbow, one inch below the elbow, or have it fall two inches above the waist or around the knee.
The definition of a tattoo must be followed as well. A single tattoo must be less than the size of your hand to qualify. If you have artwork that the uniform covers, then there are fewer restrictions that you’ll face with this possible disadvantage.
8. You must have a high school diploma or an undergraduate degree.
If you want to join the Marine Corps, then you must be a legal resident with a green card if you wish to enlist. Officers must be a U.S. citizen without exception. You’ll need to pass a physical exam as well. Parents can authorize someone who is 17 years old to join the military, but that does not waive the requirement of having a high school diploma. The initial requirements to become an officer including having a bachelor degree or being a full-time student at a nationally or regionally accredited college or university.
The terms of your commissioning contract are going to be different as well, including having five years of inactive status. You must have eight years of active status if your rating includes aviation. You’ll need to speak with your officer selection officer (that’s not a typo) for more information about the contract options that are available to you.
9. You may have a change in your daily schedule.
The average day for a Marine begins at 0500. You’re going to be going through your daily exercise routines, learning how to handle a weapon, and preparing for the work of your assigned rating. Your average day during boot camp will end at 2100 hours. If you are on active duty, then it is not unusual to be stationed for at least 24 hours on a specific task, even if your assignment is stateside.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of the Marine Corps
The Marine Corps will fill you with self-confidence. This branch of service will train you to become the best possible version of yourself. It is going to be a lot of hard work, which means your fitness and attitude must become a priority before you even walk into the recruiter’s office for the first time.
The key points like those above are always a little subjective because this is an individualized experience. If you can see yourself as a Marine, then the positives will work to reinforce your decision. The potential disadvantages will help to solidify the decision in those who cannot picture themselves being in the Marine Corps.
The pros and cons of the Marine Corps are ultimately what help to protect the United States and the rights that Americans hold dearly. If you are interested in becoming a U.S. Marine, then you can request more information from the following link: https://rmi.marines.com/request-information
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.