There are several different branches of the military that Americans can choose to join voluntarily. Two of the most popular choices tend to be the Army and the Marines. Both branches have a history of successful operations, outstanding traditions, and a tradition of family support.
Whether you decide to join the Army or the Marines, you are taking advantage of the patriotic duty to serve your country in either branch of the services. The work you put into yourself and your unit can help you to find a purpose in your life. Both options have helped their members make it through college, earn steady pay, and learn a technical skill that can help them to be successful in the civilian world.
You have several different jobs from which to choose when you join the Army or the Marines, but you may not have total control over where your posting will be after graduating from your basic training. There are some specific pros and cons of the Army vs. Marines that you’ll want to review as well.
List of the Pros of the Army vs. the Marines
1. Service is often a family tradition.
The Army is often an American family tradition. There are some service members today that are fifth-generation military that are working to protect our country. You have an opportunity to follow in the path of your parents, grandparents, and more when you join this branch of the military. The patriotism that occurs when you follow in these footsteps can help to boost your self-esteem, improve your leadership skills, improve your discipline, and understand more about what it means to be willing to sacrifice for others.
2. You have the option to find a meaningful career.
One of the best benefits that you have when joining the Army is the opportunity to build a career for yourself. There are several STEM ratings available to you to consider if your testing scores are high enough. You will discover that there are several specialized career opportunities to pursue when you are in the service. This process will provide you with several essential life skills that can serve you well later in life too. You’ll get to earn steady pay as you work toward a future either in the military or in civilian life after you fulfill your contract.
3. The friendship bonds created in the Army last for a lifetime.
When you join a unit in the Army, then the brotherhood and sisterhood that forms from your experiences will create a lifetime of friendships that you can rely upon through thick and thin. The stripes that you wear as a veteran are something that you can show with pride because those are the types of colors that never run. You are connecting with people from different religions, political preferences, and family experiences, but together, you are always one within the military services.
4. The Army provides you with an opportunity to see the world.
There are almost 700 different bases around the world operated by the U.S. military. Although not all of them are Army bases, you do have the chance to travel with this branch that is far cheaper than if you did all of it on your own. It is not unusual to have visited over a dozen countries during your first decade of service, especially if there is a conflict going on at the time. You will also have orders that can take you to friendly regions, like Germany, where you can become part of that society. If you love a good adventure, then you’ll get experience this advantage on someone else’s dime thanks to what the Army provides.
5. Your steady pay will typically provide you with more than basic living wages.
When you see “steady” as the description for your paycheck, then you know it isn’t going to be worth a whole lot. The Army doesn’t provide the highest paying jobs that you’ll ever find, but your basic pay will start in the low $30k range once you get out of basic training. When you decide to join up before the age of 20, that’s a salary that most teens would be unable to secure for themselves otherwise. You will have the option to take advantage of specific bonuses, allowances, and stipends during your time in this branch of service that the Marines won’t typically provide to those who enlist.
6. It is usually easier to join the Army.
The Army is about double the size of the Marine Corps. The mission and mandate of each branch is different, which means there are different eligibility requirements that you must meet. Most people find that joining the Army is much easier, especially since the maximum age for enlistment is 35. You can only be 28 or younger if your goal is to join the Marines.
You also have the option to join the National Guard if you prefer. You’ll go through the same training regimen as everyone else who enlists, but then you serve two weeks per year and one weekend per month unless called to active duty. The Marines have a reserve as well, but it isn’t as formalized from the beginning as it is with the Army.
7. The physical standards for joining the Army are easier to meet.
If you want to join the Army, then you must be between 60 to 80 inches tall to have your application proceed as a man. Women must be between 58 inches to 80 inches in height. Male Marines must be between 58-78 inches, while women must meet a 58- to 72-inch requirement in order to enlist. Both branches will require you to sign a waiver if you have more than two dependents in your household when you enroll. Both branches have the same citizenship requirements that you must meet in order to join as well.
8. The boot camp for the Army is shorter than it is for the Marines.
If you decide to join the Army, then you’ll be joining a basic training program that lasts for 10 weeks. This educational process is then followed by Advanced Individualized Training that allows trainees to begin working toward a future specialty for their eventual rankings or orders.
Joining the Marines means making a basic training commitment that is three weeks longer. It is also the most physically and mentally challenging programs that is available in the U.S. military right now. You must pass a fitness test before you even begin your training. If you fail, then you’ll receive individualized attention and ongoing training until you can pass.
9. Serving in the Army often means you get the new weapons first.
The Army usually receives new weaponry before the Marines. They were the first to move to the M4, and now the features like hand grips, lasers, or optical sights are going there as well. It usually takes a few years for the changes to make their way over to the Marines. There are even more options in the RPG or missile category, including SMAWs, AT-4s, and Javelins. The Marines usually get the SMAW only, although they might have the option to call upon something heavier if needed.
List of the Cons of the Army vs. the Marines
1. Your military service will be challenging on your family.
Serving in the Army is not an easy job. It’s not that way if you’re in the Marines either. You learn how to go to sleep pretty quick when you begin serving in the military because they can call you in at any given time. It’s not the same process that a civilian job typically requires because you could spend months away from your family at times. You might struggle with the separation, but so will your family. Everyone is making a serious commitment to this role, and you’re going to miss out on a lot of activities because you’re going to be on duty.
2. You have very little control over where you will be stationed in the Army.
The U.S. Army does provide help with where it stations its soldiers when it can, but the options are never guaranteed. If you are just enlisting in the service, then it’s almost a certainty that you won’t get your first-choice assignment. There is very little control over where you live in this branch of the armed forces.
This disadvantage applies to the Marines as well, but there is a twist. You have fewer options to live off-base until you reach E-6, which means you know that you’ll be staying where you’re stationed. It’s isn’t much of an advantage, but this does eliminate some of the uncertainty that some families can encounter.
3. You may be asked to manage an armed conflict.
When you join the Army, then your unit’s goal is typically to gain or hold territory. That means you are going to be involved in the conflict for an extended period. You might experience a tour of duty that extends to one year or more. If you join the Marines, then your job is more about the initial landing and establishment of territory. It can be more dangerous in the first days of your duty, but the amount of time you’re required to be in a specific situation can be a lot less than what you experience being all that you can be.
Because you’re on the ground with the Army, that means you’re more susceptible to attacks from enemy combatants as well. That is why a deployment tends to be more stressful than it would be in other branches of the military.
4. Be prepared to experience high levels of discipline.
The goal of the military is to have soldiers follow orders without question because it could be the difference between life and death on the battlefield. You will go through one of the most disciplined work environments that is available on our planet today when you join the Army. You’ll go through a similar experience with the Marines, especially since there are rules and guidelines for everything that you must follow.
Your job will not be part of a democracy. When you achieve a higher rank in the Army, then there are more privileges for you to enjoy. You’ll find that there is a complete lack of privacy during your first days of service. Your position on the ground will also create uncomfortable living standards that you will probably not enjoy.
5. There are plenty of physical demands that you must face in your duty.
Every branch of the military will place physical demands on you that most civilian jobs don’t even consider. Unless you’re coming from a law enforcement background, there are very few careers that compare to the military – and there is a distinctive difference between walking a beat and serving in a conflict zone. Some people will not meet the physical requirements of service for the Army or the Marines.
You will find that because the requirements to be a Marine are so high, it tends to be easier to maintain your levels of fitness when compared to the Army. That makes it more comfortable over time to maintain your status.
6. Marine Corps platoons provide a different structure.
The rifle platoons for the Army and the Marines are similar, as both get organized into larger companies. The Marine Corps contains three rifle squads per platoon, and each is led by a sergeant who has three corporal-led fire teams reporting. The Army platoon has a RT operator and a medic, while the Marines have a transmitter operator and a corpsman responsible for potential injuries. You’ll find smaller squads in the Army, which means there can be additional issues with politics in some circumstances.
Verdict of the Pros and Cons of the Army vs. Marines
If you want to serve your country, then any branch of the armed forces will help you to satisfy that goal. Although the two most-popular choices tend to be the Army and the Marines, you could join the Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard as a way to perform your patriotic duty.
The decision to join either branch of service is one that is far from easy. There are significant ramifications that happen once you sign on the dotted line. You’ll be making a long-term commitment because you are serving a contracted term. There’s no way to give notice like there is with other jobs.
Deciding between the pros and cons of the Army vs. the Marines can also be one of the greatest decisions you make in life. Most enlistees find that serving in either branch of the military provides many benefits that can outweigh the potential negatives that exist.
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.