Military Science Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a military science program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a bachelor's and associate degree and potential careers.
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Associate and Bachelor's Degrees in Military Science at a Glance

Military-associated programs at the bachelor's level are designed to prepare students for commissioning as officers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), officers typically need at least a bachelor's degree. Such programs are generally offered with a major or minor in military science and are available at some schools with Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) or equivalent programs. However, not all ROTC programs sponsor a military science major or even minor.

Military-related associate degree programs are designed for prospective soldiers and enlisted-rank veterans. These programs offer a variety of courses that are designed to develop core academic skills, as well as courses in military thought and life. These programs may be used in preparation for transferring to a 4-year program with the goal earning a commission as an officer, but veterans may use these programs in preparation for other career goals as well.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? - Individuals who are planning to build a foundation of military knowledge and carry on to the bachelor's degree level - Veteran enlisted soldiers and other students who are planning to become officers in the military
- Students who are members of the ROTC who choose to focus their academic interest on military leadership
Common Career Paths (with approximate monthly salary based on less than two years of experience, plus housing expenses) - Private, E-1 rank ($1,468 per month)
- Sergeant first class, E-7 rank ($2,637 per month)
- Second Lieutenant, O-1 rank ($2,784 per month)
- Lieutenant Colonel, O-5 rank ($4,983 per month)
Time to Completion 1.5-2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements Approximately 20 courses - Approximately 35-40 courses
- ROTC participation
- Contract for commissioning upon graduation
Prerequisites - High school diploma - High school diploma
- American citizen or permanent resident in process of applying for citizenship (commission will be denied if citizenship application fails for any reason)
Online Availability Some courses No

Source: *U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center (January 2011).

Associate Degree in Military Science and Related Programs

An associate degree in military science is the first half of preparation for joining the U.S. military as an officer. In some cases, it may function as the equivalent of the 'basic course' part of the ROTC program. Some programs may offer academic credit for previous military training, so students should check course catalogs and discuss this possibility with college registrars. These programs are designed to begin training students as military leaders, with the goal of preparing them to transfer to 4-year programs.

Pros and Cons


  • Enrolled students can begin military officer preparation with no obligation to be commissioned.
  • Students can use these courses to focus in on a career in military leadership.
  • Students can move directly to the 'advanced course' when they transfer to a school with an ROTC program.


  • Generally, commissioning as an officer requires at least a bachelor's degree.
  • Although there is no formal commitment to the military, these are (like many programs) effectively pre-professional programs without guarantee of position.
  • Students are not part of the ROTC program, meaning they would not be eligible for stipends or scholarships that those students receive.

Courses and Requirements

In addition to a language requirement that can either be fulfilled before or during the program, courses may address such topics as:

  • Ethics and law in the use of force
  • Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)
  • Military leadership practice and theory
  • Military science
  • Political system of the United States

Online Subsection

As of July 2012, there are currently no programs in military science available online. However, it may be possible to find other distribution courses required for this concentration offered at schools with online offerings.

Stand Out with this Degree

In order to stand out with this degree, students should contact the ROTC programs at schools they are considering at the earliest opportunity, communicating their avid interest in the path to an officer's commission. Additionally, they should pay strict attention to their academic performance and physical health, making certain that there are no difficulties when they formally join the ROTC program. As they will be immediately entering the ROTC 'advanced course' when they attend the 4-year institution, they should make certain that they will either be able to count their current degree as an equivalent of the 'basic program' in Military Leadership Science (MLS) or attend the summer program required to make the jump to advanced status. It is the students who earn this advanced status who, upon completion of bachelor's requirements, will be offered commission in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Bachelor's Degree in Military Science

Those looking to earn a commission in the U.S. military upon graduation from a bachelor's program should look for schools that have Reserve Officer Training Corps for the army (Army ROTC), navy and marines (NROCT), or air force (AFROCT) depending on their preferred branch of service. ROTC programs are divided into two parts. The first two years, called 'basic course,' are available to all students without obligation, and possibly without expense. The 'advanced course' classes are only for students who have contracted to accept commission in the U.S. military upon graduation. For those looking to focus their academic studies on military life, however, some schools offer a bachelor's degree program in military science.

Pros and Cons


  • Starting junior year, when you contract for a commission, the ROTC will pay a moderate stipend.
  • Upon graduation in good standing, your career as an officer may begin at the rank of a Second Lieutenant or Ensign (O-1).
  • Uniforms are provided by the program.


  • Once you have contracted for a commission, you are legally obligated to service.
  • The military science degree may be of limited utility outside of the armed forces.
  • This major will require attendance at courses that are outside the usual requirements of college students.

Courses and Requirements

The course requirements for a major in military science cover such topics as a professional knowledge of the military's purpose and organization, management and leadership skills, communication, instruction and logistics. Special attention is paid to leadership theory and practice, as this will be one of the defining career skills of military officers. Some courses may require practical laboratory classes that will be taken concurrently.

Additionally, students must be American citizens or permanent residents who are currently applying for citizenship. The usual age requirements, which vary by branch of service, apply.

Online Subsection

Military science courses are not offered online at the bachelor's degree level. Because of the nature of the course material and the requirement of program leaders to get to know the possible future officers individually and well, it is unlikely that these programs would become available online at any point in time.

Stand Out Subsection

In order to stand out as a military science major in an ROTC program, you will need to exhibit all of the aspects of leadership valued by today's military. You will stand out by living your life with appropriate military bearing, communicating effectively with leadership and showing your talents for both leadership and team play. Take advantage of opportunities for career growth, and realize that you are always 'on the job' as you prepare for your career.

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