Pros/Cons of Joining ROTC in College

Tyson Schritter / Colleges of Distinction »

If you’ve thought about joining the military, you’re probably aware of the education benefits you could receive in exchange for your service. The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is a college program offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities across the United States. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force ROTC programs prepare young adults to become officers in the United States Armed Forces. Cadets who complete an ROTC program in college get more than their education paid for; they learn valuable leadership skills and begin a journey of lifelong success. Collegiate ROTC programs are a great pathway to an exciting and rewarding military career. While there are some significant requirements, if you’re sure about a future in the military, it’s a great way to prepare for service while earning your degree.

What is ROTC?:

The ROTC program is a college program designed to prepare young adults to serve as officers in the military. ROTC cadets complete traditional undergraduate courses while also completing specialized military training. The ROTC program is divided into two distinct phases: The Basic and Advanced Courses. The basic course teaches Army history, organization and structure. Cadets learn about techniques and principles of leadership and management. The advanced course concentrates on tactical operations and military instruction, as well as advanced techniques of management, leadership, and command.

Different Types of ROTC programs: Each branch of the military has their own unique program. While the requirements are similar, other parts of the program such as courses, training, and academic requirements might vary.

  • Army ROTC: The Army ROTC program prepares students to become commissioned officers in the Army after graduation. This rigorous training program develops and enhances leadership and military skills.
  • Navy/ Marine Corps ROTC: The Navy ROTC program focuses on the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly technical Navy. NROTC programs are at 77 colleges and universities across the U.S.
  • Air Force ROTC: Offered at 1,100 colleges and universities, the Air Force ROTC program trains cadets for a successful and exciting career in the U.S. Air Force. Cadets can choose from a 3-year and 4-year program. Air Force ROTC curriculum covers a variety of topics from leadership studies to combat technique. All courses are taught by active-duty Air Force officers.

How do I know if ROTC is right for me?

College ROTC programs can be a challenging and rewarding experience in college that reaps many benefits during and after service. However, it’s important to understand the level of physical, emotional and mental commitment the decision requires. We’ve outlined some things to consider to help you make an informed decision about joining an ROTC program at your dream school!


  • ROTC-specific financial aid: One of the greatest benefits of military service is government funded aid for your education. ROTC scholarships allow students to earn their degree before their military service. The duration of your scholarship typically correlates with the number of years of required military service.
  • Army ROTC Financial Aid:

    • 2-Year Program: Full tuition and books; monthly stipend up to 5,000/per year. Scholarship Duration: 2 years.
    • 3-Year Program: Full tuition and books; monthly stipend up to 5,000/per year. Scholarship Duration: 3 years.
    • 4-Year Program: Full tuition and books; monthly stipend up to 5,000/per year. Scholarship Duration: 4 years.
  • Navy ROTC Financial Aid:

    • 2-year/4-year Program: Full tuition and fees; book allowance.
    • Monthly stipend:
      • Freshman: $250
      • Sophomore: $300
      • Junior: $350
      • Senior: $400

Scholarship Duration: 2-4 years.

  • Marine Corps ROTC Financial Aid:
    • 4-year Program: Full tuition and fees; book allowance. Monthly stipend.

Scholarship Duration: 4 years.

  • Monthly stipend: ROTC cadets earn a monthly stipend dependent upon their class standing, and can use it for a variety of personal or academic expenses. This stipend is part of your scholarship, so remember it is given under the condition that you will serve in the military after you graduate.
  • Meaningful connections with like-minded classmates: The military is a community of highly motivated individuals who look out for each other. College ROTC programs introduce these standards of military camaraderie prior during college.
  • Rigorous education: ROTC cadets complete specialized training that enhances a student’s leadership and management skills. These hard and soft skills are used during a cadet’s studies, military service, and in their careers.
  • Post-graduation employment opportunities: ROTC graduates are highly motivated, ambitious, and have first-hand leadership and management experience. Thus, they are often on the short list of candidates for many employers.


These are not necessarily drawbacks, but are considerations that hopeful ROTC cadets should be mindful of. Many of these “cons” don’t apply to most cadets as they are confident and sure of their decision. If you’re still not 100% sure, it’s important you consider everything that is expected of you in an ROTC program.

  • Consequences of dropping out: Scholarships are awarded with the expectation that you will join the Armed Forces after you graduate. If you do not fulfill this obligation, you must pay back scholarships.
  • Mandatory military service: Remember, the ROTC program is designed to train you to become a commissioned officer in the Armed Forces. Officers are typically required to serve 4-8 years depending on the size of scholarship.
  • Additional responsibilities in college: In addition to general education and major courses, ROTC courses, labs, and leadership courses are required.
  • Higher academic achievement requirements (GPA): ROTC courses teach cadets valuable time management and leadership skills, so fulfilling these added requirements is typically a walk in the park for students.
  • Zero tolerance policy for recreational drug and underage alcohol use: This rule applies to all college students, but the consequences for ROTC cadets are more severe. College is a time to have fun and let loose every once in a while, but the standards are higher for cadets.

No matter what stage you’re at in your studies as a military student, you deserve to attend an institution that is ready to surpass your expectations. Colleges of Distinction cares about what really matters to military students. Institutions with the Military Support Recognition are aware of the unique challenges military students face on college campuses.

These institutions are proud to support and cultivate the skills that military students bring to the classroom, all while helping them achieve their personal and professional goals. To learn more about what schools are doing for their students, check out our series of interviews with experts.

This series features the knowledge, insight, and experiences of military and veteran affairs leaders in higher education. These individuals are paving the way for veterans in higher education through intentional programming, advocacy, and meaningful support.

From Green Zone training to Military-focused initiatives to strategic partnerships, these campuses are creating spaces where military and veteran students can learn, grow, and succeed.