A strict set of qualifications must be met before joining the military.
A strict set of qualifications must be met before joining the military.

The goal of the United States Department of Defense is to establish and train armed forces to protect the national security of the country. Located at the Pentagon, the Department of Defense includes each branch of the United States military and reserve units. To complete the important task of protecting the nation's borders and citizens, the Department of Defense has a stringent set of qualifications all enlistees or appointees must meet to join.

Educational Requirements

Any person wishing to work for the Department of Defense should have a high school diploma, although it is not an explicit requirement. An individual without a high school diploma may still enlist, but they must get a score in the 31st percentile of the Armed Forces qualification test or higher. Applicants without a high school diploma or equivalency degree won't be disqualified solely for not completing their high school education, if recruits are needed. Individuals that receive military appointments or commissions must hold at least a bachelor's degree. Other positions may require additional education or training, such as doctors and religious leaders.

United States Citizen

To enlist in the military, all applicants must be U.S. citizens or a legal permanent residents. Legal agreements exist that allow citizens of certain U.S. territories to join, including citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshal Islands and Palau. Members of reserve units must also have U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency. Military appointees must be citizens of the U.S., unless the secretary of defense waives the requirement. If the citizenship requirement is waived, the person must have legally entered the country as a permanent resident.

Gay Americans and Permanent Residents

Any gay American citizen or permanent resident eligible to seek employment with the Department of Defense may do so as long as they never reveal their sexual preference or engage in homosexual or bisexual sex acts. While the military will not inquire about a person's sexual preference as a condition of employment, any "independent" evidence, such as a family portrait, can cause the person to be expelled from the Department of Defense.

Marital and Child Status

The Department of Defense will not allow enlistment of eligible applicants that are married with two or more minor children or for unmarried applicants with custody of any children under 18 years of age. For appointed or commissioned positions, it is up to the secretary of each branch of the military to determine if the marital and child status is acceptable for a particular appointment or commission. Any person married to a person of the same gender will not be allowed to enlist in the military. The secretary of the branch concerned may grant waivers for promising individuals.

Criminal Background

The Department of Defense requires that all appointees and enlistees have an upstanding moral character, however waivers may be granted at the discretion of the secretary of the Department of Defense or the secretary of one of the branches of the military. Any person on probation or parole may not seek employment with the Department of Defense. Criminal records, particularly felonies, disqualify a person from joining the military unless exceptions or waivers are granted. Former military personnel that received anything other than an honorable discharge may not reenlist.