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What is Officer Candidate School?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a program that prepares people for service as commissioned officers in the military. There are different Officer Candidate Schools for different branches of the military. Competition for slots tends to be very fierce and the military is highly selective about who it accepts for training. Commissioned officers are the leaders of the military and they are held to a high standard of personal and professional behavior.

There are two paths people can take to enter Officer Candidate School. Currently enlisted members of the military can apply if they are recommended for commissions, and civilians who meet certain standards can contact a military recruiter and apply for commissions. Civilians need to meet the standard requirements for enlistment, including being in good health and of good moral character, and they also usually need college degrees.

Civilians accepted into Officer Candidate School will need to complete basic training first, while enlisted military can enter OCS directly. Both groups are taught together once they enter training. Officer Candidate School familiarizes people with military protocol, the expectations the military has for its officers, and other topics. The program usually lasts less than a year and can be as short as three months. It is intensive, and civilian candidates sometimes have difficulty adjusting because of their limited military experience.

At Officer Candidate School, people are expected to follow clear behavioral standards. There are dress and personal hygiene codes and people must keep their quarters in good working order in addition to being focused, attentive, and respectful in classes. Candidates must also be involved in physical fitness programs that provide them with training and periodic assessments to confirm that they still meet the fitness standards set by the military.

Once an officer has graduated and received a commission, a service requirement usually needs to be met. The military wants its training investment repaid, and may require three years or more of service from people who attend Officer Candidate School. The service requirement will be waived in the event that someone has to separate from the service as a result of disability or a dishonorable discharge.

There are other routes for becoming an officer, for people interested in military careers. People who attend service academies are commissioned upon graduation, as are people who participate in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). The military also offers direct commissions to professionals like doctors, religious officiants, and lawyers.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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