19 Pros and Cons of Joining the Marines

The Continental Marines were founded on November 10, 1775 to conduct ship-to-ship fighting during the final months of the Revolutionary War. Their goal was to provide security to U.S. vessels, enforce discipline, and help with any landing missions that were necessary. As military doctrines changed in the country, so did the work that the Marines would perform on behalf of their country.

Because the Marines offer training in all theaters, they have served in almost every conflict in the history of the United States. Their work ethic, theories, and strategy implementation became a core facet of the amphibious warfare that occurred in the Pacific Theater during World War II. When you join this branch of the military, then you are part of a family that knows how to rapidly respond to dangerous situations at a moment’s notice. This ability has become an essential tool for the foreign policy practices of the U.S. in the modern era.

Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the War on Terrorism was announced by President George W. Bush. Since then, the Marines served prominently in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than a decade. This U.S. Marine Corps is often the first group into the fighting and the last ones out because of their versatility.

If you are thinking about joining the Marines, then here are the pros and cons that you will want to consider before finalizing your choice.

List of the Pros of Joining the Marines

1. The U.S. Marine Corps has one of the lowest AFQT requirements to join.
When you decide that military service is right for you, then you must take the Armed Forces Qualification Test. All of the branches require that you test out on information such as word knowledge, mathematics knowledge, arithmetic reasoning, and paragraph comprehension. Your other ASVAB tests help to determine what the best job for you will be. Scores are reported as a percentage of how well you did against the national average.

Only the Army has a lower minimum AFQT score to join at 31. You can enlist in the Marines if you achieve a 32. The Coast Guard has the highest minimum, requiring a 40 to be eligible for services.

2. Women can serve in most positions when enlisting in the Marines.
Under the current rules of the U.S. Marine Corps, women are eligible to enlist in all occupations except ratings that require combat arms specialties. That means you cannot become part of the crews for tanks, infantry, or amphibian tractors. Some exceptions may apply in individual circumstances, so it is essential that you speak with your recruiter about how you would like to serve and protect your country.

3. You will have access to free medical and dental care.
The benefits of joining the Marines are worth considering, even if you won’t be earning much during your first days of enlistment. All members are entitled to receive free medical and dental care as part of their service. There is an option to include your family for a nominal fee as well. You will also have access to tuition assistance and a vacation allowance which starts at 30 days per year. When you do get paid, it is only the base salary that is subject to income tax. The other financial benefits help to cover the costs of your service.

If there is not a medical facility at the base where you are serving, then your immediate family can be referred to a civilian medical practice to have your needs met while you are on active duty.

4. You gain access to the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage.
When you are an active-duty member of the Marines, then you have the option to select a life insurance policy in increments of $50,000 that go to a maximum amount of $400,000. You also have the option to elect into the family life policies so that your dependents receive coverage as well. The cost of this benefit is exceptionally competitive, which includes up to 120 days of free coverage after separation. Current premiums are still at 2014 rates, which means it is $0.07 per $1,000 of insurance.

If something happens to you during your service, then this policy offers a tax-free payment that will allow your loved ones to take care of their immediate and long-term financial future. There may also be a death benefit that applies, depending on the situation you encounter.

5. Up to 100% of your educational expenses may be covered as a Marine.
When you decide to join the U.S. Marine Corps, then up to 100% of your educational expenses could be paid for through the federal government. There are programs like the GI Bill, Tuition Assistance, and the Marine Corps College Fund that can help you to pursue an advanced degree that can further your career opportunities. You can even attend two-year or four-year programs under this advantage. Your fees, textbooks, and tuition are covered to a specific amount. You will need to speak with a recruiter for the specific information about the items for which you may be eligible.

6. Joining the Marines will give your self-confidence a boost.
If you can successfully enlist in the Marines, then you will infuse yourself with a boost of confidence that is not comparable to the other branches of the military. Although the Marine Corps has the reputation of breaking stuff and killing people, there is more depth to your service than that. You will discover who you are at an authentic level. Your officers are always in front of you or at the front with you instead of issuing orders from the back. That means the respect that you gain for yourself, for others, and for your country is a tangible advantage that never really goes away.

7. You will be in excellent physical shape after basic training.
If you are always a little worried about your physical conditioning, then the Marines will help to take care of that for you. The physical demands that are placed on you as part of your routine expectations will help you to become stronger, faster, and slimmer over time. You’ll also get to stop worrying about what to wear, where to live, or even what to make for dinner because these come with the package. Then you get to earn a base salary on top of that with some additional support at times. Above anything else, you are going to be a Marine, and that is something that is truly special.

8. You can earn a living stipend through the GI Bill quickly after joining the Marines.
When you earn the title of Marine, then your contracted time is often the length of service that is necessary to earn a living stipend through the GI Bill. You can take advantage of this option to push for a civilian job one day, transition your military experience into law enforcement, or even have a large enough stipend that you can potentially retire without serving nearly as long as someone in a civilian position. The strength of these advantages is largely dependent on your rating and the reason for discharge.

As with all of the other branches of service, the decision to join the Marines is an eight-year obligation. Half of that time requires you to be on active duty, which is similar to the expectations of the Air Force and Coast Guard. When you fall outside of the active duty requirement for your contract, then drilling requirements still remain because the government reserves the right to call you back to active duty at any time.

9. Serving in the Marines grants access to the GI Bill with your honorable services.
Thanks to the post 9-11 GI Bill, the Marines will help you in several ways just as it does for every other branch of the military. If you leave the service after January 1, 2013, with an honorable discharge, then there is no time limit on using these benefits as well. The funds are not taxable when you receive them, and you can stop or start using them whenever you may need them. One of the best options to consider is the 3 years of education benefits. There are also options to help you secure financing, support your retirement, and some of these financial benefits can even transfer to your spouse or dependents.

List of the Cons of Joining the Marines

1. You are not assigned a private room as a junior enlisted member.
Although all of the other branches of the military are working to provide programs that allow for a private room to be granted to all junior enlisted members, the Marines requested an exemption to this policy through the Secretary of Defense. Their plan calls of two junior service members at a paygrade of E-3 or less to share a room and bathroom to support unit cohesion and the tenets of team building. You would not be given the option for a private room until you were promoted to E-4 status.

2. You must reach a rank of E-6 to move off of the base.
If you want to move off of the base after joining the Marines, then this option is permitted after you achieve the rank of an E-6. This level qualifies you for a monetary housing allowance, which this branch of the military calls the BAH. You will receive this allowance even when you are deployed to prevent a lease from terminating or your family from falling behind on mortgage payments while deployed.

3. Rank has its privileges when serving in the Marines.
The Marines arguably have the strongest following for the concept of rank having its privileges when you serve in this branch of the U.S. armed forced. This “rule” applies even when you are not on duty. Officers often receive priority over other customers in the business that support your base and community, even if they are operated in civilian areas. Although this can be an advantage once you rise in rank high enough to use it, there will always be someone who can take over your plans after joining unless you become the top general in charge of everything.

4. There are fewer positions available in the Marines than other branches.
The Marine Corps and its reserve component have approximately 220,000 members who serve in the military in any given year. That means the ratio of soldiers to Marines is about 5 to 1, as the combined Army, their reserve, and the National Guard have about 1 million uniformed members. The U.S. Navy currently has about 330,000 active duty personnel currently serving, along with another 100,000 ready reservists with 288 deployable ships. The Air Force currently has 321,000 active duty personnel, 69,000 reservists, and 105,000 air national guardsmen serving.

Only the Coast Guard has more limited availability for open ratings for enlistees when compared to the Marines. That means it can be more challenging to secure the spot that you want to have.

5. You have fewer job opportunities available in the Marines.
The U.S. Marine Corps does not offer enlistees the same level of selection for open jobs as you can find in the other branches of the military. One of the best examples of this disadvantage is the lack of medical personnel. If you serve in the Marines, then you will be using Navy medical personnel when needed during your active service – even if you are in a position that qualifies for hazardous pay. If you want to become a medic, nurse, or doctor one day, then this branch of service is probably not right for you.

6. Basic training lasts longer in the Marines than other branches of the military.
When you decide to enlist in the Marines, then you will go through a basic training period of 12 weeks with this branch of the military. The Air Force and the Navy offer this course for about 9 weeks, while the Army has their boot camp last for about 10 weeks. There are only two locations available for this initial training during your recruitment period, so you will be stationed in South Carolina or San Diego. Since the weather tends to be hot and humid, the physical fitness requirements asked of you during this time can be very demanding.

7. Age requirements apply when trying to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.
All branches of the military require that you be at least 17 years old before you can consider service. The maximum age at which you can serve depends upon who you decide to join. If you want to enlist in the Marines, then you must not have reached your 28th birthday. You are required to have a minimum AFQT score of 32 as well. The Army accepts recruits up through the age of 35, the Navy through the age of 34, and you can join the Air Force up until the age of 39.

8. You will still earn the same pay and benefits as any other branch of service.
Even though the regulations are tougher when you decide to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, the salary schedule that you receive is the same as it is for any other branch of the military. If you enlist, then your base pay will be about $20,000 per year. Officers earn about $3,100 per month before any allowances. You won’t be receiving any allowances for off-base housing until you reach E-6, which is different than other branches of service as well. Allowances are sometimes even varied by rank and the number of dependents you support in your family.

9. The daily schedule for a Marine can be rigorous.
There are times when you will be asked to serve at your post for 24 hours after you enlist and make it through your basic training. Most Marines start off their day early by taking a run or completing some other form of physical training. When you are not on duty, there is still an expectation that you conduct yourself properly under the guidelines of this branch of service. Bringing dishonor to the Marine Corps or to yourself is an offense that is not taken lightly.

10. The Marines have strict policies about tattoos, body art, and piercings.
When you join the Marines, then officers are limited to having no more than four visible tattoos in the standard PT uniform. There are several unauthorized areas for placement, including above the collar bone, within two inches above the elbow or one inch below, and falling two inches above the wrist or above/below the knee. A single tattoo or a collection of tattoos must be of a size where it can be covered by the hand of the individual.

The pros and cons of joining the Marine Corp are somewhat subjective because only a Marine knows what it is really like to serve in this branch of the military. That is why speaking to a recruiter will always be your best option when trying to make the decision to become part of this family. They have already been through the basic training process and beyond, so this individual can help you to decide if joining would be a good fit.

For more information, you can chat with Marine Corps Recruiting by sending a text to 627463 (MARINE). The line is available 7 days per week from 9-5 Eastern time.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.