What is the oldest age you can join the army?

Updated July 19, 2017

The military protects all American citizens' rights, but serving in the military is not a right. Service is a privilege, which provides higher education opportunities, excellent benefits and travel opportunities. A recruit must meet specific qualifications for the privilege, which include good physical condition, mental strength and commendable character. A recruit must also meet age criteria. For the Army, a ripe 18-year-old recruit is ideal, and 42 is the age limit.

The Importance of Age

According to the Army Jobs website, a citizen as young as 17 years, 9 months can enter the Army. As long as a parent consents, the Army enlists the child and ships the recruit to basic training. The 18 to 24 age group has the youthful energy and stamina that influences the Army's operations and success. Although older recruits possess energy and stamina, most do not match the energy levels of their younger counterparts. Energy is imperative for success in the military.

Prior Service Loophole

The 42-years limit applies only to initial enlistment. According to Army Reenlistment, 62 is the age limit for reenlistment. A soldier interested in re-enlisting not only enjoys the loophole, but also benefits financially from previous years of service. The official Army website promises a healthy financial bonus for a re-enlisted soldier. A soldier who re-enlists for three years receives a bonus of up to £3,250, while a six-year reenlistment enjoys a £6,500 bonus.


Age waivers are very rare, outside of prior service enlistment. However, an older applicant may enlist, if the applicant fulfils a need. A thread from's forum highlights a specific need, as a 47-year-old lawyer wants a commission in the Army Reserve. A marine in the thread addresses his concern, and encourages his chances. The marine claims that the supply of doctors, lawyers and chaplains is short in the military and that thus the demand can take priority over age. The marine also provides personal experience with waivers, stating that he has seen many doctors and attorneys over the age of 50 welcomed into the service.

The Military is not an Equal Opportunity Employer

Mary C. Griffin, in her article "Making the Army Safe for Diversity," addresses the application of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the armed forces. Griffin specifically notes Title VII, which protects Americans from discrimination in the work force. However, Griffin recognises that the Chappell v. Wallace (1983) case was ruled in favour of the military. The case addressed the issue of discrimination in the military, with the court ruling that a service person cannot sue the military for discrimination. Even if a civilian doesn't agree with the military's age restrictions or requirements of conduct, the courts recognise that the military is not an equal opportunity employer. Therefore, the military enjoys the freedom to set specific standards, whether the standards deal with age or conduct.

The Benefit of Enlisting Young

A recruit benefits from enlisting while young. Those within the 18 to 24 age group are maturing and entering a new phase in life. The Army, perhaps more than any other career, provides a solid foundation for personal growth. The Army also carries a huge responsibility, as soldiers are expected to protect their country. Because of the responsibility, some young soldiers look for a discharge from duty. Other soldiers accept the responsibility, endure the trials and grow. The Army's responsibilities, trials and demands greatly benefit and mature a young recruit.

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About the Author

Dave Larmore has worked on his writing craft for eight years. From 2005-2007, Dave provided editorials and metal music reviews for (now-defunct) "Unchain the Underground." Larmore temporarily joined "Midwest Metal," providing music reviews, as well as an in-depth interview with Kyle Thomas (Exhorder). Larmore's blog (Qualculus) focuses on MMA and political commentary. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in writing and rhetoric.