What Is the Maximum Age to Enlist in the Military?

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One of the most frequently asked questions recruiters get asked is what are the maximum age limits to enlist in the military service. There is an age limit that disqualifies certain ages from joining the military. However, the age limit is higher that you may think. If you are over this age limit, you are not qualified for service. But, if you keep pushing and proving to the recruiters that your experience and physical fitness levels are acceptable, you could be eligible for an age waiver. The most frequently asked question is the following:

Maximum Age for Military Enlistment

© The Balance, 2018

Across the United States Armed Forces, the maximum age for enlistment for someone who has never served in the military before depends on the branch. For the Army, the maximum age is 35. For the Navy, age waivers start at 34-years-old. For the Air Force, the maximum age allowed to join is 39-years-old. The Marines have the lowest maximum age for regular military service at 28-years-old. Special Operations branches also have different maximum ages due to the physical challenges put upon the candidates compared to regular military service. These maximum ages can be waived if the recruit has the education, skills, experience that the military needs to fill its ranks. The same holds true for the Special Operations communities, where waivers are available, but only on a case by case basis and typically approved or disapproved by the commanding officer of the selection program or the community manager/detailer.

Often the age waivers that do get approved are those in the professional jobs fields (legal, medical, dental and religious).

The maximum age of non-prior service enlistment under Federal Law was 35-years-old. In 2006, the Army asked Congress to raise the age limit to 44-years-old. Congress did not approve this change, but raised the maximum enlistment age from 35 to 42.

Regardless of Federal Law, the military services are allowed to impose more strict standards, and many of them have. The maximum age for non-prior service enlistments for each service is:

  • Active Duty Army - 42
  • Army Reserves - 42
  • Army National Guard - 42
  • Active Duty Air Force - 39
  • Air Force Reserve - 35
  • Air National Guard - 40
  • Active Duty Navy - 34
  • Navy Reserves - 39
  • Active Duty Marines - 28
  • Marine Corps Reserves - 29
  • Active Duty Coast Guard - 27
  • Coast Guard Reserves - 39

Some Special Operations Age Limits

Navy SEAL recruits must be between the ages of 17 to 28 years old. There are some waivers for men ages 29 and 30 that are available for very qualified candidates. These applicants must prove to the Navy and the Navy SEAL community that they are worth the investment. Typically uncommon skills and experience will help, but the standards for physical fitness are held standard no matter what the age of the applicant. There is also another exception with prior enlisted servicemen who seek to enter the SEAL community as an Officer can request waivers to the age of 33.

Army Special Forces recruits must be between the ages of 20-30 years old but the physical requirements are still the same and recruits must score a minimum of 260 on the Army physical fitness test for the 17-to-21 age group.  However, there are waivers based on skills and abilities of the soldiers applying as prior enlisted or National Guard SFAS students. 

Age waivers are possible for those with prior military service. In some cases (especially in Special Operations), the veteran's active duty service number of years is subtracted from the age limit to determine the age requirement. For instance, a veteran with 5 years of service, who is 30 years old with broken service time, often will be considered 25 and granted age waivers for certain groups in the military.

Air Force PJ / CCT must be under the age of 28. However, any active duty service time can actually be subtracted to make the recruit eligible and within standards as above. 

For more information, see our article about U.S. Military enlistment standards.