Joining the Marine Corps: What You Need to Know

Marines practice Martial Arts Program techniques
U.S. Marine Sgt. Denny Velasquez, left, a cannoneer with Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and Sgt. Austin Mealy, a mass communicator with the command element of the 13th MEU, practice Marine Corps Martial Arts Program techniques aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) while on deployment. (Sgt. Victoria Decker/U.S. Marine Corps)

Do you have what it takes to be a Marine?

The Marine Corps is a strong brotherhood with a deep history, formed by men and women like you. But none of them simply woke up one day and was a Marine.

Should you decide to become a Marine, you must be prepared for the rough times ahead. Train hard, not just physically but mentally.

What follows are ways that you can start preparing.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)

To join the Corps, you are required to score a minimum of 31 on the ASVAB (though you possibly could get a waiver if your recruiter can figure out a way). However, there's no reason to score low on the test, because you easily can prepare for it.

Most bookstores sell ASVAB test prep books, and if you can't find one, order it online. These books tell you what's in the test, offer advice on how to take these types of tests and provide practice versions.

Do three to five practice tests, actually looking at your mistakes along the way, and study to make improvements before taking the next one.

Study hard, regardless of whether you want to be a grunt or a translator -- because you have pride in being a Marine, but also because it's always better to have your options open.

The Physical Fitness Test

You already should be running, doing pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups. There are plenty of articles on about how to prepare for the physical fitness test (PFT), and they cover more details. What you need to know for now are the minimums and what your goal should be, but you always should aim for a perfect score. Train with the idea of getting 20 pull-ups, 100 sit-ups and three miles in 18 minutes. You are joining the Marines, after all.

Starting in 2017, Marines will be allowed to do push-ups instead of pull-ups. Check the score charts for more information on PFT requirements. Push-ups and crunches are a two-minute timed drill.

Physical training (PT) programs used to train for the Marine Corps PFT can be found here:

For many Marines, the PFT was never the hard part of boot camp. It was "getting drilled" in a sand pit (seemingly endless push-ups, jumping jacks and more), or keeping up in the constant runs or marches.

You might feel comfortable with the idea of the PFT, but don't forget to train for actual boot camp and the rigors that come with it.

USMC Weight Charts

You will have to meet certain height and weight requirements when entering boot camp and during your time in the Corps. Check the USMC weight charts to see whether you make the cut.

What does it mean if you are on the heavier side? Remedial PT and most likely eating smaller portions in boot camp. They won't even let the heavier-set Marines eat the skin on chicken, so be prepared.

Marine Corps Martial Arts Training

Some people wonder whether they should prepare for Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) training. The answer is yes. You should be as fully prepared as you possibly can be for every aspect of the Marine Corps.

Jiu-jitsu and kickboxing probably will be your best bets, as these two martial arts have the most similarities.

But don't feel like you have to go to Brazil to study jiu-jitsu with the greats, or Thailand for kickboxing, because a lot of the MCMAP form is specific to the Corps.

Having the basics down will be enough to help you hold your own when they throw you in the ring for grappling or boxing.

You also can find out a lot about MCMAP by watching YouTube videos.

Be Prepared for Culture Shock

However much you prepare, you likely will face some degree of culture shock.

This is especially true if you're coming from high school. Imagine going from attending classes and working out or studying every day, with the occasional hour or two of video games and hanging with your friends, to being yelled at all day, standing in formation and having no time to make new friends.

Even if you join with your best buddy, don't be surprised if you lose track of each other in boot camp.

Boot camp is about becoming a Marine, and that's all you'll have time for. It's a big adjustment.

Do Your Research

Sift through all the information and decide for yourself whether joining the Corps is the right path for you.

Ask other Marines about their experiences. Read articles on, and go to forums where people discuss their time in the service. There are numerous Marine Corps books out there about how to prepare for boot camp, or what it is like to be a Marine, so read up and know what you're getting yourself into.



Recruitment: Marine Corps Training

Joining the Marine Corps: Overview

Thinking About Joining the Marines (Video)

Joining the Marine Corps Reserves


Enlisted Ranks

Officer Ranks


Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test

USMC Weight Charts




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