Education and military officers

While reading about officer training schools (the ones that train enlisted military to be officers), it surprised me that they require candidates to have bachelor’s degrees. So it got me wondering:
–Why? Doesn’t that exclude a lot of high quality potential officers?
–When did this requirement start?
–Is there any way enlisted men without college education could become officers?

I think they pretty much expect you to have that degree. But the Army does offer a green to gold program for enlisted soldiers that will pay for them to finish their bachelor’s degree so they can become officers I think there are still requirements based on their current enlisted rank and such and being recommended. There are enlisted men who already have bachelors degrees who choose to go in enlisted but they enter as the rank E-4 (Specialist). I’m not really sure about the education requirements of Warrant Officers, they may be different.

I asked a somewhat related question(except about graduate instead of undergraduate degrees) not too long ago and got some interesting answers. I got the impression that the reason for advanced (and not just college) degrees is simply because officer positions and subsequent promotions are competitive.

Also, keep in mind that military offers are essentially managers. If you think of a military as a corporation in the civilian world, then the expectation that officers have at least college degrees doesn’t seem so odd.

It’s a class thing. Officers are supposed to be gentlemen and not common scum, and in American terms, the dividing line is a college education.

During their careers as officers, they do rack up enough additional education in various field to earn several degrees anyway.
BTW needing a degree is not universal

Using paper qualifications to separate the wheat from the chaff among applicants may well cause unwanted results. A few years ago the police force in West Midlands was concerned that it was not getting the best recruits, and those that did apply did not represent the ethnic variations in the community (basically it was mainly white).

The conclusion was that exam results were a poor substitute for proper selection methods. They still require some basic education (in US terms - high school graduates) but nowadays the accent is on ability and potential.

The US Navy and, IIRC, the US Marine Corps have two officer accession programs that do not require degrees: Limited Duty Officer (LDO) and Chief Warrant Officer (CWO).

In fact, it’s now standard to get a master’s degree before you become an O-6 officer, at least, and often before you become an O-4 officer. Does someone have a link to a website that tells which rank is O-4, etc. in the various U.S. military services? I can’t find one. The military doesn’t care what the degree is in. They don’t care how good the college is. A lot of colleges next to military bases have master’s programs specially designed for the military.

Why not have the best qualified, educated Officer Corps if you can? Most of my fellow Officers have a master’s degree as well.

I’ve dealt with computer systems, navigation systems, nuclear weapons, sonar systems, missile systems, led hundreds of men and women, overseen billions of dollars. Why don’t you want someone with an advanced degree doing that?

Right – in many countries academies like Sandhurst in the UK are schools specifically for specialized military education and do not contain a full university academic curriculum like West Point does.

And by now a majority of senior noncommissioned ranks in the US have earned degrees themselves, and by the time you get around to the command adjutant level (Sergeant Majors/Master Chiefs) a Masters degree is not uncommon.

Uniformed services pay grades of the United States - Wikipedia Land services major, sea services lieutenant commander

Last I checked, the US Army also does not require 4-year degrees of it’s warrant officers. USAF hasn’t had warrant officers since the 1980s, and hadn’t started anyone on the warrant career track since the 70s.

But it’s also important to understand that “NCO” meaning “non-commissioned officer”, “warrant officer” and “officer” are three different beasts that happen to have a common word in their titles. In one sense they are variations on a theme, in other senses not.

I’d suggest the closest civilian parallel terms are “supervisor”, “manager”, and “executive” respectively. We all know employees who are supervisors who’ll never become managers and managers who’ll never become executives.

We also understand the difference between a “junior executive” and a “senior supervisor”. The jump to officer from senior NCO is exactly that.

When I was in USAF, getting O-4 without a master’s was all but impossible.

The system of rank numbering and naming is well-explained here Comparison of United Kingdom and United States military ranks - Wikipedia

Just to clarify, there isn’t a requirement to have a Master’s, it’s just another piece of the puzzle. If you are a complete and total stud and all other areas of your career, than you don’t need it. If you aren’t, than the Master’s will help.

I don’t concur with this, at least in the Navy. It’s subjective to the selection board. But if you are a aviator, and you have an art degree from a college no one has heard from, no one will be impressed and it won’t do you any good. It generally has to be helpful to your career to matter.

There also used to be other programs, including BOOST (Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training) and NESEP (Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program), both of which sent enlisted personnel to college to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. The latter program required Navy students to major in math or in an engineering field. The Marine students had other options. It appears that there is now a path to commission in the medical field.

I’m pretty sure warrant officers are more the equivalent of a hired technical specialist who isn’t interested in being anything other than a technical expert. So they’re typically very well paid, but not likely to end up in a management position.

And… the officer/enlisted divide in the civilian world tends to be defined by some combination of salaried/hourly and whether or not you’re strictly a manager or if you actually have job responsibilities outside of being a manager. So if you’re hourly and have job responsibilities and supervisory responsibilities, you’re more of an NCO equivalent, but if you’re salaried, and you’re strictly a manager, you’re probably more of an officer equivalent.

The other two quadrants of that grid - hourly with only managerial responsibilities, and salaried with nothing but job responsibilities correspond more to senior NCOs and warrant officers respectively.

I’d even go further, and say that most middle-management corresponds to junior and field-grade officers, and that executives would start somewhere around O6 and go up from there.

Of course, few civilian organizations have the size or push the level of responsibility as low as the military; even if you’re a bad-ass and totally committed to the company, you’re unlikely to be running a section of the company of 100 people by the time you’re 27, and that’s an everyday thing in the military.

Even in the US Air Force there is some pressure to have a college degree for promotion to the upper two enlisted ranks. I earned two AAS degrees and a BS degree by time I was a TSgt (E-6). I considered getting a commission, but received a line number to MSgt (E-7) and chose to stay enlisted. I earned an MA degree before retiring at 24 years. Not too bad for an aircraft mechanic from Kentucky!

More fun: Chief Warrant Officers in the US Armed Forces are actually commissioned.

A degree is often required because it is indicative of an individual with a certain amount of tenacity, drive and dedication. It’s a goal that was achieved over a period of time. These are qualities that represent characteristics of a good officer. If you’ve ever seen what goes on at a military academy in the first year, it’s pretty clear that they are weeding out those who lack the tenacity, drive and dedication officer’s must have.

Google Beast Barracks if you would like a little more insight into a first summer at West Point. Then ask yourself, would I take that at age 18?

With that I’d like to add, thank you for serving. And the same to all those here who made a career out of defending their country.

I never really understood the attraction of being a Navy Warrant Officer, being neither fish nor fowl. They really didn’t get the respect from regular officers and didn’t fit in well in the organization, at least in the Seabees. Making WO for an E7 would be a pay hike, but for a senior E8 or an E9, it made no sense pay-wise or in terms of power and responsibilities. I know that WOs fly choppers and the like, which would be a whole 'nother thing.

I agree with most all of bump’s post. My first duty station was in Vietnam, where I supervised a crew of three local electricians at the age of 20. The military expects you to step up and assume the supervisory role when needed, and it’s one of the factors for promotion. By the time I made E7, I had been supervising/leading troops for 17 years, and was immediately put into a management position.

My only quibble with that post is that for the Seabees, which only comprises about 10,000 enlisted and officers, responsibilities almost always outstrip rank, with enlisted men often assuming the roles usually assigned to senior NCOs or officers in other venues. It was invaluable training during my career and it translated very successfully to civilian life.