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Which is the Best Branch of the Military to Join? 2023

What branch of the military should I join?
What branch of the military should I join?

People are always asking me, “What branch should I join?” Let me answer that question by comparing branch missions and locations, military occupational specialties, quality of life, operational tempo, and pay.

Military Branch Missions and Locations

The first aspect to consider is branch missions and locations.

US Navy Missions and Locations

The mission of the US Navy is to win wars, deter aggression, and maintain freedom of the seas. I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence, but this requires ships, submarines, aircraft carriers, etc. 

Yes, there are land-based opportunities for sailors, but for the most part, you will be assigned to a vessel at sea or stationed on the coast.

If you like water and boats and are more of a beach person, this might be a more natural fit. If you hate the ocean and don’t like water, then the Navy should not be your first choice.

Because the Coast Guard is separate from the Department of Defense, I usually don’t include them in my articles. But the same logic applies here. 

If you are patriotic and want to serve but stay in the United States and near water, consider the Coast Guard.

Marine Corps Missions and Locations

The US Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy. Their mission is to seize or defend advanced naval bases and other land operations to support naval campaigns. 

Their specialty is doing combined arms amphibious and landing force operations. The Marines are focused on combat. Every Marine is a rifleman. This is one thing that I like about the Marine Corps. 

Marines are tough and in good shape. This goes from the infantrymen to the supply sergeant. 

Most Marines are stationed in North Carolina, California, Hawaii, Japan, or the DC area.

If you want to avoid living in these areas or don’t like working to support the landing force or amphibious portion of a naval campaign, consider another branch.

Air Force Missions and Locations

The mission of the US Air Force is to fly, fight, and win in airspace and cyberspace.

Here is a map of Air Force Base locations. Let me oversimplify by saying that Air Force bases are almost always in better locations than Army bases. 

So if you like airplanes, space, or cyberspace, an Air Force base will likely be near you.

The US Army Mission and Locations

The US Army’s mission is to deploy, fight, and win our nation’s wars.

Army bases exist in 25 states, including Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Japan, and Korea.

Army base locations are generally in places where there is a lot of land for training. 

This usually does not coincide with booming metropolises, where people focus on health, education, and a high quality of life.

Military Occupational Specialties

Next, let’s move on to military occupational specialties.

Most military occupational specialties or career fields are available in all four branches. 

For example, you can be in public affairs, as shown in this photograph, or you can be a supply specialist, a military police officer, a computer or signal specialist, a doctor, or a lawyer in all four branches.

You can fly planes or helicopters in all four branches, but there are a few nuances. 

Each branch has its own collective personality traits and culture. Some of these may appeal to you, and some of them may not.

Navy and Its Focus

I will say that the Navy is very focused on the differences between the ranks.

There are separate dining facilities for officers and enlisted personnel. 

This is a small thing, but something I had a problem with whenever I was interacting with my conventional Navy colleagues. 

On the flip side, the Navy has a lot of unique and rich traditions.

Army Leadership and Quality of Leaders

Although the Army has some of the best and brightest leaders in the world, they also have a lot of idiots.

Every job on the team is important, but in the Air Force, it’s all about the pilots. If you are a pilot, you are number one in the hierarchy; everyone else is a support team.

The Marines are known for absolute obedience and discipline. So if you are a free thinker, this may not be your first choice. 

On the other hand, the Marines have great uniforms.

Quality of Life Across Branches

The quality of life is subjective. What might be terrible in one person’s eyes could be wonderful in the eyes of another. 

But in my experience, and I’m sure that most would agree,

  • The worst quality of life is in the Army and the Marines.
  • Better yet is the Navy, and the best quality of life is in the Air Force.


  • Most quality-of-life standards are cultural. For example, if you live in a tent or sleep on the ground as a soldier or Marine, then you will be happy to have any old building as an office. 
  • But if you’re used to state-of-the-art technology and work nine to five in an air traffic control tower, then for sure, your standard for housing and offices will be much higher.

Housing Allowance

  • Housing allowance is equal for the same pay grade in each military branch. 
  • But barracks and lodging facilities are way nicer in the Navy and the Air Force.
  • I’ve stayed at Army lodges that were cockroach hotels, and I’ve stayed at Air Force lodges that were like five-star hotels.

Physical Training

  • The Army and the Marines generally do physical training, or PT, every morning, while many jobs in the Navy and the Air Force let you do PT on your own. 
  • Even as an officer, I had morning formation in mandatory PT for 14 years of my 20-year Army career. I suspect that some airmen never did morning PT after finishing basic training.
  • Truth be told, I loved my service in the Army and would not have enjoyed a career in the Air Force. Nonetheless, the Air Force’s quality of life is always much higher.

Operational Tempo

Let’s move on to the operational tempo. I will define op tempo as how often a military member is away from their home for training or deployment. 

I could only find outdated operational tempo information, so I will summarize based on what I have observed and experienced over the past two decades.

It is safe to say that the Air Force has the lowest operational tempo. Unless you are a pilot or crew member, you will spend much more time at home than someone in the Army or Marines.

When the Air Force does deploy, they deploy to an airfield where there is usually a higher quality of life and much more infrastructure or life support. 

The Navy has sea duty and shore duty. Sea duty is a good opportunity if you want to be at sea and travel the world. 

Even if you are on shore duty, you can be asked to augment a ship’s crew for a cruise.

The Marines and Army are gone a lot. This is because they have a high operational tempo. Marines are constantly training for deployment.

Conventional Army guys have long deployments, usually not to well-established locations. I know soldiers who did 18-month deployments to combat outposts.

Generally, special operations forces have shorter deployments, usually three to six months. But even I got stuck in Afghanistan for a 10-month rotation during my second tour.

Another factor to consider here is the training phase before deployment. 

Individual augmentees might go to a training facility for a week to get vaccines and mandatory classes, get issued body armor, and zero the optics on their rifle. 

Other units do six months of intense collective training to prepare for deployments. 

For all practical purposes, you are away from your family and home for that training period.

Pay Across Branches

And finally, pay. Pay is a relatively easy evaluation criterion because it is the same across the branches.

Same Pay Grade and YearSame PaySame PaySame PaySame Pay

Bonuses and specialty pay vary based on your military occupational specialty

If money is your most important consideration, then you need to speak with somebody in that career field and ask about specialty pay.

Although no one joins special operations for the money, I will say that special operations forces can make much more money than conventional forces when you start adding together jump pay, dive pay, demo pay, language pay, etc.

Which Branch of the Military Should I Join? FAQs

Best Branch Of The Military
Best Branch Of The Military

I hope the following answers answer your questions effectively:

Which military branch has the best benefits?

  • Military benefits are the same across the branches; benefits such as health care, housing, and retirement are standard. 
  • However, when you look at all the military branches, the Air Force has better job-specific perks, training opportunities, and living conditions and lifestyles in general.

Which military branch pays the best?

  • Military pay is a relatively easy evaluation criterion because it is the same across the branches. Your base pay is generally determined by your rank, not your military branch. 
  • However, bonuses and specialty pay vary based on your MOS, and those in Special Operations Forces do have pay for their skills and risk taken.

Military branches ranked from best to worst

  • We don’t have a ranking for the best to worst branches of the military, as this is entirely subjective and depends on personal preferences and your objective for wanting to join the military. 
  • Assuming your consideration is a better quality of life and work-family balance, then the Air Force would be a better fit for you. 
  • If you prefer combat, the Army or Marines offer more combat-related roles.

Which military branch is the easiest?

  • “Ease” is a relative term and entirely subjective. It depends on your goals and objectives for joining the military.
  •  The Air Force is less physically demanding than other branches of the military, such as the Army or Marines; however, it strongly emphasizes technical knowledge and expertise. 

Which is the best military branch for officers?

  • If your consideration is expertise, then the Air Force might be a better fit for you; there is more emphasis on high-tech roles. 
  • The Navy would be a better fit for those who want command opportunities at sea. 
  • The Army would provide a better variety of command roles given that it’s the most prominent brand of the US military. 
  • The Marines would provide more combat-related officer leadership roles. 

What military branch should I join?

  • This decision is based on your career goals, interests, physical fitness, desired lifestyle, and commitment level.

What is the best military branch to join for a woman?

  • All the United States military branches are open to women; none is better or worse than the other for women. 
  • The best branch of the military to join depends on your individual career goals, interests, lifestyle considerations, and objectives for joining.
  • Recent statistics show that the Air Force has more women than any other military branch. 
  • The Air Force is known to have a better work-life balance, making it a better fit for women. 
  • However, women have plenty of opportunities to start and expand their careers across all military branches.

What branch of the military should I join if I want to travel?

  • All military branches offer you the opportunity to travel and see the world; however, the type of travel might differ. 
  • The Navy is the best fit if you want to see the world by sea. 
  • The Army and Marines offer more international deployment, and more often than not, it’s in combat zones. 
  • The Air Force also has several international bases, and assignments in this branch can last for several years.

What is the best military branch to join in 2023? 

In summary, the best branch of the military to join depends on various factors, including career preference, goals, objectives, and lifestyle. Below is a summary.

Military BranchCharacteristics
ArmyThe Army is the most significant branch of the military; it offers a variety of career paths and is a good fit for those who prefer combat roles.
NavyThe Navy is a good fit for those who love sea exploration; it offers opportunities to travel by sea. The Navy is also a hub for those who love technology, science, and general medical research. 
Air ForceThe Air Force offers the best quality of life, including a better work-life balance; it is also known for advanced technology and roles related to flight and space. 
Marine CorpsThe Marine Corps is the smallest and most combat-oriented branch. It is one of the most demanding branches, providing a strong sense of tradition.
Coast GuardIf you are patriotic and want to serve but stay in the United States and near water, consider the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is responsible for maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, and homeland security. 

Okay, there you have it. A summary of the major factors you should consider if you’re thinking about joining the military 

Serving your country has a long and distinguished history. I hope I have given you something to think about, and I applaud your decision to serve. Thanks for reading.

George N.