In the U.S., there are 3 types of military academies: middle- and high-school level academies, senior military colleges, and the 5 service academies which specialize in the university-level education and training of officer cadets. All of these military academies educate in a military style, with strong emphasis on military discipline, tradition, and codes of honor. Academic and fitness expectations are high. Uniforms are standard at every level.
These kinds of institutions are usually known as military schools rather than military academies. Military schools go all the way from middle school, usually grade 7, to high school graduation. Some also offer a pre-college prep year. Most of these military schools are boys-only boarding schools, with 5-day boarding for younger students.
The curriculum in military schools is similar to those in public schools. However, academic expections are higher and the material is often more challenging. Some military schools are also magnet schools, with instructor ratios as low as 11:1. Average class sizes are much smaller than their public school equivalent.
In general, there is a greater emphasis on technical subjects, math, citizenship, and physical education in military schools than in most public schools. Many subjects include extensive lab work. Strong emphasis is placed on communication skills. Second languages are often mandatory, and can range from Latin to Spanish to Mandarin Chinese.
Leadership is taught at all levels. Cadets usually begin to assume leadership roles in their squads during their sophomore year.
The emphasis on civics and high conduct expectations does not end at the classroom. Many military schools also have their own local Boy Scout troop, JROTC program, or both. The JROTC program is often mandatory for military school students.
= Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps =
This federal program gives young teens an early taste of military life and values, to the point where young students who complete the program may be given advanced ranking and pay grades if they enlist. Participating students are required to maintain acceptable levels of academic achievement and conduct.
The JROTC is not allowed to recruit for the Armed Forces, although as many as half of the students who participate end up doing so. Its purpose is “to instill in students in secondary educational institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, and personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment.”
Students in the JROTC are taught basic military and team-building skills. They will develop good citizenship, discipline, and patriotism, as well as leadership skills, self-reliance, and responsiveness to constituted authority. They will learn to communicate at a high level, both orally and in writing, and will study the role of the U.S. Armed Forces in pursuit of national objectives. They are also required to maintain a high level of physical fitness.
Schools may participate in the JROTC program if they have adequate facilities for classroom instruction, storage of arms and other loaned military equipment, and adequate drill areas. A cost outlay for equipment is not required, because the Armed Forces branch which sponsors that particular JROTC unit will loan all necessary equipment to the school.
However, the school will be required to pay part of the instructor’s salary. Instructors are usually retired military personnel, so the school will be required to pay the difference in salary between retirement pay and active duty pay, of which 1/2 is reimbursed by the sponsoring branch of the Armed Forces.
Senior military colleges
Unlike pre-college military schools, senior military colleges are usually coed, with the exception of the Mary Baldwin Women’s Institute for Leadership. Every cadet at a senior military college must participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program, but only cadets who have received ROTC scholarships are required to enter military service after graduation, for a minimum of 5 years.
ROTC students at senior military colleges usually graduate with a BSc in military, naval, or aerospace sciences, similar to students at service academies. Degrees in other sciences, engineering, humanities and the social sciences are also available.
The 4 main service academies are West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Although it is generally civilian rather than military, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is also counted as a service academy.
All service academies except the Coast Guard Academy prescreen students before allowing them to apply for admission. Only 1 in 10 applicants will be accepted into a service academy.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate high academic and athletic performance, including high SAT scores. They will also be assessed on their leadership experience, extracurricular activities, and community involvement. Finally, applicants to all service academies except the Coast Guard Academy require a congressional letter of recommendation.
Fields of study at service academies range from Legal Studies to Nuclear Engineering to Leader Development Science. There is even a program in Art, Philosphy, and Literature. Cadets and midshipmen also participate in a core curriculum of military movement, swimming, combatives, and boxing, with options to take classes in additional sports. Leadership, discipline, chain of command, and ethics training are an integral part of each student’s studies.
Cadets and midshipmen will graduate with a BSc in their chosen area of study. During their studies, they will receive free tuition, room and board, medical and dental health care, and taxable pay of 35% of O1, although USMMA midshipmen only receive pay during the required 300 days at sea. All cadets and midshipmen are required to enter military service after graduation, for a minimum of 5 years.