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How Long Does a Military Background Check Take?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how long does a military background check take

A military background check is one of the many things you will have to complete when applying to enlist. It can be a nerve-wracking experience. However, it would help if you take a bit of time for research to understand the process well; your preparations will be pay-off by easing your worries.

Assuming that you are like most people who do not want to stay in a stressful situation too long, you will want to know about “How long does a military background check take?” It is not an uncommon question among soon-to-be or aspiring service members.

Unfortunately, there is no standard duration or exact time frame for military background checks. It depends on a variety of factors, such as the position that you are applying for and whether you have been convicted for a felony. In addition to a military background check, you will have to go through the MEPS. As such, there is a lot more to this topic. For the details, continue reading to find out!

How Long Does a Military Background Check Take


Every recruit must take a basic background check to demonstrate their potential as a candidate. Here, you will go through the MEPS background check, where MEPS is short for Military Entrance Processing Station.

You will have to complete the ASVAB—the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery to prove military competency. It is a timed test put together by the DoD. The highest you can get on this test is 99, but there are different minimum requirements for each military branch.

  • For the Army, you need a minimum score of 31. But for every MOS or military occupational specialty, there will be a different requirement.
  • For the Army, you need a minimum score of 35. As with the Army, there are different expectations depending on the specific position. For the Marine Corps, you also need at least 35 points. More technical positions will necessitate a higher score.
  • If you are a high school senior or graduate, you will need to receive a score of at least 31 to qualify for the Air Force

There are three versions of the ASVAB:

  • CAT-ASVAB: You take this test on the computer at MEPS. Within 154 minutes, you must answer 145 questions.
  • MET-Site ASVAB: You take this test on paper at satellite locations (for those who cannot physically make it to MEPS). There are a total of 225 questions. You must finish in 149 minutes.
  • Student ASVAB: You take this test at school for career exploration.

You can take practice ASVAB tests at home to prepare yourself for excellence.

Following the ASVAB, you will also have to undergo an in-depth physical examination. It is likely that you will be tested for drugs here. Additionally, for females, you will have a pregnancy test.

It is important that you talk with a recruiter before you go to MEPS about diseases and conditions because there are ones that can be waived.

For entry-level positions in the military, the process is not too strict and intense. You will not have to get a security clearance either. However, for higher positions that involve national security information, you can only pass with a qualified security clearance.

Security Clearance


This involves a series of investigations managed by the DoD or Department of Defense. Your character and conduct will be judged, with factors like reliability, trustworthiness, financial responsibility, criminal activity, and emotional stability. Hence, it will lengthen the duration of your military background check.

If you want a federal service job in any of the five military branches, you will have to get a security clearance.

There are three types of security clearance: confidential, secret, and top secret. From start to end, the security clearance investigation process is roughly 60 days. You will first have to complete and submit a questionnaire about yourself and your position, which will, in turn, determine the level of clearance that is required of you. Then, investigation commences.

Your profile will be checked for information going all the way back to 10 years. You should also expect to sit through an extensive interview. For this, be ready to answer any questions. Failure to disclose may raise red flags or automatically disqualify you. Your associates, such as relatives, spouses, friends, educators, and employers, may also be interviewed.

  • SSN Validation: SSN stands for social security number. This means that your citizenship will be reviewed. If you fail in this step, you are automatically disqualified.
  • Criminal Records: Both convictions and non-convictions will be screened. Criminal convictions with a 1-year prison sentence or longer and drug addiction can affect your chances of passing the check. Recent convictions will also make it significantly more difficult for you to get a security clearance. But you will not be disqualified automatically.
  • Financial Profile: Low credit score and a high record of bankruptcies can dampen your potential to be considered a promising candidate. Your taxes will also be reviewed.
  • Personal Information: Marriage records will be examined. Questionable conduct like cheating or domestic violence will be counted as strikes. Your phone and social media use will also be screened for any indicators of drug use, binge drinking, behavioral issues, etc.
  • Education & Employment Record: Quality credentials will be appreciated. You will look better with a rich education and/or employment history.
  • Driving Record: Any problems concerning driving or your license will be evaluated, with DUIs being problematic.
  • Prior Service Profile: If you have been recognized for past service, your profile will stand out among recruits. It is best to have proof of medals, badges, and letters of recommendation from former high-ranking officers.

However, just because you have earned a security clearance means you are good to go forever. There are random investigations as well as periodic reinvestigations:

  • Every five years for “Top Secret” clearance
  • Every 10 years for “Secret” clearance
  • Every 15 years for “Confidential” clearance

To complete, you will be fingerprinted to cross-check with the FBI database and submit an oath of enlistment.


That marks the end of our article on “how long does a military background check take?” You should now be aware of the details of the A to Z process of a check and factors that influence the duration of a check.

If you have any follow-up questions or thoughts, you are welcome to let us know in the comments. We are always excited to hear from our readers!

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