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How Old Is Too Old to Join the Military? [For 2023 Recruits]

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how old is too old to join the military

Most people know you must be at least 17 years old to enlist in the military, but they are now aware that there is also a maximum age cap for applicants. Yes, you read that right.

You can be too old for the military. So, how old is too old to join the military?

The short answer is 42 to 59 years old, depending on whether or not you have been in service. The maximum age to join the military varies by branch as well. If you are looking for the age limit to decide whether you can enlist, continue to read for the details. Go on; happy reading!

Military Age Enlistment Requirements


In this article, we will look at both the maximum military enlistment age requirement and the minimum military enlistment age requirement. Additionally, we will answer two frequently asked questions on the same topic. First, we will start with the former.

Maximum Military Age


What age is too old to join the military? Federal law dictates that the oldest recruit for any military branch must be 42 years old. However, each branch can set its cap below that < 42 limit.

  • For those who have never served before

The age cap for those without prior service is different for each branch of the US Armed Forces. Hence, the max age to join the Army is different from the max age to join the Navy. To make it easy for you to pick up the information, we have put together a simple table:

Military Branch Too Old to Join the Military
The US Army > 35 years old
The US Navy > 34 years old
The US Air Force > 39 years old
The US Marine Corps > 28 years old
The US Coast Guard > 32 years old
The US Space Force TBD

As you can see from the table, the US Marine Corps has the lowest max age, while the Air Force has the highest. The age limits to join the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard are in the middle of the range, while the Space Force’s cap is ‘to be determined’ since the branch is in its developmental phase. You can contact the branch or 800-423-8723 for more details on your eligibility.

Aside from the branches mentioned, you may also want to consider the more specific positions and special branches, as follows:

Military Branch Too Old to Join the Military
Army Reserve > 42 years old
Army National Guard > 42 years old
Air Force Reserve > 35 years old
Air Force National Guard > 40 years old
Navy Reserve > 39 years old
Marine Corps Reserve > 29 years old
Coast Guard Reserve > 39 years old


Military Branch Too Old to Join the Military
Army Special Forces > 30 years old
Navy SEALs > 28 years old
Air Force CCT or PJ > 28 years old

There are also different age caps for officers in each military branch:

Military Branch Too Old to Join the Military
Army Reserve & National Guard Officer > 34 years old
Air Force Officer > 39 years old
Air Force Reserve Officer > 39 years old
Navy Officer > 42 years old
Navy Reserve Officer > 39 years old
Marine Corps Officer > 28 years old
Marine Corps Reserve Officer > 28 years old
Coast Guard Officer > 31 years old
Coast Guard Reserve Officer > 39 years old

However, even if you have exceeded the maximum age requirement, you may still have a chance to join the military. Your age can be “waived” if you have the necessary skills, experience, and education. Waivers are considered case by case basis and will be approved or disapproved by a commanding officer.

Note: Usually, approved waivers are for the age waivers that do get approved are those that are in professional fields like the legal, medical, and religious jobs as well as high-demand jobs.

  • For those who have served before

Age waivers are also available for those who have prior service. The age bar for a veteran can be lowered based on the number of active duty service years he or she previously had. So, for example, a veteran with 4 years of service at 32 years old can deduct 4 years from the max age of the branch he or she intends to enlist in.

The Army and Air National Guard max age taking into account prior service enlistment is 59, while the max age taking into account prior service is 32 for the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.

Watch Ben Allen on Youtube answer the same question here.

Minimum Military Age

The minimum age to enlist in the military is 17 years old with written parental consent and 18 years old without written parental consent. This limit applies for all cases except for the Navy Reserve, which requires recruits to be at least 18 years old with or without parental consent.

Why Does the Military Impose Age Enlistment Restrictions?


You might think that there should be no age limit on wanting to serve your country. However, the age enlistment limit ensures that every recruit has the time to satisfy minimal education requirements and are adequately fit.

Although we would not like to admit it, the human body tends to become less physically fit as it ages. Over a certain age threshold, it is difficult for a person to be in good physical condition to meet the necessary standard of fighting (and winning) for a country.

Will Age Affect How You Are Treated in the Military?

Age does not entail getting better or worse treatment in the military. Although there may be a few jokes and roasts here and there (Ie. Hey old guy!), there may also be more people “looking up to you” and some “expectations” given the perception that you have slightly more life experience. However, you will be held to the same standard as everyone else.

Consider watching this Youtube video of Jocko Willink and Echo Charles sharing their thoughts about entering the military after the age of 30.


With that, you have finished reading this article on how old is too old to join the military. You should now know if you are eligible to apply for military enlistment, age wise! If you still have any queries on this matter, do not hesitate to reach out to us in the comments below. You are welcome to share your thoughts there as well. If possible, please share this article with other readers, too!

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