Thesoldiersproject is supported by its audience. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

What is the Hardest Branch of the Military? Army, Nave or Air Force?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what is the hardest branch of the military

“What is the hardest branch of the military?” is one of the most common questions among soon-to-be service members. Regardless of whether you want to join the toughest military branch to challenge yourself or avoid it to keep things manageable, this article is for you.

The toughest branch of the military to get into based on education requirements is the Air Force, and the one with the hardest military training and hardest for women because of male dominance is the Marine Corps.

If you want more detailed insights, read on.

What is the Hardest Branch of the Military

In terms of educational requirements, the Air Force is the most demanding. Do not expect to get into this military branch without a high school diploma. In addition, it is most difficult to get a satisfactory score in the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery. Thus, in this regard, the Air Force is the hardest military branch out of all five primary branches to get into.

The Military Branch with the Hardest Training


If you have done a bit of research, you should know that you will have to complete basic training in all the branches upon enlisting. For novices who are yet to be familiar with the military environment and high expectations, it is a challenging feat.

Usually, training lasts from 8 to 12 weeks. Each branch will have different training programs, schedules, and requirements, as follows:



The Army calls this Basic Combat Training. It is, on average, 10 weeks. After recruits learn about military rules and processes, they meet their drill sergeant. He or she will be responsible for strengthening the recruits’ physical and mental health. Here, training can include timed 2-mile runs, 2-minute push-ups, and 2-minute sit-ups.

Following this, recruits are taught how to handle rifles and fire from different positions. They will have to pass two courses: the Basic Rifle Marksmanship Qualification and the Fit to Win Obstacle. Towards the end, concentration will be on solidifying camaraderie and combat skills. To graduate, recruits apply everything that they have learned in a 3-day challenge called Victory Forge. Week 10 of the training is when graduation commences.



The Navy calls this Boot Camp. It is a bit shorter than the Army’s Basic Combat Training, at 8 weeks. You progress through: basic conditioning – confidence course – team-building week – hands-on training. This will involve learning everything about ships, the anatomy of ships, ship-related first aid, semaphore, etc.

Halfway through, you will undergo a physical training test and engage in live-fire training as well as an academic test. Ultimately, you will complete a Battle Stations test where you have to go through 12 different scenarios. Instead of graduating like the Army, you become a Sailor and will receive a U.S Navy ball cap.

Marine Corps


The Marine Corps calls this Recruit Training. It lasts for 12 weeks, which is longer than both the Army and Navy. There are 3 phases in total. A drill instructor takes recruits through a series of training, including swimming, martial arts, and gas chamber exercises. Recruits must also take rifle marksmanship training and familiarize themselves with firearms.

In the final phase, recruits demonstrate their competency in a 54-hour field survival challenge, combining knowledge and physical fitness assessments. It is generally agreed that the Marine Corps is the most intense in terms of marksmanship training and physical training.

Air Force


The Air Force calls this Basic Military Training. It takes 8.5 weeks, on average. Unlike the Marine Corps, Air Force training is more spread out. Recruits are introduced to a military training instructor, who builds their physical and mental health, then teaches about the history and roles of the Air Force.

Afterward, there is a week of field training with combat scenarios, which leads up to fitness and airmanship evaluations. Like the Army, you end with graduation.

Coast Guard


The Coast Guard calls this Recruit Training, with the A to Z process lasting about 8.5 weeks. Recruits train under a company commander, starting with a rigorous fitness program.

There is a mid-term exam that recruits must pass before proceeding to hands-on training, which includes marksmanship, seamanship, line handling, and fire-fighting. Then, they submit an Assignment Data Card that features their preferences for future service locations. Towards the end, they have first aid and CPR training.

Another reason why the Marine Corps is considered the hardest military branch is because any former Marine heading to a new branch does not have to redo boot camp training, whereas former members from other branches switching over to the Marine Corps must fulfill the standard training.

After basic training, the Marine Corps also requires advanced training, which is just as difficult and draining.

The hardest military branch for females because of exclusivity and male dominance (The Marine Corps) is also worth considering. There is a sixth and new military branch called Space Force, which is more female-friendly and inclusive. Thus, in a way, it is the least difficult branch, if you are a female struggling in an outdated “men’s world.”

Is the Toughest Military Branch the Most Dangerous to be in


However, the toughest military branch is not automatically the most dangerous. The degree of danger, when judged in the context of the military, is more among units than broad branches.

Certain personnel encounter more risks on a day-to-day basis, such as pararescue jumpers. These members run towards danger instead of away. They head straight for the red zones to help other wounded and/or isolated soldiers.

Special operations, including members across military branches, also face a lot of risks by bull-heading direct action missions and targeting enemy leaders. The ordnance disposal squad, infantry soldiers, and combat engineers are other examples of high-risk units in the military.


Although we have given answers for the hardest military branch in different aspects, it also depends on YOU at the end of the day. “Hard” is relative. You might find something challenging and someone else can do it in their sleep, and vice versa. So, do not grind this article in your mind as a predetermined conception.

Whether or not a military branch is hard can be affected by your expectations and preparations. “Hard” might not be as bad if you study, keep yourself fit by working out, and have the right mindset beforehand.


You have reached the end of this article on what is the hardest branch of the military. Hopefully, you were able to pick up a lot of valuable information.

To recap:

  • The hardest military branch to get into in terms of education requirements is the Air Force.
  • The military branch with the toughest basic training is the Marine Corps.
  • The hardest military branch for non-males because of exclusivity and male dominance is the Marine Corps.

But the degree of difficulty also relies on you and the effort you put in to prepare yourself; study and workout ahead to minimize the burden and optimize your performance.

Furthermore, here is the list of the 5 easiest military branches for your reference.

If you have questions or thoughts, let us know in the comments. We look forward to hearing from you. Also, do not hesitate to share this article with other soon-to-be service members!

5/5 - (3 votes)