How To Become a Commanding Officer in the Military

Of all the graduates who moved on from college after 2020, 45% are struggling to find fitting work. Deciding what to do after you have your degree can be daunting, and the thoughts of getting locked into a low pay or unfulfilling job often keep a person from fully entering the workforce.

Did you know that there’s a career where you learn new skills, do meaningful work, impact lives through leadership, and gain access to great benefits? Serving as an officer in your country’s military has all this and more. We’re going to tell you how to become a commanding officer, all you need to do is read on and consider one of the greatest adventures America has to offer.

What a Commanding Officer Is

The title and benefits may sound appealing, but joining the military most likely conjures images of getting ready to fight. As a commanding officer, the fighting will almost certainly not be yours to do. Commanding officers preside as the final authority over units, divisions, battalions, and fleets in the military.

The commanding officer is the person who makes strategic decisions and delegates subsequent responsibilities to more junior officers under his or her chain of command. They are usually well experienced in the field in which their unit operates.

Some examples of commanding officers are admirals who head up entire battle groups at sea, the chief lawyers in the JAG corps, or the commanding doctors at military hospitals.

Read More: How Postgraduate Education Can Boost Your Career

How to Become a Commanding Officer

There are many roads you can walk to becoming a commanding officer, but at one point or another, you’ll have to become a commissioned officer. Once you’re a commissioned officer the military will gradually increase your responsibilities through promotions. If you work hard and lead well in your sphere your military career path may lead to a command position.

The Enlistment Route

If you first serve as a non-commissioned officer and advance through the ranks you will have the opportunity to go to Officer Training School. If you pass you’ll graduate as a second lieutenant or an ensign (in the Navy). Officers with this background are usually great field officers because they have a deep understanding of operations on the front lines.

Officer Candidate School

The US marines and the Air Force offer college graduates a chance to attend officer training immediately after graduating with a degree. These courses can be two to four months long and candidates focus on military training and leadership development.

Military Academies and Colleges

Going to a military academy is arguably the best path for a high school graduate who wants to become a commissioned officer. The environment at one of these schools is competitive, attendees participate in physical exercise, drills, skills development, and take military subjects. The best part is that they’re very cheap for accepted students and provide for all their needs.

Direct Commission

You can also become a commissioned officer by earning a professional degree and applying for a role in the military. These positions are open for doctors, nurses, lawyers, certain engineers and scientists, accountants, and even chaplains. Everyone in these jobs is given an officer’s rank.

What Does a Commanding Officer Do

Commanding officers lead. Their official jobs have operational and ceremonial duties. The size of the unit they lead depends on their rank, but they all have ultimate responsibility in their sphere.

The first leadership element a commanding officer brings to the table is effectiveness. The commanding officer still receives orders from someone above themselves (a high officer, the pentagon, or the president). Their job is to lead the team to execute the required task.

The next elements are safety and efficiency which go together. They have to get the job done right as quickly as possible but still prioritize the unit’s safety. Safety often comes down to preparation, openness, and concern.
On the battlefield an officer should look at maps beforehand and secure supplies for his unit, this is their preparation. The commander in a hospital or legal division’s preparation may be different. The general rule is that good commanders ensure that their teams have their needs met.

Commanders also present their staff with promotions and medals at functions and parades. When you’re in charge of a unit, you’ll most likely be giving the men and women under your command their medals and custom challenge coins at ceremonies.

Lastly, commanding officers report to their superiors on their job or mission’s status and on the health of their staff. The work is challenging, but the impact people make and the jobs they get to do are incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.

Useful Tips for the Journey from Junior Officer to Commanding Officer
If you want to become a commanding officer one day, you need to focus on four things.

First, develop good training and academic habits. A strong body makes a strong mind and the military has fitness requirements. You’ll be engaged in a lot of thinking, so continual learning will be your best friend.

Next, get great at time management and self-discipline. Commanders lose time during the day in dealing with unforeseen emergencies so they need to have their work done well before anyone under them. Going to bed at a good time and the same time every night, as well as starting your assignments when you get them, are great ways to start practicing this.

Then you should also develop your interpersonal or soft skills. Being polite and respectful is very important in the military. In your leadership role, you’ll also be involved in mediating disagreements within your ranks regularly.

Lastly, develop an attitude of extreme ownership. Taking responsibility is what a commanding officer does. They are accountable for the success of the mission and the health of their staff.

Read More: How Becoming an EMT Can Boost Your Healthcare Career

Choose Your Career and Change Your Life Today

The military is a place for people from all walks of life and careers to come together in serving their country. Many different kinds of jobs need to be done, and they all need good leaders. Now that you know how to become a commanding officer, you can be that leader.

If, however, the military just isn’t you, we have loads of other how-to articles. Go to our how-to page and learn great DIY tips or how to become a forex trader, writer, or whatever else the best you might be.


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