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No matter which you choose, you'll be a Marine seven days a week for the rest of your life.

Do you want to wear the uniform every day or put it on in the event of emergency?

Read on to learn more about the difference between active duty and reserves, and which contract is right for you.


Through OCS, TBS, and MOS School, there is no difference between the two - all Marine Officers receive the necessary training to lead Marines in combat. The differences in careers occur after MOS school.


Active Duty 

Marines will check into their Fleet Unit after MOS School to begin leading platoons and staff sections. Planning exercises, writing LOI's, setting policy, dealing with troop discipline, etc will all be regular occurrences to the Active Duty Marine. They will work for the Marine Corps full-time.



After MOS School, they check into a reserve unit, then resume civilian life. They find a place to live, a job, etc. These Marines lead normal lives as students or working professionals - teachers, firefighters, bankers, engineers, etc. Even when they aren't drilling, they will be planning exercises and training for drill weekends and annual training blocks. It's a large commitment.

Reservists will typically "drill" with their reserve unit one weekend a month and a two week block once a year. During drill, Marines perform annual training and other tasks to maintain their technical proficiency in their MOS. The two week block is meant to test and train the unit to keep skills and readiness levels high. Officers are responsible for planning and leading these events.

In the event of war, disaster, or other emergency, Reserve forces may be activated for longer periods of time. 


The decision to be Active or Reserve should not be taken lightly.  By speaking with your recruiter, your family, and by weighing your near and long term goals, you can make the best decision for your situation.



  • Doing Marine things every single day

  • Guaranteed job for length of initial contract, and perpetuity after Career Designation

  • GI Bill eligibility 36 months after any scholarship paid back

  • Can transition into reserves without a problem

  • Spend your days with other Marines

  • More opportunities to train and refine skills

  • 30 days of leave per year plus holidays

  • Free comprehensive healthcare for you and dependents

  • Pension after 20 years

  • Develop the most MOS proficiency

  • Have more MOS and school opportunities


  • Doing Marine things every single day

  • Constantly handling troop discipline and insignificant staff issues

  • Very little say in your duty stations

  • Move to a new duty station every few years

  • Multiple school sessions throughout your career

  • Pulled out of MOS for B-billets like recruiting or Recruit Depots


  • Go through same entry level training as Active Duty

  • Can choose your reserve unit

  • Can choose to fill short term Active Duty billets (3-12 months) on your own terms

  • Be a Marine but live a more "normal" life

  • Can apply to become active duty

  • Drill Pay covers cost of healthcare for you and your family

  • Job security (civilian jobs legally cannot fire you if activated)

  • After 20 "sat" years you have a pension


  • Only paid for days you're "drilling"

  • No leave or holidays unless activated for operations/Active Duty

  • Harder to go active duty from reserves

  • Harder to get the active duty time required to become GI Bill Eligible

  • Can't collect pension until you are 65

  • Not full-time employed after you complete entry level training

  • Less opportunity for MOS or PME training

  • Will plan reserve affairs outside your Drill Weekends and days

Key Training Events
Sergeant Instructors
Pre-OCS Checklist
Basic Daily Routine
Eating at OCS
Living in the Squadbay
5 Paragraph Order
Getting Ready
What Can I Bring with Me?
Staying in Touch
PT Plans
OCS Knowledge
Knowledge Check
Family Day
Pro Tips
The Rumor Mill
Counseling Call
Honor Grad Principles
Reading Materials
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