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Active Duty or Reserves

Deciding which component is right for you

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.

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What's the Difference?

Through Boot Camp and MOS School, there is no difference between the two - all Marines receive the necessary training to fight and win. The differences appear after MOS school.


Active Duty Marines will check into a Battalion or Squadron in the Fleet Marine Force (known as "the Fleet) after MOS Schools to execute day--to-day duties as a Marine.  Physical training, formations, work, field exercises, etc will all be regular occurrences to the Active Duty Marine. They will work for the Marine Corps full-time.


Reservists complete MOS School and 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. We've met reservists who are firemen, policemen, teachers, corporate leaders, and more.

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.

In the event of war, disaster, or other type of emergency, Reservists may be activated to serve for longer periods of time than their normal one weekend per month and two weeks per year. 


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.

Active Duty Pros and Cons


Doing Marine things every single day

Guaranteed job for 4 years

GI Bill eligibility after three years

Can transition into reserves without a problem

Spend your days with other Marines

30 days of leave per year plus holidays

Free comprehensive healthcare

Pension after 20 years

Develop the most MOS proficiency

Have more MOS and school opportunities


Doing Marine things every single day

Sign contracts 4 years at a time

Very little say in your duty stations

Move to a new duty station every few years

Reserve Pros and Cons


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) 

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)

Can qualify for 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 pay for college

Can't collect pension until you are 65

Not full-time employed after you complete entry level training

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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