How To Become A Special Forces Officer

Updated: January 12, 2021
In this Article

    Anyone interested in becoming a Special Forces officer should know the academic and military career paths that can help land a military job in one of these specialty units.

    How To Become A Special Forces Officer While it’s true that the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are interested in finding the best and most qualified candidates for any military career specialty, those selected to be Special Forces officers are considered to be the “best of the best”.

    What does it take to become a Special Forces officer? The general requirements, in no particular order, include a willingness to maintain peak physical condition, high ASVAB scores in critical areas, a four-year degree, and the ability to pass challenging tests and training environment demands.

    If you want to join the military as an officer in the Special Forces, start early–talk to a recruiter as soon as possible if you are still in high school (at the start of your senior year is ideal) and if you are currently serving, contact your command support staff about Special Forces recruiting contacts.

    Those who have not joined the military yet and have already graduated high school should talk to a recruiter about the type of college program that might be best for you if you are pursuing a Special Forces slot.

    Defining Special Forces

    Military jargon tends to be fluid; some casually refer to any branch of military service’s elite teams as “Special Forces”, while others refer only to the U.S. Army’s Green Berets program as such. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re giving advice on joining any DoD elite team as a military officer.

    This includes the Navy SEALS, the Army Green Berets, Air Force Pararescue, Force Recon, and Raiders.

    Joining An Elite Unit As An Officer

    Those who want to join an elite unit as an enlisted member are required to meet the typical enlisted recruiting standards, but also higher fitness requirements and other benchmarks.

    In general, the pathway to special forces service depends greatly on the branch of service-the U.S. Army allows recruits to request placements with the Green Berets or other units at recruitment time, and other branches may permit this, too. What isn’t allowed is to bypass the regular boot camp or basic training to attend an elite unit training course. All applicants must successfully complete basic training first.

    Joining as an officer means you must meet that branch of service’s requirements for a four-year degree and be trained as a military officer first. You won’t be able to join the military and be accepted as a Special Forces trainee as an officer without meeting these requirements.

    You can become an officer by being commissioned after completing your four-year degree, you can complete an undergraduate degree via an ROTC program, or you can attend a military service academy. Those who join the military first and later decide to apply for a Special Forces position must wait three years before applying. This applies to both officers and enlisted members.

    Joining Army Special Forces

    Your options to join a Special Forces unit in the Army include:

    • Rangers
    • Night Stalkers
    • Green Berets

    Typical requirements for officers joining one of these units include:

    Marine Corps and Navy Special Forces

    The United States Marine Corps operates two Special Forces programs:

    • Marine Raiders
    • Force RECON units

    Requirements to join one of these units include:

    • U.S. citizenship
    • 4-year degree and Officer Candidate School
    • Must excel at swimming with or without fins and meet other rigorous fitness requirements
    • Must be able to obtain a Secret security clearance
    • Must be a graduate of the School of Infantry

    The Navy Seal program requires:

    • U.S. citizenship
    • 4-year degree and Officer Candidate School
    • Must meet age requirements (29 or younger upon entry to boot camp)
    • Must pass multiple fitness screening tests and meet rigorous physical standards
    • Must meet minimum ASVAB score requirements

    Air Force Special Tactics

    The U.S. Air Force has Special Tactics teams, including:

    • Pararescuemen
    • Combat Controllers
    • Spec Ops Weathermen

    Requirements to join one of these units include:

    • U.S. citizenship
    • 4-year degree and Officer Candidate School
    • Successful completion of specialized training after basic training
    • Must be able to parachute and have no fear of heights
    • Certain specialties may require high ASVAB scores in specific areas, such as Electronics

    Training Provided As A Special Forces Officer

    Much will depend on the nature of your Special Forces job, but in general, you may be trained in the following areas:

    • Physical conditioning
    • Scuba diving
    • Swimming
    • Parachuting
    • Mission planning
    • Explosive ordnance handling
    • Reconnaissance
    • Combat
    • Airborne training
    • Special Forces Qualification Courses

    Jobs Offered For Special Forces Officers

    The types of jobs you may be offered as an officer in the Special Forces will vary depending on the branch of military service. Here are some of the jobs that have been offered in the past, broken down by branch of service:


    • Special Forces
    • Special Forces Warrant Officer

    Marine Corps

    • Combatant Diver Officer
    • Parachute/Combatant Diver Officer
    • Special Operations Officer
    • Expeditionary Ground Reconnaissance (EGR) Officer


    • Advanced Seal Delivery System
    • Commanding Officer, Special Warfare Team
    • Executive Officer, Special Warfare Team
    • Sea-Air-Land Officer
    • Seal Delivery Vehicle Officer
    • Special Weapons Unit Officer

    Air Force

    • Tactical Air Control Party
    • Combat Rescue
    • Special Tactics

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

    Written by Team