How to join the Army

Long gone are the days when joining the British Army was a decision made for you by a conscription clerk or press gang, now the choice is yours. If you are thinking of joining the army, be sure you have made a thorough assessment of what your choices are.

Before Joining

This is a big decision, so if you have close family and friends, run it by them. See what they think, see how they might react. You will be spending a lot of time away from home, possibly doing very dangerous things, can your loved ones cope with that? Going with their blessing and understanding is much better than going without.

When you sign the recruiting papers, you are committing to 4 years of service at a minimum for a private. Have you thought about your long-term plan? Nobody can prepare properly for a life in the Army, but what have you done to prepare?

Do you plan to be an officer or join as a private? They both offer very different paths through the Army.

Minimum/Maximum Age

The minimum age of an applicant is 15 years and 7 months of age, and any applicant under the age of 18 must have written consent from a parent, carer or assigned responsible adult. If no such adult exists, you can still join.

If you sign up before your 18th birthday, you will be required to serve until your 22nd birthday, which can be as long as 6 years.

The maximum age for entering Phase 1 training is 32 years old.

When joining as an officer, the minimum age is 18 and the maximum is 29.

Those over 30 and under 50 years of age can be considered on an individual basis.

For the reserves, the minimum age is 17 years and 9 months old and the maximum age is 49 for OR and 48 and 9 months for officers, with some exceptions for specialist roles.


There is a minimum standard for mental and physical fitness on joining the Army that is very high. A lot of recruits drop out because of a lack of preparation, and while you can try again, it is best to be up to the standard required before applying. There is an app available: 100% Army Fit that will get you up to the required level.

The initial fitness test for OR can include a 1.5 mile run, static lifts and a Jerry can run.

For officers there is a beep test (level 10.2 for males, 8.1 for females); 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes, 44 press-ups for males, 21 for females; and a 1.5 mile run in 10 minutes and 30 seconds or less for males, 12 minutes and 45 seconds for females.

Education or Convictions

You do not need any qualifications to join the army as a soldier. For specialisations like medicine or the officer corps, GCSE’s or A levels or higher will be required, depending on the specialisation.

A criminal conviction does not necessarily limit your Army career. Spent convictions are ignored, unspent convictions will require an honest chat with the recruiting officer before the application can go further. It depends on the offence but many people with a criminal past have gone into the army and made good.

Discharge as of Right

If you are joining under the age of 18, you can leave after 28 days but before 6 months of service. You will be required to give 14 days’ notice.

When applying over the age of 18, you can leave after 28 days but before 3 months of service.

Where to Apply

Most cities have an Army recruitment centre, or there are periodic recruitment “pop-ups”. Initial application can be done online but you will be required to attend an interview before you can sign up.


The first stage of recruitment is the initial enquiry. This is not a commitment, it is to establish interest and a possible follow-up. An assessment will be made at this point as to your basic eligibility.

The next stage is an interview, in which the option of joining the Army is given. The applicant is informed that if they join they must swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and that breaking this oath is prosecutable under Service Law, which is different (and usually harsher) than civilian law.

Any pre-existing injuries or illnesses must be reported at this point. There are a number of conditions that will exclude an applicant from the Armed Forces. The full list can be found at the Army website.

  • Assessment takes 2 days at an assessment centre. Travel is paid for getting there and returning.
  • A full medical assessment will be undertaken.
  • Team exercises will measure your ability to work with others.
  • You will have to talk about yourself to a group.
  • Your career options will be discussed.
  • Physical and mental examinations and tests will be made.
  • A reference and background check will then be made.

If you have passed all the required tests, you will receive an offer of employment. On accepting, you will then be fully enlisted.

Foreign and Commonwealth Applicants

As of July 2013, any applicant from a Commonwealth country must have resided in the UK for at least 5 years before becoming eligible for acceptance. There are exceptions for some limited roles and for residents of Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta.

Refugees and asylum seekers are unfortunately barred from joining the British Army.