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Career in the armed forces as an officer

Brigadier Manohar Thomas


1. A career in the Armed Forces as an officer is a dream to a lot of people. This is not only a job but also a way of life that mixes work with sports and adventure activities balanced with a soothing family and social environment thus ensuring a quality life. Moreover Armed Forces provide an excellent and fair job opportunity for personnel of all background.

Types of Commission

2. There are basically two types of commissions. These are the permanent and short service commissions.

(a) Permanent Commission. In this type of commission, the individual on successful completion of training is absorbed permanently into the Armed Forces and can continue serving till pensionable age.

(b) Short Service Commission. Here, the commission is for a duration of 10 years which is extendable up to 14 years. On completion of 10 years the officer can opt for permanent commission or alternatively move out to pursue other career options.

Methods of Selection

3. There are basically two types of selection into the Armed Forces. These are explained below.

(a) UPSC Selection. In this method there is an All India level entrance exam conducted by the UPSC. The successful candidates are called for an SSB (Services Selection Board) interview followed by a medical examination. Thereafter candidates are selected as per merit.

(b) Departmental Selection. This is a selection process carried out by the Recruiting or the personnel directorate of the respective services and are basically aimed at technical and professional entries. There are no entrance exams. Individuals apply to the concerned directorate or in some cases there is a campus selection based on the individual’s academic performance. This is followed by an SSB interview and medical test. Final selection is based on merit and number of vacancies.

XII th Class Entry.

4. NationalDefenceAcademy (NDA). This is one of the most sought after entry into the Armed Forces. Candidates between 16 ½ to 19 years of age can apply. Those keen on Air Force and Navy should have physics and maths as their subjects. The exams are held twice a year by the UPSC and notifications are given in national dailies like the Employment News and other leading dailies in the month of June and December. For each course there are approximately 300 vacancies (Army – 195, Air Force – 66 and Navy – 39). Being an UPSC entry there is a written examination followed by a SSB interview and medical.

The course in NDA commences in the month of January and July. The duration of training in NDA is of three years. The training at NDA is aimed at overall development of an individual. There is a healthy mix of academics, sports, games, service subjects and personality development. At the end of the training a cadet is awarded Bachelor’s degree either in Arts, science or computer Applications. Thereafter cadets move to their respective service institutions for further specialized training.

5. Naval Academy. Candidates eligible for NDA with physics and Maths also has the option to apply for the NavalAcademy course at Ezhimala. The procedure for selection is the same as that of NDA and on completion of the course the candidate becomes a commissioned officer in the Navy.

6. Technical Entry Scheme (TES). TES is applicable to individuals who have obtained minimum 70% in their class XII with physics, chemistry and maths and who are within the age group of 16 ½ to 19 years. The advertisements normally come out during the months of October/November and May/June. In case of Army the applications are to be addressed to Additional Director General recruiting at RK Puram in New Delhi. Based on merit candidates will be short listed and called for SSB interview followed by medical examination. The training is given in two phases.

7. Armed ForcesMedicalCollege. Personnel who have done XIIth with Physics, Chemistry and Biology and an aggregate score of 60% can apply for this course. Advertisements come out in January every year. Selection is based on a written exam followed by an interview. On completion of the course the candidate gets an MBBS degree and a permanent/ short service commission into the Armed Forces.

Graduate Entry

8. IndianMilitaryAcademy: This entry is applicable to graduates within the age group of 19 to 24. The notifications come out during the months of May/June and November/December. There are approximately 250 vacancies. There is a Combined Defence Services written exam conducted by the UPSC followed by a SSB interview and medical. The training at IMA is for a duration of 1 ½ years with emphasis on service subjects, physical fitness and personality development. On completion of training an individual passes out as a Lieutenant with permanent commission in the Army.

9. OfficersTrainingAcademy (OTA). This is an entry scheme for short service commission into the Army. This is applicable to graduates within the age group of 19 to 25. Selection process is similar to that of IMA. Presently there are two OTAs giving training, one being at Chennai and the other at Gaya. The training period is of 49 weeks and the syllabus is similar to IMA.

10. NCC Special Entry: There are 50 vacancies available at the OTA through NCC entry. Graduates with 50% aggregate marks are eligible. The individual should have also passed C certificate of NCC with minimum B grade. Applications are to be forwarded to ADG Recruiting in the months of April/May and October/November through respective state NCC Directorates. The training is of 49 weeks on completion of which the individual is commissioned into the Army. NCC entry schemes are available for Air Force and Navy as well.

10. Engineering Graduates: There are a number of entry schemes available for engineering graduates. These are as follows:-

(a) University Entry Scheme (UES). Engineering students who are in the pre final year and within the age group of 19 to 25 are eligible for this scheme. This is something similar to campus placement wherein a team from the Services visits the campus and selects meritorious students who then undergo SSB interview and are assured a career in the Army on completion of their course. Their pre commission training is carried out at IMA. Similarly there is a graduate entry scheme available for Navy and Air Force as well.

(b) Technical Graduate Course (TGC). This is applicable to Engineering graduates who have done BE/B Tech in specific streams and within the age limit of 20 to 27. Applications are to be forwarded to ADG Recruiting based on the advertisements. Short listed candidates have to go through the SSB interview and medical followed by training at the IMA and a permanent commission into suitable technical arm of the Army. It is also applicable for other services.

© Short Service Technical: This is similar to TGC but for those seeking short service commission. On being selected further training is done at OTA.

11. Medical Graduates. Persons with a Medical degree or a Dental degree can apply for a short service commission into the Army Medical Corps or Army Dental corps. Selection is based on an internal written exam followed by an interview and medical. On completion of the stipulated time period there is an option to volunteer for permanent commission or opt out.

12. Law Graduates. In case you are holding an LLB or an LLM and within 21 to 27 years then one can apply to ADG recruiting. If selected after SSB interview then one undergoes training at the OTA and gets commissioned into the JAG Branch of the Army. Similar facilities are available in the Navy and Air Force as well.

Post Graduate Entry for Education Branch.

13. MA / MSc. Those who have done post-graduation in notified subjects and are within the age group of 23 to 27 can apply for education branch. On being selected they undergo training at IMA and are granted permanent commission.

Women Entry Schemes

14. There are a number of schemes available for women presently to join the Armed Forces. The entry is mostly through short service commission but permanent commission option is available in select branches. So far women entry is not open in fighting arms like infantry, armored corps, mechanized infantry etc. The main method is through the OTA and the process is similar to the one discussed earlier. Similarly NCC special scheme is available for women as well and vacancies also exist for engineering graduates. This is becoming very popular and is becoming a wonderful career option for women. Similar schemes are available in Air Force and Nave as well.


A career in the Armed Forces is very satisfying and fulfilling. Avenues are open for persons with all types of qualifications. And the best part is that there is no better way to serve the mother land.

Brigadier Manohar Thomas
NCC Group Commander, Trivandrum

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