Home Marriage & Family How to Become a Marine: It’s Not as Easy as Signing Up

How to Become a Marine: It’s Not as Easy as Signing Up


Want to Join the Marines how to join the USMC disqualifications for joining

There’s a misnomer with what it takes to join the Armed Forces. After all, our nation’s military is comprised of an all-volunteer force, so many have this idea that anyone can walk into a recruiter’s office and commit themselves to being government property for the next 4 years.

Well, it’s really not that simple. Why? Recruiters. More specifically, Marine Corps Recruiters.

What many fail to understand is that Marine Corps Recruiters are driving their 1600+ hours a year, visiting their myriad of assigned (not-so-local) high schools and potential recruits, and they are not trying to fill a quota – get this – they are actually trying to disqualify individuals from joining.

I know, right!?

I first heard this when my husband was in Recruiters School. I had to shift my thinking from common perspective; that just about anyone who wanted to volunteer for the Armed Forces would be able to join. After hearing my husband repeat this many times to me throughout the course, I hadn’t actually accepted it as truth until he was on recruiting duty. It was then, I was exposed to some of the many reasons hopeful applicants were disqualified (or medially disqualified) to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

I reached out to several military families who were also on recruiting duty and asked their most common and craziest reasons they’ve seen that had disqualified an applicant from joining the U. S. Marine Corps.

Reasons You are Disqualified from Joining the Marine Corps

From common to crazy, here is the list:

  1. Tattoos. Depends on the size and location, and of course if they are gang related. If a tattoo is visible and can’t be covered with their hand, then recruits need a waiver. If it’s a full sleeve tattoo, they will most likely send you on your way.
  2. Criminal history. Felonies are automatic disqualifiers. If you have a misdemeanor, it all comes down to crime committed.
  3. Highest education level achieved is a GED (high school diplomas are ok). However, those with a GED and at least 15 college credits are eligible to join the Corps. While the Marine Corps realizes that the High School climate isn’t for everyone, those college credits show initiative for growth and that the Marine Corps should invest in their future.

Medical Disqualifications

  1. Asthma. If you have an implant (plate, screw, etc) you will need to provide supporting medical for review.
  2. ADHD Medications
  3. Marines training to become recruiters
    Col. Michael R. Bowersox, assistant chief of staff, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, addresses the attendees of the National Recruiter Instructor and Recruiting Officer Conference. Photo by Lance Cpl. Katalynn M. Rodgers

    Allergies (Though this includes the infamous peanut allergy, it even includes other allergies like allergies to rabbits. I suppose you never know when you’ll be downwind from a rabbit den during a field-op.)

  4. Eye Refraction (Issues with vision)
  5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  6. Chronic Blood Shot Eyes
  7. Cysts
  8. Hemorrhoids
  9. Bad Odor
  10. Missing Testicle(s)
  11. Acne/Back Acne
  12. Ingrown Toe Nail
  13. Excessive Sweaty Hands/Feet
  14. Cold Hands (and finally)
  15. Too Much Earwax

Surely, the Marine Corps has excellent reasons for not swearing-in an applicant with some of these unusual conditions, although it may not appear that way to the sweaty-palmed individual. And we’re not saying that those with only pristine skin may apply to the Marine Corps, because certainly those with acne are able to join. This is simply a working list of common disqualifiers that we’ve seen on the duty billet.

These listed reasons are not the only disqualifying factors in the way of becoming a United States Marine. Did you know applicants may also be disqualified if they demonstrate rude behavior during the initial process? Though Marines are hardly branded with graciousness, they do require reverence to become one of the few and the proud. So, applicants ought to mind their P’s and Q’s when meeting with their recruiters and other ranked colleague. Cue Col. Jessep, “We use words like honor, code, loyalty.”

Respect for our nation’s military personnel may be a given, but are you aware that risqué photos (classified as immoral) found on personal Facebook pages can also disqualify an applicant? Yep! Recruiters don’t mess around when enlisting the future face and character of the Marine Corps. It is a responsibility which is taken rigorously and impressively so – the U.S. Marine Corps is in fact, the most excellent assembly of men and women. That truth is a truth we can generalize.

If you know of any more unusual disqualifiers, let us know in the comments!


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  1. Some of those aren’t really hard disqualifiers. I joined with ingrown toenails, acne, and I suppose you could say bad odor (What 18 year old male doesn’t smell?). Many marines I know joined with allergies as well. Earwax is easy to clean out, and it’s easy to hide your issue from a recruiter. The asthma part however, the marine corps doesn’t play around with at all. They’ll kick you out in a heartbeat if you have that.

  2. Patrick, when did you join? I am just curious. Today’s disqualifiers seems to be much harder with very few waivers given from what I’ve heard. I’d love a current recruiter to provide their two cents.

  3. You can get wavers for many of these. I got in with asthma, allergies, and adhd. My ear drum collapsed in 2nd phase, and I was discharged in 3rd phase. After surgery and medical waver, I went back to bootcamp a year later and served 8 honorablee years with an early medical retirement due to a blood disorder.

    • Hi Tom, how bad was you’re asthma when you joined? what was the process you went through to get wavers for it? were you issued an inhaler? I am currently dealing with not being able to join due to history of asthma and minor asthma attacks, maybe just 2 times a year I use my inhaler. I am 21 years of age right now. Ever since I was 16 years of age I went to the recruiting office for PT, I never had as bad problems as any of the other kids that went. I out ran them, I out performed in every aspect of challenges they put us through. The recruiters told us that the challenges they put us through at PT was about 3 times harder than it actually be in bootcamp. As i have and had history of asthma I never had problems running, carrying people, pushups etc. I showed the recruiters that i was able to outperform most that walked through the doors but the recruiters still had cold feet about accepting me to sign me up for the Marines. I have heard a few cases of some joining with asthma and was issued an inhaler in the Navy, Army, coast guard and even the Marines. Tom what did you do and could suggest for me to grant the ability to join the fine Corps. Thanks.

    • I enlisted after the downsizing after Viet Nam. If you could walk through the door unassisted, your ass was on the next thing smoking to Parris Island.

  4. All the military branches can be extremely selective on who they recruit these days. Afghanistan is winding down, Iraq is over (for the moment) and they don’t need all the manpower that they did. If we get into another ground war, they’ll take anything with a heartbeat. Wars need cannon fodder plain and simple. It’s always been that way and always will be.

  5. GED’s are extremely specific to the demographic or area you are trying to enlist out of. The closer to the flagpole, good luck getting in with a GED. A lot of medical issues disqualify applicants, however a lot of those can be waived by the bureau of medicine. With that being said, if you have a disqualifying medical issue find a seasoned recruiter or one who is willing to submit the waiver. This can be a lengthy process, however if the bureau of medicine has not said No in writing there is still hope. And 31 is a passing AFQT score, per the manual. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, 50 or above and you are highly qualified mentally for enlistment. 31-49 and you may wait a while. Hope this helps.

  6. If you don’t disclose a severe nut allergy during recruitment and later have a medical reaction is there any type of disciplinary action taken?

    • Yes, fraudulent enlistment. No different than not disclosing a criminal conviction. Best, you’ll get admin’d in recruit training. Worst, you’ll get Gen OTH after or will not be able to reenlist if you hide it long enough.

  7. I was a recruiter when the draft ended and we first went to an all volunteer force – talk about long hours and tough times! Still, even then, we were VERY selective. I walked many applicants to other service recruiting offices, trying to explain to them that even though they were disqualified from becoming a Marine, they might still serve elsewhere.

    The very first guy I sent to AFEES was disqualified. He was in good physical condition, had college, was very articulate and wore a suit. He even had short hair…very unusual in those days! He neglected to tell me, however, that he liked to set fire to buildings, run to the top and wait for the FD to rescue him!! My FIRST guy! Needless to say, I lived hard for a while!!

    I also had a female applicant that was too small! Height AND weight! She looked like a little porcelain doll! Perfectly proportional. We could get a waiver on one, but not both. We got a waiver on her height, stuffed her full of bananas, sewed fishing weights into her underwear, and she passed by two ounces! She wanted to be a librarian…I told her the best I could do was a quarantee for administration, but the likelihood of being a librarian was slim…she wound up being the HEAD librarian at San Diego!!

    Fun days!!!

  8. Beth –

    Yes If you have the reaction in boot camp you get sent home and the recruiter gets in trouble. If you or your child has a severe reaction, please let the recruiter know. That is not someting to hide especially if they need an epi pen or hospital. Sometimes they are not close to medical facilities and eat MRE’s which may or may not have nuts. Check with a recruiter and talk to him or his NCOIC.

    • Thank you, Meghan and also Paul McCarthy. My nephew signed up with the Marines a few days ago. He has nut allergies and always carried an Epipen until he was in high school. He hasn’t had a reaction in several years, mostly because he’s very vigilant about being aware of what he eats. He told his recruiter about his allergy and the recruiter called his superior, and they both told him to not disclose it at his MEPs. It hadn’t even occurred to me to worry about that when he signed up until he came home and told us this. He’s an excellent candidate for recruitment in every other way, so I’m guessing the recruiter is hoping to slip him in with no problems. My nephew wants this so badly and it breaks my heart for him not to be allowed in, but I’m scared that they’ll let him in and he’ll have an allergic episode and then be kicked out, or even worse, that he’ll have an anaphylactic episode and die if he’s not close enough to get help.

      • Hello I need some opinion when my son was felling the form he said he adHD now he have to get proof the neve has adHD I need to taking for evaluation please help me

  9. I went to joined in 1972 at the recruiting office in NYC’s 42nd St and Broadway. I was 17 yrs young and just about to turn 18 in Aug. I took a written test, passed and they told me to report on Oct 5 to swear in. I went to Paris Island for 13 wks where I became the guide for my platoon 1013. I also almost maxed my Phy with a 276 out of 300 points needed and got a Sharp shooter medal. Graduated with my E1 PFC. I went to Camp LeJune for Admin.Supply Training MOS 3041 and got meritoriously promoted to E2 LCpl, as I was put incharge of my PLt. squad bay during Supply Training. With my honors I was able to chose my next duty station and I picked Cherry Point NC Air Base Sta. H&MS 14 which was close to NYC so I can swoop home on holidays. During my reserve duty again I was meritoriously promoted to E3 Cpl. I did 2 yrs active and 4 resv and I could not be more prouder than to be a U.S. Marine. Today at 61 yrs young I still am active in sports and still workout with the Iron. Oorahh Semper Fi

  10. I joined the Marines back in 1986, there wasn’t to much at all for someone to join I mean I never heard of them.
    Myself I did finish High school so maybe that is why I never heard of these reasons, but I can tell you that it takes a special man or women to become one of the few and proud. Love the Corps!!!!

  11. this list is crap. If you have any questions about if you medical history is holding you back from joining, talk to a recruiter. Most of the items on this list are waiverable.

    • This list was created by active duty Marine recruiters. Some items can be waived, but in the drawdown, waivers aren’t being handed out like they used to. S/F

  12. My name is Dante & I’ll be going down to MEPS next week. I have slight scoliosis, cold & sweaty palms; all of which can be corrected by surgery. Will this dq me from becoming a Marine?

  13. Hey I have a tattoo but not in a gang but it’s part of a gang name and scored in 54 percentile do anyone think I can get it wavied

  14. Why was my Nolle Prosequi charges of PWID Cocaine and Gun Possession with Cocaine grounds for a DQ? No conviction = No crime. It’s unfair for me to be turned away for something I didn’t do. Had I known they’d use that against me, I guess I would of had my lawyer have the judge dismiss it as opposed to the prosecutor doing it. There WERE NO DRUGS BUT YET YOU COULD CARE LESS. It’s unfair for me. The Marines SHOULD LOWER THEIR STANDARDS and go back to doing waivers. Innocent until Proven Guilty

    • the Corps should lower their standards? Absolutely not! I’m sorry you were DQ’d, but the standards are just one thing that sets us apart. Why don’t you lower your standards and join another branch?

  15. Eczema. I’m currently in the process of waiting for a waiver to even start boot camp. Just having the word eczema on your medical records is disqualifying. Even though I haven’t had any issues with it since I was seven.

    • My nephew is going through this right now. He got the waiver and was told he should be good and got disqualified at MEPS a 2nd time. Is there no hope this will change?

  16. If I was disqualified for a tattoo from Western Recruiting Region, if I sent a letter to congress can that disqualification be over turned?

  17. Hell everyone. I was just wondering if i should go to a recruiter in person even though i was told on the phone i was instantly disqualified concerning my autism?


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