If you join the army, the jobs you get to choose from depend on how fit you are when you apply – in mind and body.
If you’re not very fit when you join up then you run a high risk of being injured in training and having to leave. This is because when unfit people run long distances, they run in a different way, which strains the body, especially the knees and back.
Knee and back problems are the most common medical reason that recruits drop out of army training.
The risk is highest if you’re aged 16 or 17, because your bones are still growing and will struggle to cope with running long distances with a pack on your back, especially if you’re not very fit now. You’re better off waiting until you’re older before signing up – when you’ll be stronger.
The fitter you are, the more jobs you get to choose from in the army.
Once you’ve applied to join, you’ll go to an Assessment Centre where your fitness is measured.
For all jobs in the army, you’ll need to be able to:
- Run 2km (1.2 miles) in a maximum of 11 minutes and 15 seconds (11 minutes 30 seconds if you’re joining aged between 16 and 17.5). For the infantry and some other jobs, you’ll need to finish in 10 minutes and 15 seconds.
- Throw a 4kg ball a distance of 2.9 metres, while sitting with your back to a wall (or 3.1 metres for the infantry and some other jobs).
- Pull a fixed bar upwards with a force of 46kg while standing (that’s about two full jerrycans). Or 76kg for the infantry (the weight of a man with a medium build), or 94kg (a man with heavy build) if the job you want involves heavy lifting.
These are the standards for getting in to the army. To pass training you’ll need to achieve a lot more than this.
Your mental fitness also counts.
If you have good GCSEs and do well in the army’s tests, then more army jobs are open to you. If you have A Levels or certain BTECs, then an even wider range of jobs open up. More jobs in the navy and RAF become available as well.
If you don’t have good GCSEs, then you’ll only be offered the least popular jobs, particularly the infantry which is always undermanned.
As well as looking at your exam results, the army will also give you intelligence tests. This happens at the Assessment Centre, after you’ve applied but before you sign up. If you want to join a technical army trade (e.g. signals, mechanic, electrician…) then you’ll be given harder tests.
So, again, if you stay in school or college at 16 and then sign up when you’re 18 or older, you’ll have had chance to improve your qualifications (which will help you for the rest of your life) and you’ll also have a better chance of doing well in the army’s intelligence tests. And then you’ll get to choose from a really wide range of army jobs, as well as jobs in the navy and RAF.
At the Assessment Centre you’ll also have to pass a medical. If you have certain medical problems, or mental health problems, then you won’t be allowed to join. You’ll also need to be clean of any addictive drugs for three years.
Find out more about passing the army medical here.