A career in Defence

By Namrata Padhi

Every individual dream of serving his nation at least once in his lifetime. However, not all are lucky enough to get the privilege.

Of all professions, a career in defence is the most respected, noblest and indeed the most sacred one.  Having a career in defence makes a person not only disciplined and strong but also opens up many other avenues for growth. Defence personnel are exclusively trained in combat,  in the usage of different kinds of weaponry and are equipped to handle the security of anything, from a club to the whole country. A career in defence force opens up a huge number of opportunities for those who wish to lead adventurous yet disciplined lives.


Defence careers can be categorized into 3 categories such as :

1. Indian army

2. Indian Navy

3. Indian air force

Career Guidance :

A person with a defence career shall have twin opportunities of defending the national frontiers from foreign aggression as also serving the civil society in the event of various calamities. A career in defence forces is all about accepting thrills and adventures, as also facing challenges at the risk of your life.


Who can Join the Indian Defence Services?

The candidate must be unmarried and must either be:

1. A Citizen of India, or

2. A subject of Bhutan, or

3. A subject of Nepal, or

4. A Tibetan refugee who came over to India before the 1st January 1962 with the intention of permanently settling in India, or

5. A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka and East African Countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, and Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India

Top Defence Colleges : Here some list of Defence colleges in India

Defence Career Option : There are two ways of getting into defence forces for Defence Career:

1. National Defence Academy (NDA)
2. Combined Defence Service Exam (CDSE)

The NDA is meant for those candidates who have completed or are about to complete their 10+2 level of education. And just in case you have missed your train due to some reason, no worries. You still have the chance to get into these highly coveted services after completing graduation. The CDSE is for those who have completed their graduation.

However, many other ways are also there to get into these forces 

Apart from NDA and CDSE, one can also get into the Indian Air Force Academy through :

1. NCC SE (Men only):

As an Air Wing Senior Division ’C’ Certificate holder of the National Cadet Corps, one can apply to the Flying Branch of the Indian Air Force. Men can join the Air Force Academy and get training in flying branch through this mode of entry and will be given a Permanent Commission

These were the main modes how male candidates can apply for the force. But there are ways through which female candidates can also apply:

2. AFCAT :

Through AFCAT both girls and boys can join the flying (SSC), Technical and Ground Duties Course. This exam is held twice every year in the month of Feb and August.

There are also some other ways to join the Indian Navy Service :

1. UES Entry:

UES stands for University Entry Scheme. The pre-final year and final year male students of engineering degree are eligible to apply for this entry. There are a number of branches like General Services, Executive entry etc. For Naval Architecture Branch, both women and men can apply. The specific branches and commission types  may vary 

2. 10+2 (B.Tech) Cadet Entry: 

Navy announces it as the 10+2 Entry which is similar to 10+2 Technical Entry of Army. Boys who have passed 10+2 with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics and have secured 70% as an aggregate can apply for this entry. This is a technical entry, where applications are shortlisted based on the percentage and SSB calls are given to eligible candidates. The training duration of this course is for four years. A degree of Engineering is awarded to the candidates on successful completion of the training.

3. Graduate Direct Entries:

These are a number of entries which require a minimum graduation degree. These entries can be for branches like IT, Logistics, Administration, Observer, Pilot, Education etc. Navy keeps on publishing advertisements for the same at different times of a year. The mode of entry is direct, based on the graduation cut-off. Different branches may have different educational qualifications, as required by them. Men and Women both can apply for  SSC and PC.

For joining the Indian army, these might be the substitute options :

1. 10+2 Technical Entry Scheme (TES):

Candidates who have qualified 10+2 CBSE/ICSE/State Board Examination with a minimum aggregate of 70% aggregate marks in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics are eligible to apply under the 10+2(TES). On being successful in the SSB and being declared fit by the medical board, they may undergo one-year basic military training at the Training Academy and thereafter may undergo three years of engineering degree course in respective streams before getting Permanent Commission. On being commissioned, they are further put through one more year of post-commissioning training for the Arm/Service into which they are commissioned.

2. Army Cadet College (ACC) Entry: 

The eligible Other Ranks (OR) in the age group of 20-27 years and minimum of two years of service, having 10+2 pass qualification can apply for a Regular Commission. After qualifying in the written examination conducted by the Military Training Directorate, the aspirants are screened by SSB and the Medical Board. Successful candidates are then trained at Army Cadet College Wing, Dehradun, for three years at the end of which they get a graduate degree. This is next followed by one year of pre-commission training at IMA, Dehradun

3. NCC (Special Entry Scheme): 

University graduates possessing NCC ‘C’ Certificate with a minimum ‘B’ grade and 50% aggregate marks in graduation examination are eligible to apply for Short Service Commission through this entry. Those studying in the third year are allowed to apply provided they have secured a minimum of 50% aggregate marks in the first two years. Such candidates will need to secure an overall aggregate of minimum 50 % marks if selected in the interview failing which his candidature will be cancelled. Candidates must possess a graduate degree at the time of joining OTA or those candidates studying in the third year should produce the degree within 12 weeks from date of commencement of training at OTA. Such cadets are exempted from writing the examination conducted by the UPSC and are directly put through the SSB interview followed by a medical board. Candidates meeting the qualitative requirements shall have to apply through NCC Group Headquarters at the State level. After Screening by the respective Group Headquarters, the Directorate General of NCC forwards the applications of eligible cadets to the Recruiting Directorate of Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (Army). 


Read here, NDA Vs CDS: Dream Towards Honour to Serve the Nation


A Career in Armed Forces

In order to pursue a career in defence in India, candidates need to enroll themselves in the National Defence Academy located in the scenic outskirts of Pune, Maharashtra. The NDA conducts an entrance test for students of class 12 every year in May. Mathematics and Physics are compulsory subjects if a person wants to appear for the test. Every year, around 1 lakh students appear for the exam out of which only 350 are selected for the training. This itself speaks of the fact that only the best of the best can find a place at the National Defence Academy.

 If a trainee succeeds in passing the grueling training course and graduates from the National Defence Academy, the soldier is commissioned as an officer in any branch of the Indian armed forces. If it ’s a technical course that the candidate completed at NDA then they will operate war machinery in aircraft, ships, tanks or submarines. In the case of non-technical courses, the graduate soldiers begin their career as an army officer and in case of the air force, as the flying lieutenant. Depending on one ’s abilities and skills, he can rise in the ranks and become Chief of Staff of Indian armed forces, the highest post for a soldier in the country, discipiled only by the President, who is the official commander in chief of all Indian armed forces.

 There are also other career opportunities in defence apart from joining the Army, Navy or Air force. For instance, one may become a Para commando or a National Security Guard (NSG) commando. However, recruits for the training of such elite forces are usually picked from regular army units and their training is considered one of the toughest training in the world. But that in no way means that one cannot aspire for it.

Career Prospects:

A graduate of NDA is commissioned as an officer in one of the branches of the Armed Forces. If it’s a technical course, one will have to work on machines and computer equipment that is used in tanks, aircraft, ships and submarines. But if his choices are non-technical, he gets to make his start as a first lieutenant in the Army and Navy, and as a Flying Lieutenant in the Air force. Depending on his levels of commitment and sheer skills, he can grow up the hierarchy and also become the chief of staff. It sums down to how mentally and physically tough you are. Life of a soldier is never easy,  the prospects are immense and tough is the life. Discipline is the bedrock and courage is the foundation for anyone to grow in this career.

Eventual Growth of Rank: 

Army-Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier, Major General, Lieutenant General, General and Field Marshal

Navy-Sub-lieutenant, lieutenant, lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, Commodore, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, Admiral and Admiral of the Fleet.

Air Force- Flying Officer, Flight Lieutenant, squadron leader, Wing Commander, Group Captain, Air Commodore, Air Vice Marshal, Air Marshal, Air Chief Marshal and Marshal of the Air Force.


Check the Salary Insights here

Also read Here, How to Prepare for NDA? Here are Some Tips to Crack


National Defence and Naval Academy:

Candidates are selected for admission into Army, Navy and Airforce wing of the NDA and Naval Academy, twice every year on the basis of the written examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. The qualified candidates then appear for an intelligence and personality test conducted by the Service Selection Board.

The written examination comprises of Maths and General Ability Test, which is of two and a half hours each, carrying 300 and 600 marks respectively. Entry to the NDA is restricted only to the unmarried male candidates of the age group 16- 19 years. The candidates need to be citizens of one of the following countries, to be eligible for the countries. The countries are – India, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka and East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia and Vietnam. they can also be migrants from Pakistan.

Educational and Physical Qualifications :

Army Wings of NDA :

1. A pass certificate in 10+2 exam conducted by a state education board or a university.

2. Air Force and Naval Wing of NDA :

3. A pass certificate in 10+2 exam conducted by a state education board or a university with Physics and Maths.

4. A candidate recommended by the Service Selection Board has to undergo a medical examination by a Board of Service Medical Officers. The minimum height acceptable is 157.5 cm(162.5cm for Air Force ). The selected candidates for the three services i.e Army, Navy and Air Force are provided preliminary training – both academic and physical for 3 years at NDA.

The training during the first two and half years is common for the cadets of all the wings. After passing out, the cadets are awarded B.SC/ B.A degree by JNU, DELHI. On passing out, the army cadets are sent to the Indian Military Academy, DEHRA DUN while the Naval and Air Force cadets go to the Cadets Training Ship and AFA, Hyderabad / BFTS, Allahabad.

Pros & Cons


1. Cadets get the utmost respect from civilians. Only the best get selected for training and among them, only the bravest survive and become soldiers.

2. It opens up a whole new world of adventure and thrill and the possibility to serve a cause and advance ahead in ranks.

3. The government pays attention to its soldiers and their families and provides them with all kinds of facilities and perks like free schooling of children health cover, subsidized food and transportation.

4. There are lot of Retirement Benefits


1. They lead a life filled with discipline and obedience. The challenges are not just physical but also mentally taxing.

2. Once you qualify and get admitted, train and enter the permanent service, there is no turning back as exit policies are very strict.

3. Soldiers are mostly posted at dangerous fronts on long stretches and have to remain away from their families for long periods of time

Above all, the army is the rich quality of life tempered by a good discipline offered by the services which cannot find a comparison. The glamour of large compensation in the private sectors attracts a lot of young people. While some do make a pretty success out of it, yet in a majority of cases the pressure of prolonged working hours, often against the biological rhythm brings in a lot of dysfunction in their life. This, in turn, leads to a quick burn out and avoidable stress-related medical problems. It is time that the new generation realized life is not about being in a hurry but to step back and enjoy the journey of life.

NDA as a Career a bright and respectable career option

Read here: 11 Preparation Tips: How to Crack CDS Exam






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