NDA Vs CDS: Dream Towards Honour to Serve the Nation

By Namrata Padhi

The National Defence Academy (NDA) and the Combined Defence Services (CDS) Exams are conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, i.e. UPSC for those Candidates who are passionate to serve their Nation dedicatedly. It is a very prestigious job with lakh of aspirants trying their fate in the Indian Defence Sector. 

The National Defence Academy (NDA) is the Joint Services academy of the Indian Armed Forces, where cadets of the three services, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force train together before they go on to respective service academies for further pre-commissioning training.

The Combined Defence Services (CDS) is the examination for recruitment into Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy, Indian Naval Academy and Indian Air Force Academy.


NDA Exam- Syllabus, Exam Pattern, Cutoffs,Registration
CDS Exam-Syllabus, Exam Pattern, Cutoffs, Registration


Nationality for both the Exams:

A 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


Eligibility Criteria for NDA

For Written Test Exam:

Age: Applicants should be in between 16.5 to 19 years of age.

1. For Army Wing: A candidate who wants to join the Army Wing should have passed the 10+2 exam in any stream.

2. For Navy: A candidate should have passed 10+2 exam in science stream with Physics, Chemistry and Maths as their basic subjects.

3. For Air Force: A candidate should have passed 10+2 exam in science stream with Physics, Chemistry and Maths as their basic subjects.


1. Army wings: 157.5 cms

2. Navy Wings: 157 cms

3. Air Force: 162.5 cms

4. Chest of the candidate should be well developed and should not be less than 81 cms


Eligibility Criteria for CDS

Educational Qualifications:

1. For I.M.A. and Officers’ Training Academy: Degree of a recognized University or equivalent.

2. For Indian Naval Academy: Degree in Engineering from a recognized University/Institution.

3. For Air Force Academy: Degree of a recognized University (with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level) or Bachelor of Engineering.

Age Limits, Sex and Marital Status (For CDS 2020):

1. For IMA: Unmarried male candidates born not earlier than 2nd July 1996 and not later than 1st July I999 only are eligible.

2. For Indian Naval Academy: Unmarried male candidates born not earlier than 2nd July 1996 and not later than 1st July 1999 only are eligible.

3. For Air Force Academy: 20 to 24 years as on 1st July 2020 i.e. born not earlier than 2nd July 1996 and not later than 1st July 1998 (Upper age limit for candidates holding valid and current Commercial Pilot Licence issued by DGCA (India) is relaxable up to 26 yrs. i.e. born not earlier than 2nd July 1994 and not later than 1st July 1998) only are eligible.

Note: Candidate below 25 years of age must be unmarried. Marriage is not permitted during training. Married candidates above 25 years of age are eligible to apply but during the training period they will neither be provided married accommodation nor can they live with family out of the premises.

4. For Officers' Training Academy: (SSC Course for men) unmarried male candidates born not earlier than 2nd July 1995 and not later than 1st July 1999 only are eligible.

5.  For Officers' Training Academy: (SSC Women Non-Technical Course) Unmarried women, issueless widows who have not remarried and issueless divorcees (in possession of divorce documents) who have not remarried are eligible. They should have been born not earlier than 2nd July 1995 and not later than 1st July 1999. 


NOTE: Male divorcee/widower candidates cannot be treated as unmarried males for the purpose of their admission in IMA/INA/AFA courses and accordingly they are not eligible for these courses.


Height Requirements(Minimum):

Male candidates is 157.5 cm (157 cm for Navy and 162.5 cm for Air Force).

For women candidates, the minimum height is 152 cms. For Gorkhas and candidates belonging to North-Eastern regions, Garhwali and Kumaon, the minimum height will be 5 cm less. In case of candidates from Lakshadweep, the minimum acceptable height can be reduced by 2 cm. 


Highlights for NDA and CDS Exam:

The candidates preparing for NDA or CDS exams have to know the basic details before registration.

Category NDA CDS
Age limit 16.5-19.5 years 19-25 years
Gender Only for men Both for men and women
Qualification Minimum 12th qualified Minimum graduation qualified
Exam Frequency Conducted twice a year (April and September) Conducted twice a year (February and November)
Exam Scheme Written exam and SSB interview Written exam and SSB interview

Training Program for NDA-

Candidates who qualify the NDA are required to go through the following training programmes and they also earn a stipend of Rs-21000 per month.


Army Cadets- The training is given for a period of 4 years. 3 years at NDA, Pune and 1 year at IMA (Indian Military Academy), Dehradun. 


Naval Cadets- The training is given for a period of 4 years. 3 years at NDA, Pune and 1 year at the Naval Academy, Kerala 


Air Force Cadets- The training is given for the period of 4 and ½ years.3 years at NDA, Pune and 1 and ½ years at air force Academy, Hyderabad.


Training Program for CDS-

Candidates who qualify the CDS are required to go through the following training programs:


Army Candidates-18 months at IMA (Indian Military Academy), Dehradun.


Naval Candidates- 37-40 months at Naval Academy, Kerala.


Air Force Candidates- 74 months at Air Force Academy, Hyderabad

During the training, program cadets are offered a stipend of Rs-21,000/- per month.
Degrees Awarded:
After the completion of the training programs, NDA cadets are awarded the following degrees:
Army Cadets – B.Sc./ B.Sc. (Computer)/BA / B.Tech degree
Naval Cadets – B.Tech degree
Air Force Cadets – B.Tech degree
They all are assigned the rank of a Lieutenant.
The degrees awarded to CDS cadets are:
Army Cadets in IMA – Post Graduate Diploma in Military and Defence Management
Officers Training Academy, Chennai – Post Graduate Diploma in Defence Management and Strategic Studies
They also begin their career with the  rank of a Lieutenant

Salary Overview:

There is a huge salary difference between the officers selected through the NDA and CDS. The salary description is given below:
Category NDA CDS
Lieutenant Rs-15,600 to 39,100/-  (+a grade pay of 5,400) Rs-56,100 to 1,77,500/-
Captain Rs-15,600-39,100 (+a grade pay of 6,1000) Rs-61,300 to 1,93,900/-
Major Rs-15,600 to 39,100 (+ a grade pay of 6,600) Rs-69,400 to 2,07,200/-
lieutenant Colonel Rs-37,400 to 67,000 (+a grade pay of 8,000) Rs-1,21,200 to 212400/-
Colonel Rs-37,400 to 67,000 (+a grade pay of 8,700) Rs-1,30,600 to 2,15,900/-
Brigadier Rs-37,400 to 67,000 (+ a grade pay of 89,000) Rs-139600 to 217600/-
Major General Rs-37,400 to 67, 000 (+a grade pay of 10,000) Rs-144,200 to 218200/-
Lieutenant General Higher Administrative Grade scale (HAG scale) Rs-67,000 to 79,000/- Rs-1,82,200 to 2,24,100/-
Lieutenant General Higher administrative Grade + scale (HAG + scale_) Rs-75,000 to 80,000/- Rs-2,05,400 to 2,24,400/-
Lieutenant General Rs-80,000/- Rs-2,25,000/-
Chief Army/Navy/ Air Force staff Rs-90,000/- Rs-2,50,000/-

There is something another offer for Flying Allowance:

Position NDA ( per month) CDS( per month)
Lieutenant Rs-9,000/- Rs-25,000/-
Captain Rs-11,000/- Rs-25,000/-
Major to Colonel Rs-14,000/- Rs-25,000/-
Brigadier and above Rs-10,500/- Rs-25,000/-

NDA officer Allowance VS CDS officer Allowance:

Type  NDA Cadets CDS Cadets
High Altitude Allowance Rs- 1,060 Rs-3,400 to 25,000
Kit Maintenance Allowance Rs-400 Subsumed in to DA
Dearness Allowance Same as civilian Gazetted Officers Same as civilian Gazetted Officers
Siachen Allowance Not Applicable Rs-42,500
Uniform Allowance Rs-14,000 (initial) and  Rs-3,000  (every 3 years) Subsumed into proposed DA
Transport Allowance Rs-1,600 to 3,200 + DA Rs- 3,600 to 7,200 + DA
Children Education Allowance Not Applicable Rs-2,250 per month/ per child for two children from Nursery to 12th.

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.


Here we gave you some information related to NDA and CDS. They both are excellent in their own way. All things matter about your passion and the dream that you want to live.  We can say, for a building the most important part is the foundation which carries all the pressure as like for a nation the most important part is the armed academy. If you get a chance to join in these academies then it’s a talk of respect and honor that the whole pressure of the nation on your shoulder. The pay scale somehow differs for NDA and CDS, but the dignity is the same both for an NDA Officer and a CDS Officer. 
Read here: 11 Preparation Tips: How to Crack CDS Exam
Read also : How to Prepare for NDA? Here are Some Tips to Crack


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