Top 15 Army ROTC Programs

Today, I’m going to share what I believe are the top 15 Army ROTC programs in the United States. This list is subjective. You will probably disagree with my ranking. That’s cool! I promise not to lose sleep over it if you don’t!

How do you come up with a ranking of top Army ROTC programs? Should it include:

  • Age of the program
  • Number of students enrolled in ROTC
  • Location
  • # of degree choices available
  • The cost
  • Number of General Officers commissioned via the program
  • Graduate rates
  • Famous Alumni
  • Employment rates after the military
  • Number of graduates with zero college loans
  • Or something else?

Are one of these things more important than another? I don’t know what the correct answer is. To me, all of those things are important. Therefore, I am using ALL of those factors, plus my own opinion to create this list. Please know that before reading it and leaving a nasty comment (I’ve deleted several). Thanks.

ROTC programs began in 1916 with the passing of the National Defense Act. Basically, ROTC allows college students to take military classes while they earn their college degree and receive their officer commission upon graduating with their Bachelor’s Degree.

In all, there are approximately 270 different Army ROTC programs in the United States. Some programs are large and others are small. Some schools are ultra-expensive and others are very affordable. Before picking an Army ROTC program, decide what factors are important to you and then do your research.

Top Army ROTC Programs

Top 15 Army ROTC Programs

In the paragraphs below, you will see my list of the top 15 Army ROTC programs. As always, you may agree or disagree with what I have to say. Like anything else in life, be an informed person and do your due diligence before choosing a ROTC program. Enjoy the list!

# 15: Clarkson University – Potsdam, New York

I had to put Clarkson’s Army ROTC program on this list because this is the program I attended. Located in Potsdam, New York, Clarkson is an admired engineering school. Clarkson offers ROTC for both the Army and Air Force.

Their students are from several different colleges in the local area. My experience there was wonderful. The cadre was professional and competent. Student life was great. It’s located about an hour from Fort Drum, so you get access to some great training areas. You can read more about my experience at Clarkson University ROTC program here.

Clarkson’s Army ROTC Program provides world class training and the opportunity to commission as an Army officer upon graduation. Cadets wishing to continue past their sophomore year must sign a contract and make a commitment to serve when they graduate. In return, all contracted cadets receive a monthly stipend during their junior and senior years.

We were ranked in the Top 5 nationwide by Washington Monthly for the percentage of students that participate in ROTC over the past 5 years. Our battalion is relatively large for the size of our school. The small-school feel of Clarkson, along with the strong military presence on campus, makes it a comfortable and supportive place to train in becoming an Army leader.

# 14: Vanderbilt University – Nashville, Tennessee

This university has a long tradition of excellent military training and its fine ROTC programs are a part of that tradition. It is a highly acclaimed educational institution also, so the combined ROTC and degree programs can provide anyone with a nice boost to becoming a commissioned officer in the United States Armed Services.

One of Vanderbilt’s cadets in training just recently won the prestigious Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium Award at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. It is not so surprising that a Vanderbilt student won, but the cadet was the first undergraduate in history to take the top prize.

Vanderbilt Army ROTC prepares men and women for responsibilities as Second Lieutenants in the Unites States Army, Army Reserve, or Army National Guard upon graduation.

Cadets attend Basic Course for the first two years of college. Students entering their junior year who wish to join ROTC attend the Leaders’ Training Course (LTC), a 4-week intensive summer course. Cadets then spend the final two years of college in Advance Course. Every cadet must pass to the Leader Development & Assessment Course (LDAC), a 5- week summer evaluation generally attended in between junior and senior year. Upon completion of all requirements, cadets will be commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the U.S. Army, Army Reserves, or Army National Guard.

Source: Vanderbilt University

# 13: Iowa State University – Ames, Iowa

Another university with several dedicated ROTC programs. This university can trace its combined military training and educational history all the way back to 1919. The Army has recognized the Army ROTC program several times for being one of the best in the Midwest Region year-after-year. The university has all the branches of the military represented in its ROTC programs.

Army ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) is one of the best leadership courses in the country and offers classes you can take as electives within your normal college curriculum. You can take up to the first two years of the program without having to contract to serve in the Army. There are programs for students with two, three or four years of college remaining and there is even a program for graduate students.

Every Army ROTC Cadet who enters the Advanced Course attends the Cadet Leader Course. It’s a four- week summer course to evaluate and train all Army ROTC Cadets. This course normally takes place between your junior and senior years of college, and is conducted at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Source: Iowa State University

# 12: The University of South Carolina – Columbia, South Carolina

South Carolina is a state that has always had a strong pride in its military tradition dating all the way back to the Civil War; the University of South Carolina only adds to that tradition with its award winning ROTC programs. Since its ROTC’s Establishment in 1947, ten officers have attained the rank of General in the Army. The University is also well known and prides itself on the ethnic diversity in its highly successful ROTC programs.

The University of South Carolina is one of the few schools in the nation to have Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC programs. These programs prepare students to be both leaders and life-long learners.

Each ROTC program at UofSC offers scholarships that can ease the burden of paying for a college degree. With a lower cost of education, cadets can focus on what really matters: growing as a leader and scholar.

The ROTC programs are not limited to any degree programs. Whether your passion is art or engineering, ROTC enhances studies by emphasising the importance of making academics a priority. The leadership skills learned through ROTC will show up in the classroom and beyond.

Source: University of South Carolina

# 11: Michigan State University – East Lansing, Michigan

All branches of the military are well represented at Michigan State University. This huge public university in East Lansing can trace its military based training all the way back to 1884 when it was known as Michigan Agricultural College. It’s well represented cadet corps often receive both regional and national ROTC awards for excellence from the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

Army careers and experience readily translate into experience for the civilian job market. Courses are taught by highly-qualified Army instructors. Military Science classes offer unparalleled leadership training, where hands-on skills, confidence building, military history, and teamwork are developed and honed.

We are highly competitive amongst the ROTC programs. The last official ranking of our program places us 12th out of the 275 programs in the Nation. We have won our brigade’s “Bold Warrior” competition six out of the last seven years, and five years consecutively. We sent a team to West Point’s Sandhurst Competition and placed third out of the competing ROTC programs. These competitions focus on military tasks and teamwork – orienteering, marksmanship, physical fitness, small unit tactics, problem solving, team building, etc. They are both physically and mentally challenging competitions.

Source: Michigan State University

The Reserve Officer Training Corps ROTC is a college program offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities

# 10: Villanova University – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This small but mighty university ROTC program is most heavily focused on its proud Naval ROTC program which dates back to 1946. Since that time Villanova has produced 22 Admirals and Generals in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. At one point there were only two generals to ever reach the rank of 4 star generals in the US Marine Corps and they were both graduates of Villanova’s ROTC program. They also have an Army ROTC program.

We are a proud organization, dedicated to producing the finest quality leaders possible. Our program will challenge you to do things you never have done before while teaching you valuable leadership skills that will last a lifetime.

Believe it or not, you register for ROTC just like any other course here at the Villanova University. Our classes fall under what is known as Military Science.

Classes are designed to introduce you and develop your leadership skills through classroom and practical exercises that can be applied to all facets of your school, work, and personal life. Additionally, we will orient you to what the Army is and how it works.

# 9: Combined Program @ George Washington, Georgetown, American, & Catholic Universities – Washington, DC

One must wonder if a combined ROTC program at these separate well-known universities can really work. Well apparently the Army thinks it can. This program beat out 272 senior ROTC programs across the nation to be rated the Army’s #1 ranked program in 2011.

The George Washington Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) is a unique and exciting experience that adds military training, opportunities and knowledge to the typical undergraduate program. The program is comprised of midshipmen and prior-enlisted Sailors and Marines from GW, Catholic University, Georgetown University and Howard University.

Known as one of the best ROTC units in the country, the GW NROTC unit is made up of dedicated, well-rounded and motivated midshipmen, Sailors and Marines. Slots in the program are highly sought after by candidates who are selected by Naval Services and Training Command to be the future leaders of America. We are deeply invested in our members and our unit is dedicated to excellence to represent the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.

Navy ROTC is offered on-campus at GW. Students may register for Naval Science courses through GWeb when registering for their fall and spring courses. Non-GW students wishing to participate in the Navy ROTC program must register through the Consortium at their home institution.

Army and Air Force ROTC programs are offered at Georgetown University and Howard University, respectively. GW students who wish to participate in either program must register for courses each semester through the Consortium.

Source: George Washington University

# 8: The University of Mississippi – Oxford, Mississippi

Ole Miss is another large university that is well represented in its ROTC programs by all of the major United States Armed Forces. It is another school that has a long history of military training and education that dates back to the universities inception in 1848.

As a sign of its strong military tradition, in 1861 the entire student body signed up to fight for the south in the Civil War, they became a unit that suffered a 100% casualty rate, mostly at the Battle of Gettysburg. They have won the Army ROTC’s prestigious MacArthur Award for excellence several times.

Over 20 of the university’s ROTC alumni have gone on to become generals or flag officers in the United States Armed Forces.

The specific education you receive in Army ROTC will include leadership development, military skills, self management, and a wide variety of other skill sets that will improve your ability to serve as an office in the United States Army . This will take place both in the classroom and in the field, but you will have a normal daily schedule like all college students. Army ROTC is comprised of two phases: Basic Course and Advanced Course.

The Basic Course normally takes place during your first two years in college as elective courses. The Advanced Course takes place during your last two years in college as elective courses. It normally includes three hours of classroom instruction and then a three hour lab on Thursday afternoons. You will learn advanced military tactics and gain experience in team organization, planning and decision-making. Entering the Advanced Course requires a commitment to serve as an Officer in the U.S. Army after you graduate.

Source: The University of Mississippi

Army ROTC has provided leadership and military training at schools and universities

# 7: Santa Clara University – Santa Clara, California

Santa Clara University can trace its military training history all the way back to the civil war era. They are a small university with an extremely passionate and well recognized ROTC program. Almost half of their ROTC cadets scored in the top 20% of all ROTC scores across the country; that is simply amazing when it comes to academic figures. They also consistently beat out the bigger universities on the west coast for the Army ROTC’s top regional program award.

Army ROTC at Santa Clara is a program that fosters development of cadets’ academic, athletic, professional, and mental strengths. Students attend class and physical training for three hours each week, along with a Wednesday lab session that features hands-on instruction regarding Army operations and leadership situations. This program is ideally designed as a four year, process. Cadets will spend their first two years familiarizing themselves with the Army, and in their third year will be expected to perform and improve as leaders in preparation for a summer leadership development camp at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. The fourth and final year of Army ROTC introduces cadets to the responsibilities of military staff, teaching them to plan, train, lead, and develop their junior cadets in preparation for their commission. A typical four year education with Santa Clara University ROTC comes with a service obligation of four years in the Army–a job that this program prepares its cadets for with a fine reputation.

Army ROTC also gives cadets the opportunity to gain further Army experience, as they can earn appointments to Army training schools where they will parachute from airplanes or rappel from helicopters. In addition, cadets are allowed a single quarter of study abroad, as well as the opportunity to participate in Army funded immersion trips to dozens of countries across the globe in the summer months.

Source: Santa Clara University

# 6: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) – Blacksburg, Virginia

This is one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges (ROTC graduates automatically get an officer’s commission in the United States Armed Services if they so desire). It is one of only two predominantly civilian colleges that hosts a full time active cadet corps (Texas A&M is the other).

It is a hybrid program that is extremely popular because it gives you the structured discipline and training of an academy, but with a little down time for normal college life too.

The Reserve Officer Training Corps is a college elective that develops Leadership Skills in our students as they prepare for Military Service. Army ROTC offers a commission as a second lieutenant in either the active Army or Reserve Forces in a variety of career fields including Combat Arms (Aviation, Armor, Artillery, Infantry, or Engineers), Combat Support, and Combat Service Support branches. There are two-, three-, and four-year scholarship programs available. Some cadets choose to join the National Guard or the Army Reserve while in Army ROTC, thus qualifying them for the Montgomery GI Bill benefits, in-state tuition (VANG) and other exciting benefits.

As an Army cadet, you are required to meet and maintain specific fitness standards Cadets have physical fitness tests quarterly to ensure they are meeting their scholarship and/or enrollment conditions.

Source: Virginia Tech

The U.S. Army, according to its website, was the first to launch an ROTC program as part of the National Defense Act of 1916.

# 5: The University of North Georgia (The Military College of Georgia) – Dahlonega, Georgia

This university was originally founded as a private military college but eventually became part of the state controlled university system. It is also designated as one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges.

Of its current enrollment of 15,000 students, approximately 1,000 of them serve in the university’s corps of cadets. The university has been a pipeline for career senior officers in the National Guard and Army Reserve.

It currently only has an Army ROTC program, but it’s still represented by officers in all branches of the United States Military.

The University of North Georgia is a leadership institution and one of only six Senior Military Colleges in the nation. Our Corps of Cadets experience is the best leadership development program in the country. Proof is from national recognition, and more importantly, our graduates who are serving in positions that are vital to protecting our U.S. national security interests throughout the world.

The Corps of Cadets is a nationally and internationally recognized program of choice for students pursuing careers as leaders in the U.S. Army, government and non-government agencies, and global corporations. The Corps of Cadets experience will prepare you to deal with adversity and thrive in our ever-changing world.

Source: University of North Georgia

# 4: Norwich University – Northfield, Vermont

Yet another school on the list that was originally founded as a private military college, this small university has the honor of being the “Birthplace of ROTC”. Its ROTC program dates all the way back to 1819.

It boasts having graduated 138 Generals and Flag Officers into the United States Armed Forces since the ROTC program began. Of interest to note: it also has graduated 16 generals which currently serve in the Republic of China Armed forces and 9 Royal Thai generals also.

It is also designated as one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges.

Norwich University is proud to be the birthplace of America’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, having celebrated 100 years of commissioned officer development in 2016.

Our Army, Navy, and Air Force leadership teams are integrated into Norwich University in alignment with the institution’s mission to produce leaders for our nation. Their military-science coursework is a key component of the Corps of Cadets professional development. At Norwich, students in any lifestyle, whether Corps or civilian, have the opportunity to learn about leadership and the military profession. Members of the Norwich Corps of Cadets have chosen a military education path, whether or not they pursue a commission, and civilians who attend find themselves better equipped to understand the military lifestyle and to work with military personnel.

Source: Norwich University

# 3: Texas A&M University – College Station, Texas

How good is Texas A&M University as a military officer’s training school? On more than one survey of the top military training schools in the country it ranked higher than at least one service academy. That is a pretty impressive credential to say the least.

The school currently has over 2,000 members in its corps of cadets, of which over half are expected to earn military commissions. The school boasts producing a total of 225 Generals and Flag Officers in the United States Armed Forces since the ROTC type programs began all the way back in 1876.

It has been represented by an officer in every war that America has fought. It is also designated as one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges. It is one of only two predominantly civilian colleges that host a full time active cadet corps.

Army ROTC will give you valuable real-world tools and leadership skills that will benefit not only your professional career but your personal life as well.

Army ROTC is an elective curriculum you take along with your required college classes. It prepares you with the tools, training and experiences that will help you succeed in any competitive environment. Along with great leadership training, Army ROTC can pay for your college tuition, too. You will have a normal college student experience like everyone else on campus, but when you graduate, you will be an Officer in the Army.

Being an Officer in the U.S. Army means you’re a leader, a counselor, a strategist and a motivator. It’s similar to being a vital manager in a corporation. As an Officer, you will lead other Soldiers in all situations and adjust in environments that are always changing. You’ll be driven to achieve success with your team on every mission.

Source: Texas A&M University

# 2: Virginia Military Institute – Lexington, Virginia

This small college with an enrollment of only a little over 1,500 students has an enviable record as a leader in ROTC programs. The school boasts producing a total of 260 Generals and Flag Officers in the United States Armed Forces, which is an incredible amount considering its small enrollment.

ROTC participation for the student body is 100% mandatory, one of only two such higher learning institutions that require this (The Citadel is the other).

Of interest to note: General George Patton started school there but finished getting his degree from West Point Military Academy. Among the notable alumni is one of only six 5 star generals of the Army in history, General George Marshall. It is also designated as one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges.

VMI boasts the largest ROTC program in the country where each year approximately 800 cadets enroll in Army ROTC. Additionally, VMI commissions more 2nd Lieutenants than any other senior military college. As part of ROTC programming, upper-class Army cadets serve as leaders in the battalion at all levels and organize major training events such as spring and fall Field Training Exercises. All cadets start at the lower ranks and work their way up to the top.

Institute Regulations require that all cadets complete four years of ROTC training in one of the three ROTC programs: Army, Navy/Marine, or Air Force. The VMI system is designed to prepare qualified cadets for a military commission upon graduation, but there is no requirement that cadets seek a commission.

Source: Virginia Military Institute

# 1: The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina) – Charleston, South Carolina

Founded in 1842, this prestigious privately owned military college has long been thought of as the “West Point of the South”, a title that dates all the way back to its pre-Civil War heritage.

This is another of the six recognized Senior Military Colleges in the USA. ROTC participation for the students is 100% mandatory.

The school boasts producing a total of 278 Generals and Flag Officers in the United States Armed Forces. Of interest to note: seven of its alumni have gone on to join the well-known Navy Blue Angels or Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration teams.

Among its notable graduates is General William Westmoreland, commander of the American Forces in Vietnam.

The ROTC Departments at The Citadel offer commissioning opportunities in all branches of the armed services. While every cadet must successfully complete a course in one of four ROTC departments each semester, cadets are not required to work toward a ROTC commission, or to accept a ROTC commission should it be offered.

Each military service (Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy) has its own scholarship criteria and application process. You may apply for a four-year ROTC scholarship early in your senior year in high school. Once you are at The Citadel, you may apply for a two-year or three-year scholarship. These scholarships pay all tuition costs, but do not cover room and board, books, supplies, or Quarter Master account.

Source: The Citadel

Army ROTC produces approximately 60 percent of the Second Lieutenants

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that there are many great Army ROTC programs to choose from. At the end of the day, I think the college you pick is more important than the ROTC program itself. Pick a college that has a good academic program AND a ROTC program. Put your academics first and everything else should fall into place.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below to let me know what your favorite ROTC program is. I look forward to hearing from you.

Check out this cool ROTC apparel on Amazon. Just click on the image below.

army rotc shirt

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chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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3 thoughts on “Top 15 Army ROTC Programs”

  1. Thanks for pulling this ROTC List together and also the comments from George Lachicotte for his imput. ( we are looking @ UTenn for my #2)
    The fact that you also addressed his comments in such a professional manner and will review his suggestions is really why I will keep checking back in. My son is @ UNG and the program is doing a great job for the school and him.


  2. You left off University of Notre Dame – today consistently one of the highest performing University ROTC BNs in the nation.

    3 (would have been 4 if not for COVID19) years in a row with the Nation’s #1 physical fitness average. 2018 #1 Order of Merit Score (cumulative score for a Cadet’s career as a rising Junior) BN average in the nation.

    Consistently finishes in the top 10 every year. Not to mention the history between Navy ROTC, Army ROTC, and Air Force ROTC with Notre Dame, and the fact that NROTC saved the University in 1949 from being shut down.

    Finally, they had the #1 Army ROTC Cadet of the year named by Naval Federal Credit Union in 2019 and currently have a top 4 Cadet for 2020 (still awaiting final announcement of #1). The school has way more rigor, history, and productivity than Vandy (bad call on that one).

    Also, U of TN wasn’t even mentioned. They established the 1st Ranger Company of any ROTC in the Nation. Not to mention their long list of accolades, including history, generals produced, and sheer number of Cadets commissioned for a non-military university.

    1. Notre Dame is a great school. Thanks for letting me know about their ROTC program. They definitely have their act together with it. The next time I update this list I will be sure to include them.

      I’ll also have to check out the University of Tennessee, to see what I can find out about their ROTC program. I appreciate your insights.

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