Things to Consider Before Joining the Marine Corps

Marine Corps Preparation

Women Attend Marine Boot Camp At Parris Island, South Carolina
••• Scott Olson / Getty Images

The quality of life within the Marine Corps has it perks and its challenges. First of all, being a Marine is tough, and for the junior enlisted, living on base can be challenging during your first few years. However, if you look at most Marine Corps Bases around the United States and overseas, you will find one thing in common - very close to a beach town. If that is something that makes living in the base barracks a bit more enjoyable, consider it a perk. After all, you could be in the middle of nowhere like many of the bases in the Army and Air Force. All of the branches of service have bases is beautiful areas and some in not so nice areas. Often, the job you select will determine where you will train and live for a significant part of your career so do your research if you are concerned about the quality of life in and around military bases.

Life in the Barracks

While all of the other services are working on programs to give a private room to all of their junior enlisted members, the Marine Corps specifically asked the Secretary of Defense for a waiver to this policy. The Marine Corps plan calls for two junior Marines (paygrades E-1 to E-3) to share a room and bath, to "support the tenets of team building and unit cohesion." E-4s and E-5s are to be assigned private rooms. This is actually not that bad. If you were a college kid at this age, living in a dorm, you would likely be sharing a room just bigger than a closet with two room mates.

As Marines advance in rank, they get better housing options to choose from, if available. Single Marines can live in barrack complexes that resemble a modern college dormitory. These rooms typically consist of a single or shared room and a shared living area. However, more senior Marines and married Marines, can select from a variety of apartments and single-family homes or live off base with a housing allowance that pays their rent or mortgage.

Marine bases can be like living in a small town and some larger bases feel like a city. Some of these are also on the beach. Everything you need are on these bases and food is prepared for you in a cafeteria format. Though the food may not be Mom’s cooking, if you are not a good cook, it is better than nothing and you get plenty to eat when needed. There are post offices, restaurants, shopping centers, medical and dental clinics, movie theaters, water sports (if near beach), and other businesses. 

At most bases, Marines in the rank of E-6 and above can move off base and receive a monetary housing allowance, called BAH. Some services allow E-5's to live off base, but it mainly depends on availability of base housing and the base. They even continue to receive the BAH when deployed (that way, they don't have to terminate their leases).​​ Getting married to move out of the barracks may seem like a good idea for an E-2 19 year old, but it is no reason to get married. It will most likely not end well so be patient.

Like the other services, the Marine Corps is converting existing on-base family housing to "military privatized housing." Under this concept, civilian companies are encouraged to construct, maintain, and manage military-only housing complexes on and close to military bases. The Marine Corps program is run by the Navy and is called " Public Private Ventures." At most bases, married Marines are given a choice of living in family housing, or living off base at a place of their choosing, with a monthly housing allowance.​

Marines who are authorized to live off base at government expense, and those who live in family housing, receive a monthly food allowance, called BAS. Those who live in the barracks/dormitories do not normally receive this allowance, but eat their meals for free in the on-base dining facilities (chow halls).

Want to read more about the pros and cons of choosing the Marine Corps?

Interested in the pros and cons of the other military branches?