Let’s start with the basics.
There are multiple avenues available to aspiring officers. The most common option is either through Officer Candidate School (OCS), which requires the applicant to have complete a 4-year degree or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), which is performed on a part-time basis while the Cadet obtains their degree.
Less common is through West Point, the Army’s post-education system.
Lastly is the Direct Commission Course (DCC), typically reserved for Soldiers whom carry specialty degrees needed by the Army. Such specialties include Chaplains, Judge Advocates, Healthcare professionals, etc.. Social Work falls in the category of Allied Healthcare Professional, meaning my route of commission would fortunately be through direct commission (stoked for dodging another bout of bootcamp-like training)
Direct commission differs from the other avenues of ascension due to the fact that officers receive their commission prior to joining the military, where other recruits are referred to as “candidates” and are required to earn their commission in the aforementioned paths. This makes sense, one simply doesn’t learn how to train for combat in a traditional school setting, it’s an experience that shapes the candidate. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable being led to battle with a soldier with a bachelors degree without significant combat training.
Direct Commission Officer’s primary mission is to utilize their specialty in the Army. As a 73A (Clinical Social Worker), my role is to practice my profession, not necessarily lead troops to battle. However, we are a country at war. As such, war can happen at anytime, especially in a non-linear environment such as the Middle East. DCC is meant to provide Soldiers with basic Army philosophies and tasks to indoctrinate them into the unique environment. Being prior service, this serves as a re-run of the training I’ve participated in thus far. However, most Direct Commission Soldiers have no experience in the military, rendering the need for training as absolutely vital to success in the Army.
As previously mentioned, Direct Commission Officers must meet a certain criteria in order to ascend into the Army without “earning” it in the vigor of OCS, ROTC, or West Point. And holding the profession isn’t necessarily enough to guarantee acceptance into the military. Given the experience and perks to commissioning into the military, it can be highly competitive to commission in various MOS’s, including healthcare professions.
I can only speak to 73A Clinical Social Workers, and the level of competition to commission. As of the date of this submission, there are three routes to commissioning as a 73A. With full licensure as an LCSW, the Army’s Masters of Social Work program through FSU (Now University of Kentucky), or through The Army’s Social Work Internship Program (SWIP). My route was through the latter, SWIP.