A Reserve Office Training Corps (ROTC) is a college program that exists in many countries. Its purpose is to train students to become officers in the military force of their country, should they elect to serve after college. There are military colleges that offer ROTC programs, which are typically a requirement of all students, but private and public schools often allow voluntary participation in ROTC.
There are many countries that have ROTC programs, including Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea. Similar programs began in the US in 1819 at Norwich University in Vermont, which offered a military program. Officially, however, the US ROTC began in 1916 and is modeled after the British system for training officers.
The colleges offering ROTC programs in the US are of three types: civilian colleges, military colleges, and junior colleges. Students complete not only academic studies but also receive military training. Focus is on promoting leadership, encouraging honorable conduct, and preparing students to take an officer rank should they choose to participate in the military after college.
Training during college in ROTC organizes students into groups. Each group has a different name, depending upon which branch of the military the students expect to serve in after college. For example, the US Army creates battalions and brigades of trainees.
Students in civilian college who participate in ROTC are generally easy to recognize, since they are dressed in uniform. They usually have the official designation of cadet while in school; however, students training for the navy may be called midshipmen. Upon leaving college, they can enter the military force as a lieutenant, which means greater authority, and greater pay.
Those who study at a military college almost always have a guaranteed position in the armed forces after completing school. Those who participate in ROTC programs at civilian colleges may not have the same guarantee in place. However, when recruitment numbers are flagging, most who participate in a program are welcomed in the armed forces upon graduation.
Not all civilian colleges in the US have ROTC programs, and some schools have had academic policies that the program has chosen not to follow, leaving it to withdraw from the school. Many ROTC programs were also faced with mass protests on college campuses during the Vietnam war, focused not only on the war, but also on the fact that many colleges required participation of all able male students in the ROTC programs on campus. As a result, programs were made voluntary in most cases.
The ROTC model has produced many noteworthy officers such as General Colin Powell and General Hugh Shelton, who have both chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The programs have become increasingly specialized, depending upon which branch of the armed forces a student wishes to serve in after college. Some of the most popular colleges are those that offer opportunities to train as a pilot.