Active Duty vs Reserve: Difference and Comparison

Active duty and Reserve are two branches to serve in while joining the military. A person can choose between the two of them and can serve in the military as he wants.

In both, the person will be called a militant though the perks given to him will be slightly different, and the responsibilities will be different as well.

Key Takeaways

  1. Active duty service members serve full-time in the military, while reservists have civilian jobs and participate in military training part-time.
  2. Active duty members may be deployed worldwide, while reservists serve domestically unless activated for specific missions.
  3. Reservists receive similar benefits as active duty personnel, but some may be prorated or limited based on the time served.

Active Duty vs Reserve

The difference between active duty and reserve is that active duty is a full-time job in the armed force. They have to be on-site where they are posted full-time, they don’t have much say in where they live. On the other hand, reserve duty is a part-time job, the candidates can have a half-civilian life, and live in their own houses.

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Active-duty soldiers can be sent to any military station in the US. It depends on which unit they are positioned in and what mission lies ahead.

They live in militant bases. They receive full payment for their service and are also given many benefits.

Reserve soldiers can get their training from a location near their home. So they can complete their education while they are training.

They serve as soldiers part-time and only have to serve full-time when called up for active duty.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonActive DutyReserve Duty
DefinitionActive duty is a full-time service by a candidate in the military for the country.Reserve duty is also service to the nation as a militant though it is more like a part-time job. The soldier has to do the service half-time only.
BenefitsThe soldier is given full benefits of educational, healthcare, and retirement plans.The soldier is given many benefits but not full benefits as compared to the active-duty soldiers.
CompensationTheir compensation package includes bonuses and training allowance.Their compensation depends on the training time and period of active duty.
DeploymentThey can be deployed anywhere.They are stationed nearby their home and can only be deployed in case of emergencies.
LeaveThey can have a leave of 30 days a year.They can have a leave of 20 days a year.

What Is Active Duty?

Active duty is a 24/7 job serving the nation. Active-duty soldiers get military training and opt for full-time service for the country’s protection.

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Anyone with US citizenship, a High school diploma, and above 18 years of age can apply to be a soldier. The military then chooses the candidate depending on height, weight, fitness, and some other aspects.

After the training in the active duty position, the candidate can be deployed to any station the government wants. The posting depends on the unit the soldier is in and the mission which lies ahead.

And it will be a full-time job. The soldier is given full payment monthly and many benefits like medical benefits, dental benefits, education benefits, retirement plans, housing, food allowance, etc.

The soldier can retire after 20 years of service with a full retirement plan.

The active-duty soldiers get leave for 30 days per year. And a time which is known as liberty for a while which can be 24, 48, 72, or 96 hours.

And the sick time is also given when approved by medical personnel. The sick leave is not counted against the leave.

active duty

What is Reserve?

The reserve is not a full-time duty, and it is like a part-time job. The candidate will only be on duty for half time, and the other half of the day he can spend as a normal civilian.

The candidate has been given the location for the training, which is nearby his/her house. So they can complete their education and live nearby home. They will only be deployed to another station when called for active duty service.

Since reserve duty is part-time, the benefits given are also partial. The soldier is given a modified retirement plan and health, dental, and medical benefits.

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The benefit includes a healthcare plan, educational assistance if the service years are at least six, TSP, etc. Also, the soldier can retire after 20 years of service but will not be given as much benefit as the active duty service soldiers.

The reserve duty soldiers can join active duty if they want or return to civilian life. If they join active duty, they will be given full benefits.

The leave and liberty also differ for the reserve duty soldiers. They can have a leave of 20 days per year. And the liberty will be according to the conditions of the base.

reserve duty

Main Differences Between Active Duty And Reserve

  1. Active duty is a 24/7 job. Reserve duty is a part-time job.
  2. In Active duty, the soldier will be stationed where the government needs service. While on reserve duty, the soldier will be stationed at a location nearby his home.
  3. In Active duty, full medical benefits are given, while in reserve duty, partial benefits are provided.
  4. The active-duty soldiers are given compensation as bonuses and training allowances. In contrast, the bonuses and training allowance of a reserve duty soldier depends on the training time and the period of active duty service.
  5. Active duty allows the soldier to retire with full benefits after 20 years of service, while reserve duty gives modified benefits.
  6. The rules of leave and liberty are also different for active duty and reserve duty militants.
Difference Between Active Duty And Reserve

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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10 thoughts on “Active Duty vs Reserve: Difference and Comparison”

  1. It’s so interesting to see the differences between the two types of military service, they both seem to have unique benefits that could sway some people’s decisions one way or the other.

    • I’m interested to see how having a reserve duty might change in the future, as part-time work becomes more common across all industries.

  2. Thank you for addressing the benefits and the rules of leave, this is all information that would be so critical to a new recruit.

  3. This is a great resource for anyone who might be considering military service- there’s so much detailed information here.


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