Applying to for an ROTC scholarship not only requires candidates to meet the Whole Person Concept (scholar, athlete, leader), you must also be medically qualified! Each branch has their own set of color vision requirements that future ROTC scholarship applicants must meet in order to be eligible for admission.

We’ve written extensively on the organization that determines whether or not you’re medically qualified (the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board or “DODMERB”), but what about the color vision requirements for ROTC scholarship applicants?

Your eyesight is important in the military. You need to be able to communicate with your team and color vision can make up a central component of your ability to communicate. In this post, we’ll provide an overview of the requirements by branch/ROTC program. Not all branches require normal color vision, but you’ll have to be educated about the requirements of each branch in order to make smart decisions about your future career of service.

ROTC and Service Academy color vision requirements aren’t the same, so keep that in mind if you’re applying for multiple (ie: a Marine Corps Option ROTC scholarship and a Service Academy like the Naval Academy).

Army ROTC Color Vision Requirements

Army ROTC does not require perfect color vision, but you must be able to distinguish between red and green.

The Army has three classes of color vision:

  • Color safe
  • Color deficient
  • Color blind

The EOD branch is the only officer specialty where you cannot be red/green colorblind.

PIP Test

When you go to your optometry appointment with a DoDMERB contractor, you’ll be given a PIP test to test your color vision. With this test, you call out the number displayed on each card. If you fail this test, you’ll be given the chance to pass a vivid Red/Green test. This second-chance test is specific to the Army. No other branches consider this test.

The vivid Red/Green test will show you a series of black and white plates, red plates, and green plates. You must be able to call out the color on every plate correctly to pass. A passing score is 5/10, as there are 5 black and white plates. Anything below a 5/10 is a fail and will result in an automatic disqualification “DQ”.

Keep in mind that the vivid Red/Green test is specific to the Army. Any optometrist that isn’t a government contractor probably will not know about this test, or have the equipment to administer it.

Navy ROTC Color Vision Requirements

Navy ROTC requires normal color vision. A color vision deficiency is rarely waived. A small percentage of midshipmen are allowed to be color deficient, but this is determined on a case-by-case basis as any other waiver. Expect a DQ for any color deficiency.

The Waggoner Computerized Color Vision Test (CCVT) seems to be the standard for the Navy if students fail the initial PIP test.

If you are granted a waiver, you’ll be limited to Line Duty Officer assignments upon graduation. This means you won’t be able to fly, serve as a submarine officer, or do any number of other great things that the Navy has to offer.

Navy ROTC Marine Corps Option Color Vision Requirements

Unlike the Navy, the Marine Corps has no color vision requirement. You may be limited on military specialties you’re eligible for upon graduation, but this is a good alternative for the Navy ROTC scholarship.

If you have a color deficiency, we recommend also applying for the Marine Corps Option scholarship if interested in serving in the Department of the Navy. This is also an alternative for the Naval Academy.

Air Force ROTC Color Vision Requirements

There are no color vision requirements to be medically cleared for an Air Force ROTC scholarship. However, color deficiency limits career opportunities, just like the Navy and Army. If a student has dreams of flying and is color deficient, chances of earning a waiver to fly are slim to none. Currently, failing the PIP test with any color deficiency means there is no chance of a waiver for becoming a pilot.

The Anomaloscope test tends to reduce false-negatives and is more accurate than a PIP test. You can pay out of pocket for this test to get a better picture of any color deficiencies. However, if this test finds a deficiency, you won’t be granted a waiver for any rated job (pilot, navigator, etc.) so be prepared for that result when making a decision about taking this test.

Can pilots be color blind?

Unfortunately, no, military pilots cannot be color blind due to the requirements of flying. Air Force jobs for color blind officers will be limited. Color blindness will prevent you from any rated Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) jobs.

This is an important decision to make when considering where to apply, as getting medically qualified for Air Force ROTC is different from medical qualification to fly. Making sure the student is okay with a non-flying career is important for expectation management.

Older Tests

The FALANT test is no longer accepted by DoDMERB.


If your child is pursuing an ROTC scholarship, it’s important to be aware of the branch-specific color vision requirements that they’ll need to meet. Remember that you must be medically cleared by December of your Freshman year of college. With a better understanding of what’s required, you can help your child plan and prepare for a career after commissioning. Best of luck!

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Article Contents

Learn About Common Medical Disqualifiers

title for ebook about common dodmerb medical disqualifiers

LTC Robert Kirkland

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kirkland (USA, Ret.) is an expert on military admissions and leadership. He served for over 25 years in the United States Army, including stints as an instructor at West Point and as a commander of two Army ROTC programs. He has helped students win ROTC scholarships for 8 years.

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