10 Most Prestigious Military Academies in the World

For some college students, school is about more than just learning history, engineering, or mathematics. It’s also a chance to learn skills that will serve them well working in intelligence, military technology, or even on the front lines of battle. While military academies aren’t every student’s ideal match, for those who want to pursue a career in the armed forces, they can be great training and preparation resources, teaching students how to ready both their bodies and minds for active service.

  • UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT, NEW YORK
    The USMA, better known as West Point, is perhaps one of the best and most prestigious military academies in the world. That reputation isn’t taken lightly. There is also a strict honour code, and students are expected to not only do well academically, but build military leadership and athletic skills. Situated on a picturesque hill overlooking the Hudson River, the school itself is a national landmark and boasts some elite alumni including two presidents, many famous generals, and 74 recipients of the Medal of Honour.
  • UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY, ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND
    The USNA was established in 1845, and has been educating officers for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps ever since. Located on the former grounds of Fort Severn, the school’s campus is a national landmark and is within easy driving distance to Washington, D.C. Graduates from the USNA have included more than 50 astronauts (six of whom flew to the moon), 46 Rhodes scholars, one president, two Nobel Prize winners, and 73 Medal of Honour recipients.
  • ROYAL AIR FORCE COLLEGE CRANWELL, SLEAFORD, UNITED KINGDOM
    The Royal Air Force College was originally established as a naval aviation training centre during World War I, and reached official status as the world’s first air academy in 1919.During World War II, the school stopped exclusively training officers and began working to train as many recruits as possible to fly in the British Air Force. Today, the RAF College has returned to its original purpose and boasts some pretty big names for alumni, including Prince William; Prince Charles; Frank Whittle, a founding father of jet propulsion; and Douglas Bader, a famous flying ace during World War II.
  • ROYAL MILITARY ACADEMY SANDHURST, CAMBERLEY, UNITED KINGDOM
    For Brits who don’t want to go into the Air Force, this military academy is another prestigious choice. Sandhurst, as it’s commonly known, trains officers for both the British military and others around the world, and prides itself on “excellence in leadership.” Sandhurst is quite old, opening its doors in 1802, just like West Point in the U.S. and Saint-Cyr in France. What is different about it, however, is that it is not a university and graduates do not earn a bachelor’s degree. Instead, they embark on a rigorous training program to prepare them for leadership as an officer.
  • THE SPECIAL MILITARY SCHOOL OF SAINT-CYR, COETQUIDAN, FRANCE
    The academy was founded in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte himself, and the school still uses the motto he coined for the school: “They study to vanquish.” Graduates have fought in nearly every European conflict (and those around the world, as well) since the Napoleonic Wars, and famous French president Charles De Gaulle was a graduate of the school’s prestigious program.
  • PLA NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIVERSITY, BEIJING, CHINA
    The academy is China’s answer to West Point, for their own military students. Run by the state and located in Beijing, the school was founded in 1985 through the merger of several existing military and political schools. The school is responsible for training and educating the PLA’s senior commanding staff officers and researchers, though many top level officials also attend China’s Academy of Military Sciences, which is their premier research institute for military science.
  • GENERAL STAFF ACADEMY, MOSCOW, RUSSIA
    Founded in 1936, the school was intended as a place for the best and the brightest officers of the Soviet Armed Forces to get additional training and eventually rise to the top of the ranks.
  • NATIONAL DEFENSE ACADEMY OF JAPAN, YOKOSUKA, JAPAN
    Created in 1953, the NDA offers a degree program and training for students who want to be officers in the Japan Self-Defence Force. First, students are paid a salary while at school, as they are considered employees of the Ministry of Defence. Second, after graduation, students aren’t done with their training, and will go on to Officer Candidate Schools in a military force of their choosing. Students who are especially interested in academics can also pursue masters and doctoral degrees through the school, as long as they are endorsed by supervisors. In 1984, Condoleeza Rice visited the school as a professor, and grads include astronauts, government officials, scholars, and high-ranking military officers.
  • SOUTH AFRICAN MILITARY ACADEMY, SALDANHA, SOUTH AFRICA
    The South African Military Academy was founded in 1950 to train recruits to be officers and midshipmen in the South African National Defence Force. Situated amid a scenic mountain landscape and overlooking Saldanha Bay, the school’s campus is home to more than 300 men and women in training and 48 professors and other faculty members. Students graduate from the school with a bachelor’s degree in a field of their choosing, from military science to natural science.
  • HELLENIC MILITARY ACADEMY, VARI, GREECE
    The school was founded in 1828, and has produced soldiers that have not only fought in a number of important conflicts globally, but became scientists, authors, engineers, and professors who were all highly distinguished in their field.