Last Updated on September 6, 2022

Applying to a Service Academy 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 service academy 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 service academy 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/Service Academy. Service Academy requirements and ROTC requirements aren’t the same, so keep that in mind if you’re applying for multiple. 

West Point Color Vision Requirements

West Point 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

If you are color deficient, your Military Occupational Specialty (what you can do in the Army) will be limited.

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.

Naval Academy Color Vision Requirements

The Naval Academy requires color vision. This requirement is rarely waived. A small percentage of midshipmen are allowed to be color deficient across the entire Brigade, 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 Navy and Coast Guard 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.

Air Force Academy Color Vision Requirements

There are no color vision requirements to be appointed to the Air Force Academy. 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.

This is an important decision to make when considering where to apply, as getting medically qualified to attend the Air Force Academy is different than 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.

Conclusion

If your child is interested in attending a service academy, it’s important to be aware of the branch-specific color vision requirements that they’ll need to meet. With a better understanding of what’s required, you can help your child plan and prepare for a career after commissioning. Best of luck!