Norwegian Language Blog

Mandatory military service Posted by on Apr 18, 2009 in Norway and the world

Norway is a small and peaceful country and therefore you don’t hear about the Norwegian military very often.  I assure you that Norway’s military history is quite interesting.  As I may have mentioned before in previous blogs, I love history and am particularly interested in wars.  I would like to share some basic information with you about the Norwegian military.

Norwegian men between the ages of 18 and 44 are obliged to serve 18 months i militæret (in the military).  If a parent gives consent, a boy can enter into the military at age 17 and in wartime, men up to age 55 can serve.  Although a man has a large window of years within which he can serve, most do so before their late 20s.  Draft time for those who participate in the home guard is 6 months.  Those who serve in the army, the navy, or the airforce serve 12 months.  The remaining months are intended to be spent in annual exercises. 

Most people do not serve the remaining months due to lack of funding for the military.  And actually, many Norwegian men do not serve in the military at all, or defer their service for a period of time.  Deferral from military service is granted for stays abroad and studies.  Exemption from military service can be granted for medical reasons or for pacifism.  In the case of pacifism, those who apply for exemption are then required to serve 12 months of non-military service.  Civilian service usually entails work in the health sector or other non-profit, service-related organization.

Does Norway allow women into the armed forces?  Yes.  Since 1977, women have legally been able to serve in the military alongside men.  Since 1985, women have been able to serve in almost all capacities in the military except for para-rangers and marine commandos (no woman has met the entry requirements yet).  However, Norway was the first country to assign women to serve on submarines (1995). 

Although a lot of men resent those who obtain exemption from service, many Norwegians consider serving in the military to be of great value, both for themselves and of course for their country.  Employers often show favor to individuals who have completed their military obligation. 

The following is a brief list of terms that would be beneficial to know if you find yourself in a conversation about the military:

militær – military           forsvaret – defense                å forsvare – to defend

en krig – a war            et slag\en kamp – a battle   en våpen – a weapon

en hær – an army           å tjene i hæren – to serve in the army    flåten – the navy

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. S from New Zealand:

    I just discovered your blog on the weekend and I’m addicted!! I just read upto here from your most recent blog! It’s great that you mix up information about the language, grammner, culture, politics, history and more – keep it up!

    I’m currently teaching myself Norwegian for a trip in August this year to meet my boyfriends family, so am finding your blog extremely useful as it supplements stuff that my boyfriend has already told me and things I’m trying to learn language wise. You explain things very well and in a simplistic way!

    Just wanted to say a BIG thank you, and that your doing an awesome job! Love how you add in words in Norsk here and there, reinforces the learning 😉 takk skul du ha!

    ps – would be great if you could write a blog about what it’s like to live there, grow up there, though I can see how that might be complex to descibe and distinguish from other nations?….

  2. Greg Turner:

    Is it possible for someone whose mother is Norwegian but who’s child was born in America to enlist in the Norwegian military? If so, how long would they be required to serve? Also what do they pay?

  3. Andy:

    Norway is a great country, i was bought up in taranaki but living in norway now 😀

  4. Kevin:

    I am American and have dual citizenship with Norway.
    Am I required to serve in the Norwegian military? Or can I serve?

    • kari:

      @Kevin Good question-No, you do not have to serve in the Norwegian military. I have a friend who is half Norwegian and half American (with dual citizenship) and he never had to serve. Plus, even if you were subject to the same rules as 100% Norwegian males, you could serve a civil service as well.

  5. Marcus:

    I apologize if commenting on such an old post is an inconvenience, but I have a question regarding conscription in Norway. I have heard that Norway intends to make conscription gender-neutral. To include women in compulsory service alongside men. I would like to ask what you think of this. In my opinion, I think it is odd that a nation known so well for its gender equality would not have done this sooner. Thank you.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Marcus Well, as a rule men do have more muscular strength than women. The army has traditionally been a ”run-and-hit” thing, so I guess that’s why it’s been compulsory for men, but not for women. ”Weak” men drop out, and ”strong” or athletic women have the option to do service.
      But today there’s much more ”intelligent warfare”, with computer-operated devices etc. It’s not about running 50 miles with a heavy spear anymore! 🙂 So I guess it would make sense to make it compulsory for both sexes. Or even better – make it a voluntary option for both sexes. There are always people who’d like to go to the army, I think.

      What do the other readers think about this?

  6. Justin:

    I am from Africa, i have 5 years Norwegian resident permit. Can i join the Norwegian army?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Justin @Justin. I honestly have no idea. I think you should apply for citizenship first; usually, people working in the Norwegian army are Norwegian citizens also.