Cadet Program: Frequently asked questions

The following are answers to commonly asked questions about the Cadet Program.

What is the Cadet Program and its purpose?

The Canadian Cadet Organizations (CCO) manages the Cadet Program which includes the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Royal Canadian Army Cadets and the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. The Cadet Program is a national program for all young Canadians aged 12 to 18 who are interested in participating in a variety of fun, challenging and rewarding activities. These activities will encourage and help develop:

  • physical fitness
  • leadership skills
  • engaged and active citizenship
  • personal health and well-being

Many cadets are high achieving students that go on to become Canada’s future leaders. The Government of Canada is committed to investing in our youth and expanding the reach of the program. Through the Cadet Program, young Canadians can experience positive development opportunities and strengthen communities across Canada.

How old do you have to be to join Cadets?

To join cadets you must be at least 12 years old and under 19 years old.  To join as a civilian volunteer, civilian instructor or become a Cadet Instructors Cadre officer, you need to be aged 19 or more. 

What do Cadets do?

As a cadet you will learn to become an active and responsible member of your community. Regardless of which element you choose, you will make valuable contributions to Canadian society on a daily basis through citizenship and community-service activities.

Here are some examples of the skills you will learn as a cadet:

  • Sea cadets learn seamanship skills, including navigation and how to sail
  • Army cadets participate in outdoor expeditions, trekking, orienteering, and abseiling
  • Air cadets focus on aviation-related activities including flying, gliding, and studies in aerospace 
How can I get my Cadet Personnel Record?

Cadets, parents, and legal guardians can have access to a cadet’s file by asking the Commanding Officer or the Administration Officer of the Cadet Corps or Squadron. When you leave or age-out of Cadets, make sure to ask for a copy of your Cadet Personnel Record. You never know if you will need it in the future and it makes for a great keepsake!

Cadet Personnel Records are kept until the date you reach 25 years old. The files may only be destroyed at that time in accordance with the Defence Administrative Orders and Directives (DAOD) on Information Management and the Treasury Board Policy on the Management of Government Information.

Access to Cadet Personnel Records are restricted to individuals authorized in writing by the Commanding Officer of the cadet Corps or Squadron. All access to personal information follows the provisions of the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act.

Is the Cadet Program new? How come I haven't heard of it before?

No, the Cadet Program is not new. In fact, the Cadet Program is one of Canada’s oldest youth programs. The origins of the program can be traced back to 1862.

  • In 1879 the Army Cadets was formed
  • In 1895 the Sea Cadets was formed
  • In 1941 the Air Cadets was formed
  • In 1975 girls were allowed to join Cadets

Today, girls represent more than 30% of all cadets in Canada. If you would like to learn more about the history of the Cadet Program please see Cadet overview.

How many cadets are there in Canada?

Currently there are approximately 52,000 cadets across Canada.

Are cadets expected to join the Canadian Armed Forces?

As a cadet you are not a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, and you are not expected to join the military. While you are introduced to Sea, Army or Air activities of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and certain traditions, you are also introduced to many other career options outside of the CAF.

What are the differences between Sea, Army and Air Cadets?

Each Cadet Program equally participates in teamwork and leadership training, Canadian military history, citizenship activities, drill and physical fitness. The main differences between the 3 programs (Sea, Army or Air Cadets) are the uniform and the type of specialized training you will receive. 

  • Sea Cadets specialize in sailing, seamanship, shipboard life, naval communications, power boat handling, boat repair, and marine engineering
  • Army Cadets develop abilities in the use of map and compass, GPS technology, orienteering, first-aid, camping and survival skills, canoeing, abseiling, trekking, and mountain biking
  • Air Cadets focus on the aviation environment including power flying and gliding, aerospace, aircraft maintenance, navigation, and outdoor survival
Why should I join Cadets?

The Cadet Program offers challenging experiences, friendships and adventure! It’s an opportunity to expand your own horizons, contribute to your community and make friends for life. Many former cadets credit their participation in the program for giving them a head-start in their career.

Did you know that Canadian astronauts Chris Hadfield, Marc Garneau and Jeremy Hansen are all former cadets? Many famous community leaders, athletes and celebrities are former cadets as well. 

What support is currently available to cadets who become ill and injured during a Cadet activity?

If you suffer from an illness or injury during an approved cadet activity, you have access to the same level of medical care as a Private of the Reserve Force who is serving on a short-term basis (Class A Reserve Service or Class B Reserve Service for a period less than 180 days). This includes emergency medical and dental care, and follow-up care if required, at public expense.

You also have access to long-term insurance coverage through policies maintained by the civilian Navy League, Army and Air Cadet Leagues of Canada.

What do cadets learn about recognizing and dealing with inappropriate behaviours such as violence, conflicts, harassment and bullying? 

Through the mandatory Positive Social Relations for Youth training program, you will learn how to:

  • interact within the cadet community
  • interact positively with others
  • exercise sound judgment
  • accept personal responsibility for your actions and choices
  • deal with interpersonal conflict and seek assistance from available resources when needed
What are the safety standards in the Cadet Program?

The safety and well-being of all cadets and other personnel in the Cadet Program is our top priority.

The Cadet Program offers many challenging activities to the Army, Sea and Air Cadets. All of these activities have some element of danger, and this risk is increased because of the young age of cadets. Cadet leadership and participants take every measure to reduce and eliminate dangerous situations. We place a high level of importance on making sure that all members of the Canadian Cadet Organizations (CCO) follow the General Safety Program.


Commanding Officers are responsible for ensuring that all Corps or Squadron activities are appropriately supervised. All Reserve Force members other than members of the Cadet Instructors Cadre must successfully complete the screening process before becoming a Cadet Instructor.

Phase Training / Star Program / Proficiency Level Program

Each authorized cadet activity that is part of the Mandatory Training Program must have at least 1 paid Cadet Instructor or a paid Civilian Instructor. These instructors are responsible for the cadets and physically participate in the activity.  This includes Phase Training for Sea Cadets, Star Program for Army Cadets, or Proficiency Level Program for Air Cadets.  

Optional activities

All approved activities must be under the responsibility and supervision of a Cadet Instructor or paid Civilian Instructor. The Cadet Instructor can either be on paid service or be providing support without pay during the optional activity.

Day activities

For every 20 cadets there must be at least 1 adult supervisor of each gender, for mixed gender activities. This also includes day activities where no overnight accommodation is required such as a tour or visit. If required, a senior cadet of the appropriate gender may assist in supervisory duties for this type of activity.

Overnight activities

There must be at least 1 adult supervisor of each gender, for all mixed gender activities. The minimum ratio for overnight activities is 1 adult supervisor for 15 cadets. There are separate sleeping accommodations for male and female cadets and staff.

The following are the safety standards for billets:

  • In Canada, cadets will only be billeted in private residences where all adult residents have successfully completed the appropriate League screening process
  • Cadets participating in international exchanges will only be billeted in private residences where all adult residents have been screened to the maximum extent allowed under the laws of the host country
  • Cadets billeted in private residences will be provided with contact phone numbers where the officer in charge of the activity can be contacted at all times

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