Its main course students are selected from applicants and typically are recent graduates from Japanese civilian senior high school who have completed twelve years of formal schooling. They are paid a salary as an employees of the Ministry of Defense.
After graduation they are posted to the Officer Candidate Schools in one of three forces, take training alongside civilian university graduates and internal promotees before being posted as officers. Every year several graduates refuse to be posted and quit, but these individuals need not refund their salary. There is some criticism about this generosity among the general public.
It also runs master's and doctoral level courses for students who are endorsed by their supervisors at the posted forces.