In the main Star Trek universe, most Starfleet officers that we meet attend Starfleet Academy in San Francisco before receiving their first commission in Starfleet as an Ensign, but Michael Burnham apparently entered Starfleet after attending the Vulcan Science Academy instead. Are Starfleet Academy and the Vulcan Science Academy the only two regular educational options for a Starfleet officer's career, or can one attend pretty much any university in the Federation and then apply for a Starfleet officer's commission?

In our own world, the US military works very much like this - there are a small number of federally-run service academies, but one absolutely can plan on attending a state or even private university with a plan for seeking an officer's commission after graduation.

We know that there are several other universities in existence in the Federation - Cambridge University in England apparently still exists in Picard's time (I guess it's been a good 1200 years), and we also learn of the (in-universe) Pennington School in New Zealand that Jake Sisko considers attending.

To be clear, it's possible to get a field commission without any formal higher education through some combination of being a genius and your mom being in bed with the captain, but I'm asking about standard career paths for the average Starfleet wannabe - someone who has what it takes to meet the basic requirements but isn't anyone special.

So, if I'm a random Federation young person (smart, but not too smart, social, but without high social connections, brave, but not super-brave) who really wants to serve as an officer in Starfleet but would prefer to go to college on Andoria, is this possible? Alternately, could Jake Sisko have sought a commission after graduating from Pennington? A big part of Jake's character is not wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, so it's unlikely he would choose to voluntarily seek a commission, but would going to Pennington instead of Starfleet Academy essentially mean no real possibility of a commission, or just some extra effort taking Starfleet-ROTC courses on the weekends when his friends are at the bar?

My focus is on the Prime universe (not the Abramsverse), but I'm not picky on the era. If there is some random TOS redshirt Ensign (clearly no one special, but an officer nonetheless) who mentions, "No sir, I didn't attend the Academy! I went to the Advanced Stellar Cartography Institute of Risa with a major in Planetary Survey Management.", that would be a great answer.

If graduates of the Vulcan Science Academy are not normally eligible for commissioning in Starfleet and Michael Burnham's commission was specially obtained through political pressure from Sarek, that would be an answer as well.

  • 1
    Didn't Spock also attend Starfleet Academy?
    – HorusKol
    Apr 25, 2021 at 14:51
  • @HorusKol it looks like you are right, thanks! I fixed the question. Apr 26, 2021 at 0:11

3 Answers 3


Mathematically it seems difficult for Starfleet's San Francisco's campus to be the only place officers come from.

Canonically I don't recall any alternate campuses - other than the strong implication in the early days of Trek / Starfleet that each species had it's own fleet loosely managed by a central authority. Spock being on a human UESPA ship by virtue of being half human.

I'll refer you to this discussion Did Chief O'Brien go to Starfleet Academy?

Also it may be worth considering that in the 1960's I think Gene Roddenberry would have considered everyone on a starship to be like an Apollo Astronaut in terms of education. But that is an entire discussion on its own and not really the question - but it does explain the everyone goes to the academy in-universe attitude - mistaken or not.

Canonically the TNG episode Coming of Age might be useful. https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Coming_of_Age_(episode) There are regional testing sites (and apparently regional quotas) for the Academy and even Wesley Crusher didn't get in.

I personally think this episode raised the bar too high for Academy entrance as none of the adult officers seem like geniuses. I'm also reminded of what I recall as a line from the TMP novelization - that Starfleet had to focus on above average but not super geniuses - because super geniuses had nervous breakdowns when they'd meet some species smarter than they were.

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    On the bar being too high; this strikes me as something like Anakin Skywalker being too old, bringing on the Anakin the zygote jokes. Even The Traveler thought that Wesley was exceptional. If he doesn't get in who's going to? A poorly conceived episode, I thought.
    – JohnHunt
    Apr 27, 2021 at 1:23
  • @JohnHunt exactly. If you watch through all the series, you can find countless examples of mediocre officers. Actual idiots seem to be pretty rare, but there are plenty of arrogant fools or hyper-goal oriented obsessives who can't see the forest for the trees. May 5, 2021 at 21:21
  • Mathematically it seems difficult for Starfleet's San Francisco's campus to be the only place officers come from. My impression, from the numbers of ships employed in battles such as Wolf-359, was always that Star Fleet is infinitesimal compared to the populations of the planets it is drawn from, and if even a tiny minority of citizens wish to serve in Star Fleet in any capacity it would be harder to get into than the US military academies or the Ivy League, by several orders of magnitude.
    – tbrookside
    Aug 1, 2021 at 3:07

To my knowledge, the University of Mississippi is the best-supported answer to your question. According to his page on Memory Alpha, Admiral Leonard McCoy went to medical school there; furthermore, he demonstrates a lack of knowledge of an obscure term common to Starfleet Academy cadets, suggesting he never attended the latter school.

I think there's a shakier case for the Tri-Planetary Academy as well: Elizabeth Dehner, another TOS science officer (in fact a psychiatrist), is recorded as having completed her thesis at its College of Medical Sciences.

Thus it seems that Starfleet Academy is not the only path to a Starfleet commission; but other avenues may be rare.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. I'm not sure that an already-educated professional adult joining Starfleet and receiving a (non-command-track) commission in order to practice their profession is what is envisioned by the question as graduating from university X and immediately receiving a commission. But nobody has noted it yet, and it might fit, so nice answer.
    – DavidW
    Jul 31, 2021 at 22:34

I was considering the same question not so long ago. I came across a question on how it was possible Broccoli - I mean Barclay - could have received a Star Fleet commission, and this is what I thought was not only possible but likely. (I didn't answer the question since it was asked many years old)

I don't think this route to a commission is explicitly mentioned anywhere, but considering Roddenberry was a US Navy veteran and based Star Fleet Academy on the USNA in Annapolis, he would certainly have been familiar with the NROTC.

It has probably just never been brought up as a plot driver, but it makes sense in the Star Trek universe to have multiple locations on different planets for officer training. Perhaps, like NROTC and USNA, where reserve officers and regular officers are in different categories, going to Star Fleet is the most likely route to get a command. Not saying it's impossible to get a command if you didn't go to USNA/Star Fleet Academy, but just less likely.

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    Barclay is excellent at diagnosing problems difficult enough for most other engineers to give up on. The rampant discrimination against the socially awkward is apparently something that Starfleet and this site have in common 🔥 Yeah I said it Apr 26, 2021 at 21:40

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