The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), as it exists today, began with President Wilson signing the National Defense Act of 1916. Although military training had been taking place in civilian colleges and universities as early as 1819, the signing of the National Defense Act brought this training under single, federally-controlled entity: The Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

Following World War II, as the Army maintained its large force structure in order to meet the threats of the Cold War, the United States Military Academy (USMA or “West Point”) could not meet the necessary demands for officers each year.  As a result, ROTC was utilized, now as a permanent officer training program. Today, Army ROTC is the largest officer-producing organization with the American military, having commissioned more than half a million Second Lieutenants since its inception.

Women have been an integral part of the Army ROTC since the first group of female officers was commissioned from ROTCs in 1976. Today, women constitute 20 percent of the Corps of Cadets and more than 15 percent of each commissioning cohort. 

Today, Army ROTC has a total of 273 programs located at colleges and universities throughout the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, with an enrollment of more than 35,000. ROTC produces approximately 60-percent of the Second Lieutenants who join the active-duty Army, the U.S. Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. More than 4-percent of current active-duty General Officers were originally commissioned through Army ROTC.