PROFILE OF THE FRENCH CADET AT ÉCOLE SPÉCIALE MILITAIRE DE SAINT-CYR

formation of Saint-Cyr cadets


History of Saint-Cyr

Founded by Napoleon in 1802, l'École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, located in Coëtquidan (Brittany), France is the military academy of the French Army. Its mission is equivalent to that of West Point or Sandhurst.

Cadet Profile

Saint-Cyr cadetFrench students who enter the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr as cadets are about 21 years old and have already completed the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in a military or civilian preparatory college of highest academic rank. (The "Bac” plus two years of "classes préparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles." Required majors are in engineering or science, or specialization in one of many other disciplines, such as international relations, classics, modern or ancient history, modern languages, geography, economics, law, computer science, physical education, political science or management. Students who have graduated from a Grande École (a national polytechnic college) may also apply. To enter St-Cyr, French students must excel in competitive exams designed to evaluate general knowledge, aptitude and intelligence. In addition, applicants must undergo an interview and pass a test of physical ability.

An Elite Military Academy

About 51 percent succeed at their first attempt at admission, 43 percent at their second. After admission, students spend three years at the École Spéciale Militaire. ESM cadets attend school from September to the end of July. Until recently, the first year primarily involved military training with some time devoted to academics. The last two years focussed on academics with several one- to three-week breaks for military training.

Degree Program Overview

The three-year term of study at Saint-Cyr has been modified in recent years to reflect more the system of credit used in "civilian" academic programs, mainly by fully integrating the "European Credit Transfer System" (ECTS). All ESM cadets graduate with a master of arts or a master of science and are commissioned officers.

This recent reorganization has created the following semester sequencing:

  • Semesters 1 and 6: military training
  • Semesters 2, 3, 5, and 5: academics.


Foreign Exchange

The fifth semester is spent pursuing study in a foreign country. Pursuing research to complete a thesis and demonstrate a command of their in the previous academic semesters, all 170 cadets spend twelve weeks abroad (from September to December)l in various universities, research centers, and institutes. The goal of the ESM is to have each cadet gain valuable experience and an increased understanding of other languages and ways of life.

This semester in a foreign country supports Saint-Cyr’s commitment to moral and ethical development, respect for others, and our mission to train young officers with increased perspective, improved communication skills and sensitivity to the cultural contexts in which they will serve.

Saint-Cyr cadet gives a presentation at Norwich University


International Study Objectives

The objectives of the 12-week international study experience are as follows:

  • The completion of research to finalize a thesis paper begun six months earlier under direction of one of our professors
  • The opportunity to attend, if possible, some classes (lessons, lectures, labs, etc.) in their field of research.

Research projects cover one of three topic areas : engineering, social sciences (law, management, history, communication, sociology) or international relations.

Language Study

All ESM cadets have studied English with a goal to develop bilingual ability.


For further information, contact Dr. Frances S. Chevalier, Norwich University Professor of French.