As members of the military, State Alchemists are privy to the most advanced alchemical resources, including exclusive access to the best research materials as well as state-of-the-art government laboratories, and are given a sizable research grant each year which can be put to any purpose a State Alchemist so chooses. Also on the list of perks is an automatic military officer rank equivalent to that of "Major" and all the considerable military authority and government influence that comes with it.
In exchange for these privileges, State Alchemists are commanded to obey three basic restrictions:
- 1) Obey the Military - As part of the military system, State Alchemists are subject to the government hierarchy and must obey the orders of their superiors as well as devote themselves entirely to the protection, advancement and well-being of the nation of Amestris as a whole. Their skills are to be wielded as an extension of the government's power as opposed to means toward individual or popular gain. This particular rule is the root behind the harshest drawback of being a State Alchemist - although alchemists in general are revered by the populace, State Alchemists are treated with a great deal of animosity by those not completely satisfied with the dealings of the current government. As alchemists who have turned their backs on the concept of Be Thou For The People in exchange for government influence, they are often called "Dogs of the Military". Additionally, ever since their successes on the front lines of the Ishval Civil War, State Alchemists with practical skills applicable to combat situations are ordered into battle as "Human Weapons", adding to their relative unpopularity.
- 2) Do Not Create Gold - Though all alchemists in the nation of Amestris are held to this law so as to keep the national economy from falling into chaos, State Alchemists are more heavily leaned upon to uphold this standard, due to their position under government surveillance, and are subject to military charges upon its transgression.
- 3) Do Not Create Humans - The nationwide prohibition of Human Transmutation, though also enforced in the case of all Amestrian alchemists, is particularly forbidden to State Alchemists due to the fact that their access to advanced research notes and materials makes it more likely that anyone making a realistic attempt at the forbidden craft would be in the government's employ. Though it is widely assumed that this law is in place because of the moral and ethical ramifications of attempting to toy with human life as well as the considerable danger involved with dealing in Human Transmutation, it is revealed that the true motive behind the government ban is to prevent individuals from alchemically manufacturing their own personal armies.
In order to be selected as a State Alchemist, candidates must undergo an extensive examination process involving a written test proving a high level of aptitude in the field, a psychological evaluation to determine whether the candidate is of sound enough mind to serve in such a specialized branch of the military and a practical examination in which the candidate proves to a military board whether or not his or her skills can be used in real world situations.
Upon acceptance into the State Alchemist program, candidates are given a symbolic title by the Führer based on both their unique alchemical skills as well as their personal and dispositional traits. Additionally, each State Alchemist is given a silver pocketwatch to hold as identification. This watch is engraved with the symbol of the State Alchemist program - the Amestrian Dragon circumscribed in a hexagram (though both anime series alter the hexagram to a nondescript polygram, presumably so as not to invoke Judaism). Although the manga does not describe the pocketwatch as anything more than official proof that the carrier is a State Alchemist, the 2003 anime suggests that each pocketwatch is an alchemical amplifier. The 2003 anime also depicts the watch's silver chain as extendable, as in the instance when the "Strong Arm Alchemist", Major Alex Louis Armstrong uses it to tie up a target.
Though State Alchemists are more or less given free license to act as they please within their rank, they must each submit an annual assessment report, detailing the results of their research over the past year so as to prove that they are using their grant money and resources adequately enough to warrant continued membership in the program. It would seem that State Alchemists who fail to hand in an adequate report are put on probation for the next year and that a second failure results in the revocation of their government license.
It has recently been revealed that the State Alchemist program was part of Father's plan leading up to the Promised Day - a system for identifying and selecting candidates for human sacrifice.