Hesder service usually lasts a total of five years, within which participants are officially soldiers in the IDF. Through those five years, 16 months are dedicated to actual army service, comprising both training and active duty. In some Hesder Yeshivas, service lasts six years, of which 24 months are dedicated to actual army service. Almost all Hesder Yeshiva students serve in the army as combat soldiers. The remainder of the time in Hesder is designated for full-time Torah study. Some students study for several years after this mandatory term. Yeshivot Hesder typically have 150-300 students; some of the larger yeshivot have up to 500 students, while some have fewer than 100 students.
The typical Yeshivat Hesder functions along the lines of a traditional Orthodox yeshiva, with an emphasis on in-depth study of the Talmud. However, the curriculum of a Hesder yeshiva often additionally includes an increased focus on Tanakh and Jewish Philosophy. In addition, most Yeshivot Hesder encourage their students to spend time helping the needy in surrounding communities.
Many of the Yeshivot Hesder also support a Kollel, and offer a Semicha ("rabbinic ordination") program, usually in preparation for the "Semicha of the Rabbanut"; many Hesder graduates also obtain semicha from Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Since 1990, various hesder yeshivot have established, or are associated with, teachers' institutes. Graduates of these yeshivot are thus often active in the educational system of the national-religious, both as rabbis and as teachers.
A number have programs for students from the Diaspora ("overseas programs") lasting one or two years; these vary in size from about ten people to over a hundred and fifty. The most prominent of these programs are those of Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh, Yeshivat Hakotel, Yeshivat Shaalvim, and Yeshivat Har Etzion.
As an alternative to Hesder, some male high school students opt to study at a one-year mechina, and then proceed to a regular period of military service.