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A passing thought on postponed graduate study

  1. Aug 5, 2011 #1

    I am a second year undergraduate studying maths and mechanical engineering, and am considering my post-graduation prospects.

    One such prospect is joining the (US) navy as an engineer. This is not set in stone, but it is a possibility. The program I am looking at entails a 5 year obligation.

    If I do join the navy for this program, it is very unlikely that I would be "career navy" -- ie, I would leave after 5 years. Graduate school seems a likely path at some point, but I am not sure if it is realistic to take this sort of time away from academics and then to return (presumably for a PhD).

    So, is it unreasonable to take 5-10 years off between undergraduate and graduate studies in a technical field, such as maths, engineering, or physics?

    PS: this navy job would not be any advanced engineering design. It seems that it would, however, be similar to an entry level job in the private sector. Assume that I would be working on something entirely unrelated to what I would be going into grad school for...
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2011 #2


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    People do this successfully.

    The obvious concerns are:
    (a) once you get used to bringing in a steady paycheque, going back to a student lifestyle can be tough,
    (b) you're generally at a different stage of your life 5-10 years after undergrad - potentially with a spouse and children and so big decisions like that may not be yours entirely to make, and
    (c) if you don't keep up with your skills in some way, you're likely to see them degrade over time and will struggle in graduate school to bring them back up to the level they need to be at.
  4. Aug 5, 2011 #3
    A friend of mine who went to UNSW said his physics professor was in the navy as a diver until he was 28 then decided to become a physicist.

    So, it happens. You may be labelled as a *gasp* non-traditional student.
  5. Aug 5, 2011 #4
    I'd recommend the Navy NUPOC program if you want to still do something technical and IT's related to Mechanical Engineering!
  6. Aug 5, 2011 #5
    I am really only concerned about (c). If I go back to grad school it would be under the condition that it makes sense at that point in my life. I doubt it would be enough to stop anyone who would otherwise have been able to finish their PhD or masters, but i do worry that it would be at the least mildly detrimental (the time off). What could someone (in the general sense) do to avoid major trouble?
    NUPOC is actually the program that I am looking at! Are you applying/have you been accepted to it? I would really like to talk with someone who's been involved with it and could provide some insight.

    I'm looking at the NR position because of its technical nature.
  7. Aug 5, 2011 #6
    I have considered applying to it if my college funding goes sour (Federal Grants and loans), but currently no. I have a lot of friends who went through it (Who are currently getting their Bachelors in Nuclear) and loved the program.
  8. Aug 5, 2011 #7
    I work with a graduate student who was in the Air Force for twenty years. She is now pursuing her PhD in physics. It is definitely possible, but I would imagine the gap in between might hurt you.
  9. Aug 5, 2011 #8
    Do you know what path they went, by chance? (NR engineer, instructor, line officer)
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