Australian aerospace student - military, then PhD, or straight to PhD?

In summary, a 22-year-old student seeking career advice on pursuing a career in aerospace engineering in Europe or the States is considering a 3-year commitment to the Australian military as an aerospace engineering officer. Their ultimate goal is to complete a PhD and work as a designer in Europe or the States, or at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in Australia. They are concerned about the age disadvantage in pursuing a design job if they complete their PhD at the age of 30 after 3 years of military service. Other forum members suggest the possibility of gaining hands-on experience in maintenance before pursuing a design career, and also recommend applying for an officer role in the Australian Army. The student is reassured that age should not be a disadvantage and that there
  • #1
Dude McCheese
4
0
Hi all,

I am a third year Bachelor of Aerospace engineering student at an Australian university seeking career advice. I am currently 22 and will be 24 when I graduate. As it stands, I am looking at committing to a 3 year period of service in the Australian military as an aerospace engineering officer, however my ultimate goal is to complete a PhD and work as a designer (aerodynamicist) in Europe or the States. Another attractive option is to complete a PhD then work at Defence Science and Technology Organisation as a researcher, here in Australia.

Should I join the military, I will be about 30 years old by the time I complete my PhD (3 years military service, then approximately another 3 years of study for the PhD). From the experience of other forum members, I was wondering whether it would be difficult to pursue a design job at this age? Do most large companies like to recruit younger applicants?

The role of an aerospace engineer in the Australian military is, for the most part, in the field of maintenance. Whilst maintenance is a very rewarding and interesting career for many engineers, I really do want to pursue a career in design. Accordingly, I want to join the defence force more for the broader military experience (read: adventure) rather than the engineering opportunities it presents.

I am currently quite a good student and am not concerned about the financial strain presented by studying a PhD between the ages of 27 and 30. I have an enormous passion for aviation/aerospace and am not swayed toward any particular career path because of financial gain.

My question again, if I only complete a PhD at 30 will my age be disadvantageous in pursuing an aerospace design role in Europe or the States?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 
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  • #2
I can only give you advice on the army - and please take it with a grain of salt.

I served (Obligatory) 3 years (from 19-22) in my countries army . Although I wasn't in a behind the lines kind of jobs most of my service it was an unimaginably hard experience for me and my friends.
When you are a soldier the country is the legal owner of your body anything and everything you do belongs to someone else, you and your peers are all being shaped into molds. Army molds are usually mediocre because thinking too much in an organizing that size will only give trouble.

That being said, I believe my service was a very rewarding experience you can't really get any place else and after all made a better person.

24 may be to old to get the same kind of experience since you are not as impressionable. Don't forget that regardless of where you are the first 3 months will probably be the worst (and some very very very rare times especially in retrospect some the best).
 
  • #3
Thanks for the advice. It is not the difficulty or hardship of the military experience that is of concern to me. I'm worried that by beginning my career in maintenance I may be sacrificing my opportunities to pursue a design career, and that when I leave the military I will be too old to be doing a PhD.
 
  • #4
Dude McCheese said:
The role of an aerospace engineer in the Australian military is, for the most part, in the field of maintenance. Whilst maintenance is a very rewarding and interesting career for many engineers, I really do want to pursue a career in design.

A few years doing maintenance could be an excellent introduction to design, if you think about it the right way: you are getting hands on experience of fixing up lots of design errors made by other people. If that doesn't make you a better designer in the long term, probably nothing will.
 
  • #5
^ Thanks, to be honest I hadn't thought of it that way.
 
  • #6
Good day

I am on my first year as a PhD student at one of Australia’s leading university. While I am pursuing my intellectual passion on a full time basis, I am concurrently serving the Australian Army on a reserve capacity, and volunteering as well as a convenor with the country’s eminent computer society. I am twice your age as I pursue these activities. Given this situation, I hope to put to rest the argument that age is perceived to be disadvantageous to one’s career as you have stated earlier.

Had I been in your situation, that is, student in Aerospace engineering with military aspirations, I would have applied for an officer role with the Australian Army (i.e. full time or reserves) – SSO Aviation. Applying as an SSO will involve 1 month of full time training, afterwhich you will already gain 2 pips or a Lieutenant rank. This qualification may further strengthen your application to work with the federal government. At your current pace and a consideration of the actions to be made in regard to your aspiration, I reckon that you will be in good stead by the time you are 30 – an officer and a doctor. This is a new perspective for your consideration.

Understanding that there seems to be no financial strains in relation to your PhD, I was hoping to let you know that the Australian government grants to outstanding students a “fee remission scheme” to cover tuition fees and a scholarship called Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) to provide for your stipends which happens to be similar to my situation.

I have sat in an officer selection board (OSB) and would like to refer to your earlier suggestion that the “broader military experience” be fine-tuned to other attributes instead such as honing your leadership skills, generating greater camaraderie, and all those good stuff. The ADF’s decision-makers, as they have pointed out during my feedback session, have already heard a number of these reasons for joining. I guess that you have to ascertain whether a soldier’s path or an officer’s role is much more suitable for your case.
Finally, I perceive that you are indeed in good stead for whatever journey that lies ahead of you. While the future is uncertain, the perception was merely based on what you are doing, and your aspirations.

My two cents worth.
 

Related to Australian aerospace student - military, then PhD, or straight to PhD?

1. What are the benefits of starting in the military before pursuing a PhD in aerospace?

Starting in the military before pursuing a PhD in aerospace can provide hands-on experience and practical skills that can be applied in the field of aerospace. It can also provide networking opportunities and access to advanced technology and equipment.

2. Is it necessary to have a military background to succeed in the aerospace industry?

No, it is not necessary to have a military background to succeed in the aerospace industry. However, the military can provide valuable skills and experiences that can be beneficial in this field.

3. Can I go straight to a PhD in aerospace without any prior military experience?

Yes, it is possible to go straight to a PhD in aerospace without prior military experience. However, it is important to have a strong academic background and research experience in the field.

4. Are there any specific areas of aerospace that the military focuses on?

The military may have a focus on certain areas of aerospace, such as aircraft design and development, space systems, and aviation operations. However, this can vary depending on the specific branch and role within the military.

5. What are the potential career paths for an aerospace student with a military background and a PhD?

An aerospace student with a military background and a PhD can pursue a variety of career paths, such as working in research and development, consulting, or teaching. They may also have opportunities to work in the military or for government agencies in roles related to aerospace technology and defense.

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