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Enlisted Nuke or College

  1. Sep 8, 2015 #1
    A friend of mine who is enlisting into the navy informed me of their enlisted nuke program. He really played it up saying I'd get great pay and a lot of benefits. I looked into it myself but found a large amount of people that were dissatisfied with their experience citing claims of delays of ranking, difficult schooling, and terrible work conditions as a Nuke. I have also seen that recruiters get paid twice as much for each nuke they send the position's perks tend to be overplayed.
    I am taking AP Calc and AP Chem now as a junior in high school and after that there will only be one other AP STEM class I can take (statistics). I'm not really sure what I would like to do with my life but two fields that have always interested me since I was young were aerospace and nuclear engineering. I simply enjoy calculations and technologies with such scale as the ones in these subjects. My weighted GPA is currently around 4.3 but I expect it to improve. I am quite athletic so any military training would not be to strenuous physically.
    If I chose to be an aerospace engineer I would like to go to Texas A&M and take advantage of the Space X facility nearby as an intern. I haven't really thought of a college for nuclear engineering yet however.
    Would I be better off getting a degree or enlisting?

    PS I work as a lifeguard so I am completely comfortable with shift work and pointless manual labor
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2015 #2


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    You should not consider the military as only a way to avoid paying tuition. You should be ready to actually be a member of the military. If you are ready for that commitment, then go ahead. If you are not ready to commit to the military, you should do something else. Lots of guys think they can get the equivalent of a university education by putting up with basic training, maybe going on a few survivalist training exercises, and saying Yes Sir! to a sergeant for four years. It's more than that.

    I met a guy who was qualified as a Powerman on a nuclear aircraft carrier. He described to me his final exam.

    He knew his final was due soon, and that it would be something special. But he did not know any details. He and his co-students were at their station monitoring the reactor. The training officer at his elbow, observing.

    Suddenly, every dial on the board turned red. Everybody other than him dropped to the floor, apparently unconscious. Over the ship's PA system comes an announcement that a crazy person is loose on the ship and should be considered armed and dangerous. Through the door of the control room comes a guy waving a hand gun.

    He was required to over power and subdue the guy with the gun. Then bring the reactor under control. Then render first aid to the other people in the room. In that order. Which he successfully did.

    At which point his training officer got up off the floor, shook his hand, and said "Congratulations! You passed!" At which point he said "Thank you very much! I resign!"
  4. Sep 8, 2015 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    For generations, the Navy has served to be an excellent place for young men (and now women) to spend a few years growing while they decide on their future paths. Be aware, though, that you may be asked to fight and possibly die for your country. That's not something that you can count on "the other military" - there is no other military, and if the Navy decides you can be of better use carrying a rifle in the middle Syria than running a reactor under the Arctic, that's where you'll go. They probably wouldn't, but if they did, that's what will happen.

    One word of warning - if you take recreational drugs, stay away from the program. If you fail a drug test, the Navy will make an example of you. They will yank you out of the program and send you to the nastiest billet in the fleet they can find. If there's an opening for chipping paint on a garbage scow off Adak, Alaska, that's where you will spend your next six years.
  5. Sep 8, 2015 #4
    At the risk of appearing disrespectful to the armed forces, I'd suggest being really, really careful about anything that their recruitment and promotional materials advertise. There have been a lot of concerns raised about the ethics of their recruitment policies, especially in regards to the fact that what they say they can give you will most likely be much more than what you actually end up with.

    And that's why. You've got people who are incentivized to recruit saying such lovely things about the program, and the people who were actually in the program have a much less rosy picture.

    That's all pretty good. You could get into a decent academic program with that (is that 4.3 on a 5 point or 4 point scale?). If what you're worried about is being pigeonholed into engineering, I would say that shouldn't be a huge concern. Remember that the degree doesn't feed directly into the job, and your coursework will give you numerous opportunities to explore possible future interests.

    You could just get the aerospace engineering major with a physics minor. I'm looking at the Texas A&M website right now (https://physics.tamu.edu/students/prospective/ugrad/index.shtml [Broken]) and a physics minor is only 17 credit hours. And according to the aerospace engineering curriculum (http://engineering.tamu.edu/media/2548048/Fall-2015-course-title.pdf) a number of those classes will be taken care of by your engineering degree anyway.

    I would suggest getting the degree. You have the grades to get into a good program and you should take advantage of that now when you're young instead of in several years when you'll be too old to fit in with your classmates and will have all kinds of adult responsibilities to deal with in addition to an engineering degree.

    The trade-off, though, is that you'd get to go to college for much less cost to you. And realistically, you're more likely to be killed by a car accident here than you are to be killed by a militant in the Middle East as an American soldier.

    In that case just get an internship. If you're studying engineering, it will be paid.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  6. Sep 8, 2015 #5


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    Neither. Neither is 'better' than the other. The question is what do you want to do. Of course I don't expect you to be able to answer that with any real degree of certainty. If you already knew, you wouldn't be here. A few things:

    Do NOT go into a career field just because the benefits look good. There's a reason for those benefits, and it's usually more than one reason and really annoying/hard/something. Look at the different fields in the Navy and find one that you think you want to do.

    Another question is if you do go into the military, do you want to make it a career or not? If not, what do you want to do after your enlistment? Don't go into the military expecting to be able to complete your college degree before you get out. I've known far too many people who joined the military for education purposes and never finished a degree. Sometimes it was because their job schedule wouldn't allow it, but it was often because life happened and they just never got around too it. Working full time makes it VERY hard to go to school. Double-hard if you're in a job where you're working 12 hours a day and 60+ hours a week.

    Also, remember that the military is, well, a military. Be prepared to join a highly-regimented society that is not always fair. You can't just up and quit a job or tell your boss that you aren't going to do something.

    On the other hand, many people enjoy this type of environment, especially the bonds you can form between the people you work with.

    Long story short, keep looking into your options. In the end, you're the only one who can decide what you're going to do.
  7. Sep 8, 2015 #6


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    At A&M, one could probably do Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering. Look at the curricula in both classes and see what courses are common, and what electives are allowed. It's doable.

    One could also check out the Corps - e.g., Naval ROTC - http://nrotc.tamu.edu/ - if one is so inclined. However, that is a personal decision, and I recommend heeding the comments and advice of the others so far in this thread.
  8. Sep 9, 2015 #7
    Thank you all for your input, it is highly valued. After speaking with a trusted teacher of mine who is also a professor at the Naval War College I believe it would be more prudent to pursue an officer's education if I do chose to serve. I will definitely be doing more research.
  9. Sep 12, 2015 #8

    Dr Transport

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  10. Sep 12, 2015 #9


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    You'll get great reenlistment bonuses (typically ~90k), automatic advancement to E-3 when you're done with boot camp, and E-4 when you complete A and C schools. Benefits? If you consider being stuck on a carrier waiting for cold iron while everyone else is drinking it up in Thailand a benefit, sure. The days are arduous, and typically 12-16 hours.

    Again, it's hard work, but it isn't bad work. The school is really well done and you will learn a lot about nuclear propulsion should you end up a Nuke ET or MM. I would go ET, MM's have typically worse working conditions and longer hours. ET's also deal a lot more with the electronics and test equipment.

    You get paid well only when

    1. You're up for reenlistment.
    2. The initial sign on bonus. You only get this if you complete Nuke school. There's a lot of drops. The schools very controlled, and breaks some people mentally.

    Otherwise you earn what a boatswains mate of the same rank does. Fair? Maybe not, but in the military it doesn't matter. Ranking is easy up to E-6, after that it slows down some even for nukes.

    If you do choose the military, job prospects for nukes are pretty good after your initial enlistment. That's why the reenlistment bonuses are so high, to convince you not to get out. Normally I always recommend the military to people, it's a great way to learn useful skills and mature. That said, you already seem more mature than I was at your age, so it's really up to you. If you have the opportunity to go to school, and feel prepared for it then I would recommend that in lieu of enlisting.
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