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Military Option - Why So Few Interested?

  1. Sep 17, 2009 #1


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    Okay, so I'm curious as to why more of the people on these forums that want a career in math, physics, and/or engineering haven't mentioned/thought of the military option. I'm currently enlisted in the USAF with hopes of one day becoming an officer; and just today, I found out from an active duty recruiter that there are career fields in the US Air Force for scientists and engineers. Here's some of the information I gathered from the recruiter and my own research about options for scientific minding folks:

    1) The 13SX career field has to do w/ space and missiles...everything is covered from policy to ballistic missiles. All the space you could possibly dream of is available to those in this career field...even if you don't want to deal w/ weapons, there are satellite options and more. The possibilities are limitless.

    2) The 61SX career field is titled Scientific/Researcher. Everything from doing the actual research to leading research teams is included in this career field. This career field also has "shreds" or "specialities". These are: Analytical, Behavioral, Chemist, Physicist, Mathematicians. Each shred does something different, but I do know that the physicists do a lot of work with lasers and such.

    3) Last, but certainly not least, is the 62EX career field, which is Developmental Engineer. This career field also has the following shreds: Aeronautical, Astronautical, Computer Systems, Electrical/Electronic, Flight Test, Project, and Mechanical. I'll be honest, my knowledge of this field is very, very limited. I'm waiting to hear more on this field.

    Those three fields are strictly Air Force. I know the Navy and Army employ scientists and engineers as well; however, being in the USAF limits my knowledge of the offerings from other services. I do know people however, and could easily get the information for anyone that'd like it.

    Call it a "recruiting pitch" if you will, but I just figured I'd throw some basic information out there since everyone around here wants to continue doing math, physics, or engineering after graduating university. Again, this is not an advertisement or anything like that, just an option I'd throw out there...especially during the hard times.

    If you're interested further, shoot me a PM and we can talk further. Also, if desired, I could send some web links with more information.

    Just a thought...
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2009 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    I disagree that discussions of careers in military/government labs do not occur here- it happens fairly regularly, in fact. Perhaps you are referring to the difference between being a civil servant/contractor as opposed to a soldier- when I worked as an Air Force contractor, I dealt with everyone- and I agree that officers worked in the lab, same as us civilians.
  4. Sep 17, 2009 #3


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    You're correct about government labs and such. I guess I should have been a little more clear in my original post. Thanks for catching that.
  5. Sep 17, 2009 #4


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    It does come up from time to time on the forums and I think a lot of people at least consider it to one extent or another. There is likely a lot of apprehension about chosing a military path either for a career or as a means to get through school.

    Militaries are large and powerful entities and by signing up, one gives up certain freedoms that one has as a civilian. You could, of course, make a very effective argument that those civilian freedoms are directly derived from the existance of a military. Personally I agree with this strongly enough that I served for three years with the Canadian Armed Forces, but not everyone feels the same way.

    Joining the military is essentially a decision to take up arms. Whether one signs on to be a scientist or a pilot or a cook, one becomes first and foremost a soldier.
  6. Sep 17, 2009 #5
    Many of those slots you mention also are high in demand, making it difficult to get placed into.
  7. Sep 17, 2009 #6


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    I'm not entirely sure of that. I looked at the numbers for 61SX's and the Chemist and Physicist shreds are very undermanned right now. I was already told that a degree in chemistry or physics would give me a 99% chance of landing either one of those jobs. So I do know that those two are easy to get into. Not sure of the other numbers...I'm sure I can talk to some folks at work and get them though.
  8. Sep 18, 2009 #7
    Years ago I seriously considered the military and talked with both an enlisted Navy recruiter and then, later, looked into a commision as a USAF officer. The only lesson I learned from that that I think should be repeated again here is this:

    Believe nothing an enlisted recruiter tells you, and go straight for a commission at all costs.
  9. Sep 18, 2009 #8
    I've considered it, but to be honest I'm just too scared they would try to put me on the front lines instead of safely behind lines doing the scientist thing. I am NOT a warrior. It is hard for me to even kill bugs when they are in my house. I don't like the idea of not having many choices in my career; it's one of the reasons I'm working on my degree.

    It is still something I consider on occasion, however. My family has a long and noble tradition of military service, and I consider myself patriotic. If I could KNOW what I would be doing on the other side and that it would work well for my family I would probably consider it more. I loved the traveling we did when I was younger and my dad was in the navy. There are definitely perks to be considered. One just has to decide if they are worth it or not.
  10. Sep 19, 2009 #9
    I'll second Locrian's recommendation. Enlisted recruiters have slots to fill. That being said, they are going to place you in part based on ability, so a really high ASVAB score will help you immensely. If one goes in with a college degree, that helps with being commissioned as an officer, and then if you need to you can use the college assistance after the fact to pay off student loans.

    There are number of programs such as the Navy Nuclear program that will pay for college and then give you a commission after you graduate as well.
  11. Sep 19, 2009 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    Then you shouldn't join the military. It's not for you. The needs of the service come first, and the mission of the military is fighting wars. There is always a chance you may be called to duty in dangerous areas.

    The Navy has a number of officer jobs that are science/engineering based: 1220 (nuclear engineering), 1440 (engineering duty officer), 1520 (aviation maintenance), 1800 (meteorology). In virtually all of these, if you want to advance, you need some time with the fleet.
  12. Sep 19, 2009 #11
    Yes, that's pretty much why I haven't joined. I was more interested in the Air Force than Navy. In my experience, their bases are nicer, and it is more to my interest. We always wound up in pretty isolated bases when my dad was in the Navy: Guam, Iceland, Alaska. We lucked out on a stint in Mississippi (if you can call that lucking out - at least it was the mainland and the climate was somewhat neutral). At least we got to have our dad home almost every night, though, so that was nice.

    It might be fun to be a contractor for the military.
  13. Sep 19, 2009 #12
    I ALWAYS keep in in mind that I could take a PhD in physics and join the military =] This has nice boons
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