Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Stay Active Duty for 10 More Years, or Get Out

  1. Mar 16, 2012 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    So...I've been in the U.S. Air Force, active duty, for 10 years in July. I've started my separation process and am leaning towards getting out. My "plan" is to go reserve for the benefits and go to school full time, which they will help pay for, in addition to my GI bill. Here's my thinking on the whole thing:

    1. I work in an extremely small career field with a select few choices for work areas. I don't want to stay and continue to do what I've been doing. It's...disheartening and morale is terrible.
    2. I want to get into something like Plasma Physics, and I know that I cannot work full time AND go to school full time. It will just burn me out and I'll just piddle around like I have been the last few years.
    3. I believe that no matter what I'm going to be working full time until my 60's or 70's. I already have several retirement plans in the making, such as retiring from the Reserves and my 401k that I've been contributing to since I was right around 21, which was about 6 years ago. I might not be getting 20-30k for just waking up in the morning like I would if I spent 10 more years in active duty, but I also don't have to wait a decade to get into what I want to do.
    4. I'm fairly confident that the experience I've gained in the military along with my associates degree in Electronic Systems Technology, will allow me to get a job with many companies if all my other plans fall through.

    What do you guys think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 16, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Go Reserve, get the degree (and preferably an advanced degree in the field) and the see where things are. There's plenty of opportunities in industry or as a contractor.
  4. Mar 16, 2012 #3
    I was an electronics technician in the Navy until I got out in 2008. Once you put in 10 years, well, it seems to me like you mine as well finish the other 10 and take full retirement. But, if you really wanted to pursue something else, the military can really hold you back. I was a student when I was in the military, and even finishing my little general education courses was a hassle. I was also shore-duty and had a definite schedule for deployments. Even during the deployments, I only worked 8 hours 5 days a week, and I always had broadband internet so I could still do a lot. I still feel like it held me back though.

    I opted not to stay in the active reserve, and my inactive reserve status ended in 2010. I still think I made the right choice since I jumped right into a decent job in avionics after separation.

    If I were you, I would stay active reserve, provided they can give you a definite date for your mandatory x weeks. You also have to consider, that you might be limited to where you can move as a reservist, since you basically need to be near a recruiting station or a base. Though, I am not sure how it works exactly in the AF. If you can stay active reserve, that's a solid $300 a month for a weekend of basically hanging out. From my experience, the reservists that came in really had little experience and didn't actually do a whole lot on their weekend, so it sounds like a good deal.

    The Chapter 33 GI bill alone is enough to support a single individual. I didn't work for the first year I started back at school and the GI bill covered my courses, books, and living expenses, even while I had a high car payment for someone who is not working. I eventually sold my house, sold my expensive car, and now I have essentially nothing to worry about. After some strategic planning, to make sure I could get into Grad School before my 3 years of free tuition ran out, I am fully covered. I can attend full time, and take whatever I want. I spent a few semesters at a community college taking courses that I paid for out of pocket with the extra living-stipend money I had while the GI bill was on pause. I should finish my BS in physics and math with plenty of time and money to spare.

    If you don't have a family to support, and don't have many bills to pay, and want to quickly get into physics or engineering or whatever it is you study, then I would certainly get out now. 10 years is a long time.

    Edit: I should note, that it is extremely hard to find a decent job relating to electronics tech without a 4 year degree right now. From my experience at least. I was fortunate and knew many people at the company I worked for.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2012
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook