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Studying Studying Physics being an Active Duty soldier?

  1. Aug 28, 2016 #1

    I am student of Astrophysics (Bachelors), and I have also enlisted in the US Army. I still do have 2 years remained to finish my Bachelors degree. I will be shipping out for Basic Combat Training by the end of this year (hopefully).
    While I will be stationed, I don't know whether "that" place would have a facility to provide educational assistance in the field of Physics. If Yes, I would pursue my degree, and if not: can I get Bachelors in Astrophysics Online?
    There is one university offering BSc. Geophysics online.

    What are my alternatives? From my side: I am all ready to change my major (If no Astro is available online) to study Software Engineering or Mathematics.

    Please shed some photons on my issue!

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2016 #2


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    Bad move, why not just join the ROTC on campus, or finish your degree first and go into one of the various commissioning programs?

    No, there is no educational assistance, assuming you meant tutoring etc, beyond TA programs to help pay for classes. that wont even be immediatly avaliable to you, probably for at least a year after you finish basic.

    Pursuing a bachleors in stem worth the paper its printed on? No.

    Can you do a program online? Sure, but the above applies.

    Dont enlist until you finish your current program, then commission/enlist after if that's what you want to do. There are some options to go to a real graduate school with a commission, but it's also rough. Better to serve then try go to graduate school.

    In short: There's no good reason I can think of to quit in the middle of your studies since you put the time in already. Do it after if anything, but realize you're still probably handicapping yourself for eventual graduate school.
  4. Aug 28, 2016 #3
    ROTC. How does this work, when I am stationed?
    I have already singed a contract with the US Army, and I am just waiting over my background clearance. Once it's done, I will get a shipping date for training.

    I meant college facility in the base, where I will be stationed, but I am bit skeptic about Astro courses there.

    For online degree, that's what I was thinking. It is just a waste of time and money, when it comes to science subjects. Does this also apply to Mathematics. Does Math major has labs too?

    Since I have already signed the contract, I can't seize it. My aim was to serve-and-study simultaneously.
    After 24 months I can change my MOS (job), so that is the gateway to become a Commissioned Officer in the US Army.

    All I am worried about is my education because a lot of Active Duty soldiers say that they have changed their majors due to multiple deployments and lack of courses required to get a degree in the desired major.
  5. Aug 28, 2016 #4


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    There is no ROTC after you've already enlisted.

    You haven't signed any binding contracts yet. You don't actually enlist until you take the oath for a second time at MEPS. DEP does not equal a contract that requires military service, you can be discharged from DEP without any punitive action, as far as I aware. (You can still enlist in another branch, or do ROTC)

    The military has some agreements with some colleges that allow for correspondence work or extension colleges, but they typically don't offer STEM type degrees. The ones that do aren't worth attending. So there aren't college facilities on bases, unless it's an extension that isn't going to offer what you want, or better yet, what you really need.

    Yes, online degrees are garbage. I don't know about mathematics, but I'm assuming it's the same. Most math courses don't require labs, some applied courses might use various software in lab type work. Again, I don't know here, but I've personally never head of one.. At any rate, internet is hard to come by out in the field.

    You haven't signed anything binding. You can leave DEP willingly at any time, regardless of what you recruiter might tell you. Serving in the Army is hard enough, studying simultaneously is possible; however, studying simultaneously for meaningful college credit generally isn't.

    Man, what kind bullpoop are they feeding you? Switching MOS just means you switch jobs.

    Yes, you can become a CO from enlisted, only you probably can't really the way you want to. There are a handful of programs to go commissioned officer from enlisted. Most are for soldiers who already had degrees when they enlisted, or obtained certain NCO ranks. Some actually let you go to school full time, but these are verrrryyyyyyy rare and highly competitive. Any of this requires your chain of commands permission, which is the easiest part. It turns out the easiest part is also verrrryyyyyy hard to actually get - no command wants to lose someone "worthy" enough to get accepted to such a program, espically since those types of loses generally don't allow the billet to refilled until your normal sep date. Just switching MOS is nigh impossible in some jobs, regardless of what the instructions say are actually possible.

    Most don't even bother with school, and for good reason. The Army probably has the second worst quality of life, next to the marines. After working for 12-14 hours on a good day - those days when you aren't in the field, or on duty, or deployed, or spinning up to go on deployment - most don't bother to do anything beyond open a cold one and spend some valuable time with significant others in their lives.

    Literally, I knew one guy who's wife was in a car accident and he couldn't get permission to leave work early to go to the hospital. Switching MOS or getting into a special program is infinitely harder.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2016
  6. Aug 28, 2016 #5


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    I don't know your reasons for wanting to join, but if you want to study and want to serve here is what I would do. Apply for ROTC wherever you're studying at, assuming it's a university that has the program (if not you can transfer to school that has one), apply for the scholarship. Assuming you get it, it's a win win for everyone. The recruit command looks good if you get it, you look good for scholarship because you've already shown a desire to serve by signing up for DEP, no one will have hard feelings this way.

    You'll study, complete your degree, then do your obligated service as an officer. Upon finishing you can then go to graduate school, or stay in and make a career out of it if you like it.
  7. Aug 28, 2016 #6
    Thank you so much! It took me sometime to examine and realize that I can actually wait, finish my degree and go active duty. I don't think that I can finish my degree being there in.
  8. Aug 28, 2016 #7
    The best person to send a message to on these forums is Dr. Courtney, he has a lot of experience in this subject. I believe, he teached or still teaches, at a Airforce Academy.
  9. Aug 29, 2016 #8


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    Go the ROTC route. Apply for the scholarship, your recruiter or their commanding officer should be able to help.
  10. Aug 29, 2016 #9


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    Paging @Dr. Courtney. Anything to add to @Student100's knowledgeable answers?
  11. Aug 29, 2016 #10
    Thank you! I would ask the Dr.
  12. Aug 29, 2016 #11
    Ah, wish ROTC was for me. :cry:
    I am a MAVNI applicant. I can't really choose any of these options.
    My options are: become AD, and serve; or go reserve and continue studies, which I am not going to do.
    My contract is signed as an AD. I am waiting for the background clearance to get my shipping date.
  13. Aug 29, 2016 #12
    Usually the only options for enlisted service members are those local to where they are stationed and distance learning. I would not say never, but it would be exceedingly rare for the Army to support an enlisted member "away" at college somewhere for an Astro degree. Officers have a lot more support for both their distance learning and classroom learning goals.

    That being said, I am not aware of ANY complete online undergraduate programs in Physics or Astrophysics that are accredited in the US higher ed system. Nor do I know of any ABET accredited online engineering programs. I would be happy to learn of them. I've made some efforts to search out what exists, and in spite of my google-fu, I may have missed some things.

    The best options for leveraging military service for a college education are ROTC before your service or the GI Bill programs afterwards. I don't see m/any paths for enlisted service people while serving in areas not served by distance learning programs.
  14. Aug 29, 2016 #13


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    Nor am I. We regularly get questions from people looking for such programs, and I have yet to see such a program posted/linked in response.
    Arizona State's online BSE in electrical engineering is ABET accredited. We have a long-running thread about it in this forum.
  15. Aug 29, 2016 #14
  16. Aug 29, 2016 #15


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    Ahhhhhhhhh, so you're doing it for citizenship? It's a good path for that, and after you can use your GI bill to fund your studies. (Its really good right now, E-5 BAH with dependants stipend a month, depending on zip code, ex. i think its almost 2400~ a month in san diego right now, plus all tution and fees all paid at public uni rates) So don't let me talk you out of it completely. You're not going to able to study while you serve, but you can after and you'll certainly have/be on a good path for citizenship. Just 4 years right?

    The Army life sucks, but it certainly isn't all bad. You'll be able to accomplish other goals and meet lifelong friends. After you've been out a while the military can be almost nostalgic even. :nb)

    What job did they give you? Wait, let me guess: cook, some kind of logistic role, translator, 11x?
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2016
  17. Aug 30, 2016 #16
    Thank you so much Dr.!

    Unfortunately, I can't choose ROTC option, since I am MAVNI applicant. My terms are conditions are slightly different from the those who enter the US Army through general channel.

    I did a lot of research over Online STEM degree, and found out that they are just garbage and waste of time.

    I am planning to finish my degree as quickly as possible, even planned to take 21 credit hours for the next semester. If not Dec. 17, then May 18, I will be done with by Bachelors.
    Serving and studying is just too hard to manage, especially when options are narrower.
  18. Aug 30, 2016 #17
    I found out several other, but just one thing stops me from taking the step towards admission, which is: how am I going to take labs for these courses? Science courses without labs just doesn't make any sense to me.

    I appreciate your effort BTW. Thank you so much! :)
  19. Aug 30, 2016 #18
    Sir! :biggrin:

    I actually chose Army to work in the US. I still remember, when a bunch of companies came to my uni to talk about jobs. All of them said "No" to me because of my Major, except US Army booth. I was just so surprised!
    Since then, I have got SSN, did my ASVAB and medical, OPI, and signed the contract. However, I can't choose the MOS, until background clearance (SSBI and NIAC) comes "favorable".
    Now this is, where the toughest part comes in. Applicants have to wait for at least 6 months after signing the contract. Sometimes, they get delayed for more than 1 and a half year. I am not worried about it. At least, I can finish my degree, if I get delayed.
    Once, it's done, I will choose the MOS, and simultaneously get the shipping date.

    For MOS, there are around 80-90 jobs for MAVNI applicants ranging: Infantry, combat, health, engineering, and health dept.
    I will get my citizenship if not after BCT, then after AIT.

    I actually like Military life: home, money, uniform with badges :cool:, food, and lot of exercise.

    My plan is to join Army with Bachelors (hopefully, this happens), go Commissioned, join Reserve (when contract expires), do Phd. and join Naval Observatory Lab.
    I hope, everything goes according to the plan.
  20. Aug 30, 2016 #19
    I would probably be more diplomatic, but I also cannot disagree with your word choices at all.
  21. Aug 30, 2016 #20
    My teenagers are enrolled in several online college courses, including some lab classes. We bought a lab kit full of supplies and rounded up additional supplies which are either easily obtained around the house or inexpensively at Walmart and hardware stores. I've had my doubts about online lab courses, but these seem to be the real deal - as good or better than a lot of in person college lab classes in intro biology, chemistry, and physics.

    This specific online program is receiving close oversight from all the state universities that have agreed to accept transfer credit for their accredited STEM majors, including ABET accredited engineering and ACS approved chemistry programs. They are doing it right, so it can be done. Unfortunately, their course offerings only include typical first year sequences and there are no paths to a complete STEM degree.
  22. Aug 30, 2016 #21


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    I spent 10 years in the infantry and I can honestly say that your dream happening is rare. It's is super hard to be an ROTC green to gold scholar. It's rather hard to transfer to ROTC while on active service. It took me 9 years, the rank of SSG, soldier of the month, NCO of the month, honor graduate for multiple courses, and APFT 300 club to finally be approved as an ROTC scholar. Unfortunately for me, I was medically retired 1 year after that.

    I mention this because I believe planning for your career needs to be grounded in realism. If your goal is to do 2 years of service, go to OCS or ROTC, and then live the high life as an officer, you're surely mistaken. You should plan to do your 4 years, and then finish school (while doing ROTC at the same time). Take a year or two off between undergraduate and graduate school for BOLC I and II. If you choose to commission on the active said, then be advised that the odds are extremely low that you'll be approved to go to a STEM related graduate school on the government's dime. Thus you should be content with studying something like homeland security. Lastly, It isn't guaranteed that you'll be approved for graduate school, and if the Army says no, then nothing you do will change that.

    If you desire to serve and have the career you want, active duty is not for you. Join the reserves. When you go on active duty, you commit yourself to the mission of the United States, and your dreams, hopes, whatever are rather meaningless to people who set in D.C. managing your career.

    Lastly, even if you do ROTC, that does not guarantee your an active duty slot. A certain percentage will be forced to take a career as reservist.
  23. Aug 30, 2016 #22


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    He's not currently a citizen, sooo basically he's stuck. He can just do his time on AD, get citizenship, separate, then use his education benefits. I'm betting they have him pegged as an 09L, so his life won't be all that bad for four years.

    Getting the citizenship is just as important as the degree if he wants to work at the NO.

    To Noman, if you can finish your degree beforehand, you should try to do that. You can then self study during your service so your skills don't atrophy, get out, go to grad school and then get a job at the NO. SPAWAR/Army Research Lab might also be interesting to you, towards the end of your enlistment start thinking about applications to graduate school assuming you can finish BS beforehand.

    When you complete your education, you'll need to go onto USA Jobs to apply for federal positions....

    If for whatever reason you can actually change your MOS after two years, look into MOS 94E. You'll likely be able to make contacts with several different defense contractors and agencies. Specifically, SPAWAR and the Army research lab. You should also get screened for at least a secret clearance at this time, which helps when applying to these agencies/their contractors.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2016
  24. Aug 30, 2016 #23


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    There's no real reason to expect he'll be an 09L. I did OSUT with non-citizens who were 11X. The point is that he doesn't have to do AD to get his citizenship. So why would you encourage someone to essentially give up four years of their life when the same results can be achieved through reserves/National Guard? If the goal is to gain citizenship, that's fine. I doubt having AD time vs reserve time would marginally increase his chances in any significant way for his goals.

    I say this as someone who left school for the military. It's extremely hard to go back, it's extremely hard to retain anything you learned. Assuming he managed to get his B.s and went AD. Let's say he served 4 years. Now, after 4 years, he has to take the physics GRE and get recommendations from professors he had 4 years ago. It requires a rather dedicated effort to ensure that he says up to par with his education, keeps in contact with key professors, and is prepared for the GRE. These are all factors that need to be considered before making a rather life changing decision.
  25. Aug 30, 2016 #24


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    Basing it on his handle, he probably is fluent in one of the critical languages for 09L.

    I don't think MAVNI (not a green card holder, probably in US on study visa) entrants get the opportunities to go reserve very easy unless they're in medical specialties, which he isn't. Albeit, I don't know a whole lot about the program.

    The above is certainly possible, much more possible than studying for credit while in. If he can go reserves that a valid option. I just don't know from experience how likely that is under MAVNI.
  26. Aug 30, 2016 #25


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    I looked into it just now. It doesn't seem like either service is taking many applicants at all. In fact, both have closed for this FY. There haven't been numbers posted for FY 17 yet. Once they post again, they'll probably post for under 1000 again. Completely different times from my days of "if you can write your name, we want you!".
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