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Physics Will Serving (4Yrs) in Military Inhibit Grad School Chances

  1. Feb 25, 2017 #1
    Hello, I am currently an undergraduate student on track to get a physics degree than try to pursue graduate school options. However I also am also athletic and was planning on joining the marines with officer candidate school (maybe/hopefully). The problem is that I was wondering if that ~4 year gap in my life would affect the chances of getting into a graduate school. Obviously I will not be doing great or relevant research in physics during this time so I am worried it is close to impossible to be a marine and also pursue physics.

    I do not know if my letters of recommendations from undergraduate education would even be relevant four years later...

    Does anyone have advice on how I could possibly combine these two goals or are they almost mutually exclusive. Also, I realize it is not "impossible." However I do not want to bank on extreme chances of me being the best physics undergraduate student that people will still want me after fours years of service. In other words, I want to err on the side of being realistic and not banking on me being an extreme outlier. That assumption seems like a risky one to base my whole life after. Also, I am not interested in other branches of the military although I hear that air force has some better options for more relevance with physics.

    (Final comment: Due to financial issues and me taking care/supporting sick parents, I started undergrad a little later and am worried that if I fist do both undergrad physics then immediately grad school, something else may stall me and I may be too old for joining the marines which is <30 yrs old-- although that is very worst case scenario as I am less than 25 now)
     
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  3. Feb 25, 2017 #2

    Dr Transport

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    join the reserves and go to graduate school.....
     
  4. Feb 25, 2017 #3

    MarneMath

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    Dr. Transport is right, that is your best way of combining both goals. Your bigger hurdle with regards to the four year gap is actually a double problem.

    1. The 4 year gap is actually longer. Military contracts when stated exclude training time. Thus you have 4 years of service after OCS and whatever officer school you go too, thus you're probably looking at 5 years.
    2. You're going to forget a lot of physics. Even if you self-study on your own time, practice and read, you're going to forget a lot. Military life is rather time consuming. I spent many years in the infantry. When I joined I was told, "you can go to college while you're in by taking part time!" That's true for some jobs (maybe) but as a grunt, it was impossible. Semester starts in January and then in March you have a 30 day field drill :). Good luck keeping up with classes. Same applies to your self-study.

    Also as a side note Marines tend to capitalize the word "marines". It's just what they do.
     
  5. Feb 25, 2017 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Marine officer commissioning age limit is 28. It is waiverable to 30, but waivers are not guaranteed. The odds may be better with a longer contract or a particular specialty.

    I agree that taking four years off is not good for graduate school, and would argue that anything less than 100% commitment in the military is sub-optimal for your success in that organization.
     
  6. Feb 28, 2017 #5
    Tough to do both.

    The Air Force values graduate work in Physics much more highly than the Marines. If you become an officer in the Air Force, there's a good chance that they'll send you to grad school in Physics if you prove yourself worthy.
     
  7. Feb 28, 2017 #6
    I am in a similar dilemma. I'm just telling you my situation and you can take what you want out of it. I made it a goal to get a Phd in Physics and I planned on doing this by enlisting in the Air Force. It will ( I assumed ) provide me the help I need to get the education I desired. Also the Air Force will help me balance out my bad high school years by doing great in the Air Force, I will have something to show when applying for college. I didn't do as good as I wanted in high school but that doesn't mean I was a bad student. I am currently in the Air Force just enlisted last year, taking action in my plan, but many things changed. I realized and know so many things that I did not know before. It's not as easy to get the education I desired as I wanted and yes the Air Force is very time consuming. I can see it becoming difficult to pursue an education and excel in the Air Force, but I see things getting better as my stay in the Air Force prolongs.

    I have more to write, just not sure what though specifically. Feel free to ask me more questions!
     
  8. Feb 28, 2017 #7
    It is much harder to be an enlisted airman with a high school diploma and seeking a BS in Physics while serving in the Air Force than being an officer with a BS in Physics seeking an advanced degree. The Air Force needs officers with advanced degrees in Physics a lot more than they need enlisted airmen with BS degrees.
     
  9. Feb 28, 2017 #8

    DrDu

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    Not surviving the next war your new president will surely send you to or returning with a trauma for having seen too many children torn to pieces may also slow up your career in physics.
     
  10. Feb 28, 2017 #9
    Yet another advantage of the Air Force, you get to destroy the enemies of the United States without having to see the blood and gore first hand.
     
  11. Mar 2, 2017 #10
    The Coast Guard has many benefits of the other services, without (most of) the war part.

    While it is smaller and may not suit needs, it's always worth mentioning.
     
  12. Mar 4, 2017 #11
    Have you talked to a recruiter yet? Be careful because there are some bad ones but it worked great for me. I talked to every service with concerns that match yours and I went in to the Navy for 5 years because of the recruiter advice and it wasn't because of a fondness for shipboard life. I'm sure a lot has changed since the 70's but they had the most to offer with the limited guarantees they could make. The Navy offered access to educational opportunities the other services couldn't. Both the Army and Air Force could not make any guarantees for both job placement and duty station. I didn't want to go to West Texas or North Dakota for a job I was interested in and I didn't want to go somewhere promising with a job I had no interest in. The Navy could put me on either coast near schools I was interested in and ships each have pretty much the same jobs. The bases were not much different than the other services where there are a limited number of billets for any job. When I left I had a year of grad school from a school with a strong reputation and all expenses paid. At that time too the navy had careers like their nuclear engineering program that was worth its weight in gold for a future career. Some stuff you won't know or learn until you do it.
     
  13. Mar 4, 2017 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    :oldsurprised:

    Drug interdiction is just about the most dangerous job in the entire military. You're not allowed to fight over the horizon - you need to get close enough to be 100% sure that it's a drug runner, which means you're close enough to get shot at by someone who has nothing to lose.

    The Coast Guard went to Iraq and they went to Afghanistan and they went to Vietnam and they went to Korea. Not a very good track record for avoiding wars.
     
  14. Mar 4, 2017 #13

    StatGuy2000

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    One of my cousins served in the US Coast Guard, and he served a brief tour in Bahrain to provide logistic support to US troops in Iraq. My understanding is that most of the Coast Guard units who were sent overseas are there primarily for such logistic support or as backup/reserve units (after all, there needs to be units available in the coastal regions to provide security).

    As an aside, he has personally been involved in drug interdiction that you spoke about earlier, based on stories that he's passed on to me, as well as search-and-rescue (probably the biggest part of Coast Guard responsibility).
     
  15. Mar 5, 2017 #14
    From the standpoint of the entire Coast Guard, this is certainly true. However, the actual number of people involved was small, and the liklihood of any individual who joins the CG to end up involved in that capacity is very small. We're comparing this to the other armed services, after all.

    I never, ever suggested CG was without danger. I have an immediate family member who served in the CG and I'm more than familiar with the dangers of the job. These dangers are not necessarily negatives to everyone involved.

    Which is why I totally stand by my post above.
     
  16. Mar 14, 2017 #15

    analogdesign

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    I would like to add that you should be careful about recruiter promises because they are not binding. The recruiter will believe them and the service will attempt to honor them, but I repeat: They are not binding. Two data points:

    First: A guy from my brother's law school joined the Marines to be a JAG (Judge Advocate General). After he joined they decided they had enough JAGs so they assigned him to command an artillery battery. I think he did that for almost 18 months before he moved into a JAG role.

    Second: My brother (same brother from above) was a JAG in the Air Force. After 9/11 and the Iraq invasion they put a stop loss on so even though his contract "expired" they kept him in the service for several years (two I think?) beyond what he expected. Hard to make life plans when the rug can get pulled out from under you.

    On the other hand, my best friend from childhood joined the Marines after he got his Master's degree in EE, went to flight school, and flew for them for 20 years, including combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he went to business school on the GI bill, got an MBA, and founded a small aviation company, so it worked out great for him.
     
  17. Mar 14, 2017 #16

    Dr Transport

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    Stop loss is a standard part of any military contract (enlisted or commissioned). If my memory is correct, there is a clause stating that they can keep you past the term of your contract for up to 4 years in a national emergency and they reserve the right to release you early from that extension and can extend it for critical skills personnel.
     
  18. Mar 15, 2017 #17

    analogdesign

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    Quite right. Military contracts are generally of the "you agree to do all this stuff or go to jail, but we make no promises" type. My brother knew it was possible of course, but a six-year commitment turning into eight years was a bummer for him. Especially since he spent those last stop-loss two years adjudicating procurement disputes. Hardly critical skills for a national emergency, but whatever.
     
  19. Mar 15, 2017 #18

    MarneMath

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    Just to clarify the contract issue at play. ALL initially military contracts are 8 years. In times of peace, what usually happens is you serve 4-6 years on "active" and the last 2-4 on inactive time. Technically speaking, you may be called back into service during the inactive time. Stop-Loss was the law that allowed your active service contract to never lapse into the inactive portion or recall you during the inactive portion. I never heard of a person who had to serve longer than the 8 year obligation.

    Thus I feel the need to emphasis as a former recruiter that contracts ARE BINDING. The problem is people don't read them and get surprised by what's in their. For example, we promise to send you to get trained in MOS (job) XYZ, we don't promise you will perform job XYZ or won't be forced to retrain eventually to something else. The key is that we won't break any promise that is writing explicitly in the contract. Thus if something matters to you, get it in writing in the contract and understand that nothing is implied. If it isn't stated word for word in your contract, it won't happen.

    Lastly for all the uproar over stop-loss it only effected 1% of military personnel. While a hassle for those 58,000 soldiers, not exactly wide spread.
     
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