Value of SA education after 5-20 years in service?

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by totach1, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. totach1

    totach1 New Member

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    I'm just wondering if the value of a SA education is diminished if, after
    the academy, the SA grad does anywhere from 5 to 20 years of
    active duty? Would a Mechanical Engineering grad who goes into the
    Marines or a Quant. Eco major who becomes a pilot, for example,
    be able to put their undergraduate education to use when
    they get out of the service, or would they, figuratively, have forgotten
    enough of their academy taught academic knowledge that they would
    have to start all over or go to some special refresher program?

    I'm new to the site. Perhaps this is a topic that has already
    been dealt with. But, it has been a question that I haven't
    seen an answer to yet, and which doesn't seem to come up in
    the typical promotional material sent out by the academies.
    They always discuss the high level of the SA's education,
    but to what extent the practical value of the education,
    post-military, does not seem to be referenced.

    Any insights into this topic would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    First, a bachelor's degree isn't what it used to be. A number of folks go on to get a master's degree.

    You will forget anything you don't use, at least to some extent. So refreshers are probably helpful.

    A service academy diploma does look good. Some (a good number) of managers and HR folks appreciate the background. That said, others may be "scared off" by your service OR have an incomplete view of the military.

    Granted, I was a government major... so did I go to a "government" job when I got out after five years? No. Not exactly. Because I had also developed a specialty during my time in, I was able to find a private sector job that build/benefited from that training and experience. And.... I was working on a master's. That's not to say my bachelor's hasn't been helpful, it has, especially in the DC area, but it's what you do with it that counts.

    If you've done little with the degree, well, that will show up on your resume. If the job you're applying for relies heavily on you being active with that degree, it could hurt.

    There are ways to stay engaged though, and to build on your education.
     
  3. totach1

    totach1 New Member

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    Thanks for your insight.

    I wonder whether there are opportunities for
    a SA grad (the situation I have a personal
    connection is a USNA midshipman) to use a degree in Quantatative Economics
    while actively serving? Then I guess I would have to distinguish between
    those periods directly following graduation and periods later on in a career.

    I know that the government -- fed. state local, and so on -- must have a need to employ people that help them do budgeting
    the gazillion dollars spent each fiscal year, but it would seem to
    me that each service has its own budget planning to do, and that
    even each base might require some budgetary planning. Would
    a young LT. or ENS. ever get those jobs? Would there be such opportunities
    for officers with more seniority and higher ranks?

    But I can see that for many SA grads, if they actually like what
    they are majoring in, it may be better for them not to like it too much.
    They might get disappointed. Studying, working hard for grades,
    for years and then having to put this on the back,back back-burner for at least 5 year. Not the best of all situations, but, then again, it is what they
    signed on to from the outset, and they all know what to expect.
    I can see a young Marine officer carrying around a textbook in his knapsack, doing what he does professionally, and then doing academic reviews when the dust settles.
     
  4. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I can only speak for what I've seen in the Coast Guard, but it's generally a fairly senior officer, but I would guess, in the O-5 to O-6 range. You might have an O-4 now and then. At the base level, maybe O-4 to O-5. On a ship, generally the XO is dealing with this, while department heads provide input.

    If you like your major, you'll figure out how to dabble in it. But on top of that, you'll be doing other fun things too, so you may not miss all of the academics.
     
  5. MaineGrad86

    MaineGrad86 Member

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    FWIW:

    You lose the skills you don't use. I graduated with a Mech Eng degree and passed my EIT at USMA. I then branched infantry and spent 8 years jumping out of airplanes and getting tossed around in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. I would never have dreamed of selling myself as a "mechanical engineer" to anybody.

    I then transferred into the Acquisition Corps functional area and stayed there for my remaining 12 years. The first place I was sent was to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA to get an Operations Research degree so I could go back and teach Mathematics at USMA - a great opportunity. We had service members from all services - the Navy folks seemed to be the youngest. Many of them were there after one tour so they were back in school at the 4 year mark. Most of us Army guys were older and slower - at the 8 or so year mark.

    One can be lucky enough to use their SA degree, but usually it is after being greened or blued in their respective service, and then attending graduate school. Pilots need non-flying time, sailors need shore time, and army officers need non-field army time.
     
  6. totach1

    totach1 New Member

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    Thanks, MaineGrad86.
    I am not familiar with the term to be greened or blued.
    What do they refer to?
    Thanks.
     
  7. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Think of it like "ripening" but in a service. Colors just represent the service.... green would be Army, a blueing would be Navy. Don't feel like you should have known that.
     
  8. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Quite a few grads wind up in different career fields than they majored in. Who would hire a guy with a Behavioral Science B.S., a Leadership M.A., ran a squadron of 300 people and a couple hundred million dollars of equipment, and has 3,000 hours of time in a heavy airlift aircraft? Well, perhaps the person looking for a behavioral scientist would look elsewhere, but I'd think the grad could spin off in several directions, after getting out of the military.
     
  9. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Unless you're looking for a "first job" kind of position (which I wouldn't remember after you've spent 5 years on a generous officer pay scale) you will need to have some experience.

    You will have a harder time getting a position that you have a bachelors for, but haven't done anything in relation to that degree in 5 years. 20 years.... FORGET ABOUT IT.

    But, you'll also have time, at some point, to build experiences around that degree OR you will have to consider a job that has nothing to do with your college love.
     
  10. USMA2020

    USMA2020 Member

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    How are the government majors at the SAs? That is something that I am really looking into, because that is what I want to major in.
     
  11. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Well I can only speak for the CGA side of that. I can say I really enjoyed it. When I was a cadet there were two tracks for government majors, public policy (the track I took, domestically focused) and international affairs. Now I've heard there is a third track, intelligence.

    If you're a government major you will do a lot of reading and a lot of writing. In class you will discuss, with support, what you've read. Some times that will turn into an argument, but less so as we matured. You get closer and closer to folks, and in the end you know where you stand and where your classmates stand on issues. You make your case, but you respect other points of view.

    My senior year I had an internship with the Connecticut General Assembly. Three classmates and I drove to Hartford every Wednesday and roamed the halls of the capital building.

    In the end, I think you become a more persuasive speaker, at least, that has been my experience.

    My master's degree is in strategic public relations, which is what I do now... communications. But I work in DC, so the government BS (bachelors of science in this context, HAHA) has been helpful.

    While you're in the humanities dept, you will have plenty of math and science to get that "science" in your bachelors degree.
     
  12. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    I can only use myself as an example.

    BSME from USAFA, then became a pilot. 30 years later...after 14 active duty years, and then 16 active reserve years and civilian jobs...

    a. I was hired as a "Staff Electrical Engineer" by Motorola. I was told "We hired you because of where you got your engineering degree, you probably have forgotten a lot, but you WON'T have forgotten the egineering logical thought process...and that's what we want! That and your senior officer/command experience. We can teach you the EE part."

    b. Being a senior officer put me in a leadership/upper level management position immediately. They viewed Air War College graduation the same as a Masters Degree (which it is, by the way when you do it in residence!)

    Just my experience...but it didn't hurt.

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  13. SamAca10

    SamAca10 Ensign - DWO

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    My friends in the Government major are pretty satisfied with their choice of studies (T&F is a govt major), but be sure to put it down as your choice of major when you apply. Command mentioned to us at the beginning of the semester that they are planning on holding freshman to the majors that they intend when the come in with (i.e. if you put down you want to be a civil engineer you'll have to try out civil engineering for the first semester of your 3/c year. No switching to govt or management until after that semester.
     
  14. totach1

    totach1 New Member

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    As I read through this thread and the better I understand the topic, I am starting to think that the best thing for SA students to do in terms of future,
    post-military employment is to get a good, all-around education
    in the sciences and the humanities.
    I would assume that a person who learns a profession, like
    electrical engineering, and then for 1 or 2 decades is flying
    planes or in special ops, would be at a major disadvantage.

    On the other hand, a more well rounded "liberal arts" education
    would have, I think (or maybe just conjecturing), more flexibility
    to go into other areas later on.

    One other related question: would the SA English major, for example,
    be just as qualified to fly a plane or captain a ship or submarine
    as a Electrical Engineering major, again, for example. In other
    words, a technical, result-oriented, science education versus a
    humanities-oriented education, does it matter once they go active duty?
    I know that, at least at USNA, everyone get a BS rather than BA, and
    they take courses in military science and other military related subjects.
    But, at the end of the day, when you finally go active duty, will
    it matter if you study this or study that?
     
  15. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    Fly a plane? Yes. Captain a ship or sub? I honestly don't know. I would say, and I don't mean to dispute your conclusion above, there are valuable thought processes that you learn as an engineer that are invaluable in many professions and I think would be especially valuable in the upper leadership echelons. That's not to say an English major couldn't make it either, or wouldn't perhaps bring the same thought processes to bear.

    I would say first and foremost any engineering major teaches you to think logically, and also forces you to think about contingencies, backups, and recognition of problems. Great way to think if you are in command, or leadership in any field. However, I would also say those skills alone are insufficient. There are many other factors involved.
     
  16. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Yes, an English major is just as capable at driving a ship or flying a plane. Some are even engineers on a ship.

    The benefits of engineering majors on life have have been overstated, especially if you remember all grads have a B.S.
     
  17. SamAca10

    SamAca10 Ensign - DWO

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    Not necessarily. There are certain Aviation billets (Engineering) that are only available to those who hold a bachelors in engineering (like Avionics). Additionally, if you majored in engineering as an undergrad and want to study engineering in grad school you're basically guaranteed to get it through the Coast Guard if you apply.
     
  18. FlyingFuzz

    FlyingFuzz Member

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    Exactly, I believe it is the same for any test pilot wannabes as well. I think one of the qualifications for TPS is a degree in engineering, mathematics, or physics.
     
  19. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Not sure if we're talking about the same thing. "To fly a plane or drive a boat" is different than jobs specifically designated for engineers.

    I answered "do you have to be an architect to BUY a house", you answered "do you have to be an architect to design a house".

    Of course engineering degrees are needed for engineering jobs. They aren't needed for all engineering-related jobs.... like being the engineer officer on a ship. They certainly aren't needed to drive the ship.

    As far as grad school is concerned, I know some people are getting worried about what the Coast Guard will be willing to cover if there are budget issues. I don't think they're there yet, but I know a few LTs worried about if their programs will still be covered.
     
  20. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    You can fly a plane, drive a ship or sub, be a SEAL or a Marine with any major. The majority of limiting factors will come into play for follow on type assignments. Certain degrees will open doors like TPS, EDO route, certain acquisition related billets, teaching assignments, etc. Most of these are shore or B billet type of assignments. Some of them are follow on assignments to Masters programs. I have friends from every major at USNA who are succeeding at very high levels within the Navy and Marine Corps.

    I also have friends succeeding with humanities degrees in engineering in the civilian sector. I also have friends who have engineering degrees who do nothing with engineering in their civilian careers. They common denominator is that they are are smart, motivated, driven individuals who had a door open for them and they were able to seize the opportunity and make it work. I was a history major at USNA and am in a Masters in Systems Engineering program. I have had no problems tackling the subject matter in the courses mostly because I do the work daily for a living now.

    What Fleiger83 above mentions is what I have mostly run into. We like what you bring to the table, you are smart, you will figure the rest out.
     

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