Army and AF engineering careers

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by usafa2022, Jan 27, 2015.

  1. usafa2022

    usafa2022 Member

    Jan 12, 2015
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    I plan to apply to USAFA with USMA as a second choice, majoring in aero/astro engineering or in the case of West Point chemical or mechanical engineering. From what I understand your college major doesn't have a huge effect on career selection so I'm assuming most jobs are open with an engineering major.

    Space/missile ops, ABM, maintenance, and developmental engineering are my AF preferences. Chemical Corps, aviation, air defense, armor, or some engineering job would be my choices on the Army side.

    My primary question is about the actual engineering jobs available: what kind of work would be done in an AF or Army engineering job? Also, what civilian jobs would be open to someone retiring from one of the fields I mentioned as an officer with an engineering degree? Any Guard/Reserve opportunities?

    A chemistry major at either academy is an option as well, so what careers are available there in the active duty/guard/reserve and civilian jobs? Thx for replies
    JRS92078 likes this.
  2. SpadGuy

    SpadGuy Member

    Nov 28, 2014
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    you can try the FFRDC

    like Aerospace Corp. or the nuclear lab

    [QUOTE="usafa2022, post: 402003, member: 24220"
    Also, what civilian jobs would be open to someone retiring from one of the fields I mentioned as an officer with an engineering degree? Any Guard/Reserve opportunities?
  3. cb7893

    cb7893 5-Year Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    I am speaking as the father of two STEM DS's for whom HS level math and science (AP included) were easy. DS #1 is AROTC MS 4. DS #2 started out aspiring to USNA, changed to NROTC, got ROTC scholarship to Michigan, later DQ'ed for eye injury. I think their experiences would be instructive to you.

    I am also writing about education and career choice; not about how to get into an SA.

    I'm assuming by your user name that you would be shooting for the college graduating class of 2022, which would make you a HS sophomore. Your mentioning of Engineering tells me you are a math/science superstar and/or you just love machines and how things work.

    1. You are very smart to start thinking about these things now and this forum is an excellent place to start. Always use the search tool to answer a question before starting another thread with your question.

    2. Concentrate on the studies in front of you right now. As you get deeper into Math, Physics and Chemistry I predict you will find something you hate and something you love. We gave DS #2 subscriptions to Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. In those (after we tore out the creepy classified ads) he could finds things that tripped his trigger.

    3. You will need to broaden your college wishlist. An SA would be great and keep that as a goal. The competition is stiff. It is also stiff for ROTC scholarships. There are any number of things beyond your control in the application process. You may even just simply change your mind. You may have a disqualifying injury.

    DS #2 was kicked in the eye with a soccer ball two months before receiveing his scholarship and was medically DQ'ed. When he lost his NROTC scholarship, the cost to attend U Mich went from $10-12k to $40k. One of his back-ups was in-state Big 10 U, cost $0. He is Mech E sophomore, works in a physics lab and couldn't be happier.

    4. Understand that you will change over the next several years in ways that you can't imagine. Some of the changes will come from within as you mature and some will be situational. Some are gradual and some are sudden.

    When DS #1 began compiling a list of schools, he was deadset on finding the best Chem E programs. He shared the list with a good family friend who chairs an engineering department at the local Big 10 U. He told DS to think no more narrowly than "I love Chemistry" or "lasers fascinate me". Until you actually get into the guts of engineering, which really doesn't begin until Sophomore year, you have no idea what you are getting into. Engineering can be extremely boring and tedious, so you better love what you are doing.

    5. Engineering is by far the toughest college major. Almost all programs leave virtually no opportunity for electives. At an SA or in ROTC you are on a four year clock, so a ninth and tenth semester are not really an option.

    DS #1 hated the E part of Chem E for all the reasons mentioned. He switched his major to Chemistry. He carried in quite a few credits from HS which would have allowed him to easily finish in four years, but he wanted more academic freedom and less time management stress with his ROTC commitments. He was able to take Arabic, enough Computer Science for a minor, and graduate on time.

    He got his first choice of Active Duty of Signal Corps with the opportunity to work in the brand new Cyber Branch.

    I will let others remind you that an SA or ROTC at a civilian university is not just another college experience. If you are not absolutely committed to serving in the military at the military's pleasure, life can be very unpleasant before and after graduation/commissioning.

    Just ask those AFA graduates who aspired to fly jets and just found out they will be missileers working 200 feet underneath the North Dakota prairie.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2015
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  4. Pima

    Pima 10-Year Member

    Nov 28, 2007
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    I am going to add will not be able to walk until 2027 at best.

    Everyone talks about having plan B, C and D in place.

    I would suggest you read the Missileer thread on the ROTC forum.
    ~Service before self! I also would!d suggest you research ABM.
  5. Fireman1234

    Fireman1234 New Member

    Dec 29, 2017
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    Air Force is very math and techy oriented
  6. Falcon A

    Falcon A Member

    Nov 2, 2014
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  7. Casey

    Casey USMA 2015 5-Year Member

    Nov 8, 2010
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    The Army's ability as a junior officer to apply any sort of engineering degree is much more limited than the Air Force which has some highly technical areas and many more research positions open to company grade officers. Of the branches you listed, Aviation, Air Defense, and Armor, you will not be using your degree in any sort of the technical sense if you stay in the traditional career path. Chemical Corps, very unlikely as well.

    In our Engineer branch, you more ability to apply your degree but many times its from a more project management aspect, rather than a technical aspect and applies more to the civil engineering side. That said, they build the requisite knowledge and experience that many are eligible to test for their Professional Engineering license by the time they are senior company grade/junior field grade officers which is a huge plus to have on the outside.

    I say that as a mechanical engineering (focus in aerospace) major who graduated from USMA that is now an Aviation Officer. Did my degree make flight school easier? Yes, but flight school is also taught to the lowest common denominator. You don't need an aero background to understand the aerodynamics they teach you. It just makes it easier and let me go focus on other things that I had to study. Do I use my degree in any shape or form today? Not the material. I wish I did. I love engineering and am starting the process of figuring out how I can start my masters so I don't forget everything, but the chances to actually apply my major are incredibly limited for my expected career path for the first 5-7 years. The only parts of my degree I use though now are the habits I learned at school about time management and problem solving. Definitely important things but I could've learned them in other majors as well.

    Research opportunities or more technical roles begin to open up once you are a senior company grade officer or field grade officer. Most are programs that are selective applications that require you to branch transfer to a specific functional area. Until that point, your role as an Army officer revolves around personnel management and resourcing/conducting training which don't get me wrong is definitely fun. Just different and requires expectation management.
  8. raimius

    raimius 10-Year Member

    Jun 9, 2006
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    Still good info though...
    AROTC-dad likes this.