Life after your first 5 years of active duty

lstoner7

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Aug 8, 2017
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I'm currently in application process for the USMA, and am wondering what kind of choices and opportunities would lie ahead of me after your 5 years of active duty. I plan on majoring in chemical or nuclear engineering, and would love to enlist in the Corps of Engineers or the Chemical Corps after my four years at West Point. So, I have a couple questions. What are one's chances of getting into the Chemical Corps or Corps of Engineers right out of West Point? I saw only 13 of the last graduating class went chemical. After 5 years, what would be the route for an aspiring chemical engineer? Graduate school? Go into the work force? Or would I make good money and be able to have a family life while continuing on active duty? If I was in the Chemical Corps would I be stateside in more of a 9-5 or out in the field? Would I be better off going to the USNA for nuclear engineering, and have better job prospects in the Navy?

Sorry that's a lot of questions, any clarification would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

Also, I just want to clarify I'm not just looking at West Point for the money aspect, I love my country and will readily serve it in combat if needed, but I'm also looking at my future after military life.
 

emwvmi01

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Sep 21, 2012
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Chances of serving Chemical Corps are pretty high and the same for Engineers. As a Chemical Officer you will either be assigned to a Chemical unit which does either detection of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear Environment or decontamination of Soldiers and equipment or you would be a chemical officer assigned a tactical (Infantry/Armor/Artillery/Aviation unit) where you would advise the command on chemical training and readiness. No requirements in the field to have a chemistry background though it would open some good doors later on. A good friend of mine was a chemical officer for an artillery unit in the 82d Airborne. He did major in chemistry and went on to graduate school then was accepted into an Army scientist program. However, that is the exception and most chemical officers serve in chemical units or as staff officers. Work schedules would depend on the unit but in a chemical or any operational unit likely spend a mix of time balancing garrison (think more office) and tactical (in the field) requirements. Hope this helps.
 

Wishful

"Land of the free, because of the brave..."
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Slow down Grasshopper, I think you may be getting a little ahead with questions of opportunities after 5 years of active duty. Make plans to continue with USMA application, but also prepare ROTC applications, (Enlisted if both don't work out?) maxing academics, community service, athletics, workouts, etc. along with plans for B, C, & D schools as backups. 4 years of an SA/college plus 5 years of active duty is a long time from now. Set & meet reasonable goals & you will continue to move forward. Good Luck!!
 

jl123

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Feb 20, 2016
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I'm currently in application process for the USMA, and am wondering what kind of choices and opportunities would lie ahead of me after your 5 years of active duty. I plan on majoring in chemical or nuclear engineering, and would love to enlist in the Corps of Engineers or the Chemical Corps after my four years at West Point. So, I have a couple questions. What are one's chances of getting into the Chemical Corps or Corps of Engineers right out of West Point? I saw only 13 of the last graduating class went chemical. After 5 years, what would be the route for an aspiring chemical engineer? Graduate school? Go into the work force? Or would I make good money and be able to have a family life while continuing on active duty? If I was in the Chemical Corps would I be stateside in more of a 9-5 or out in the field? Would I be better off going to the USNA for nuclear engineering, and have better job prospects in the Navy?
For most branches what you study at West Point has nothing to do with your branch choice. Two exceptions are Medical Services and Cyber. You can major in Philosophy or Political Science and still choose Engineers or Chemical. All cadets take a core curriculum that includes enough math, science, and engineering to prepare them for service in most branches.

Most branch choices are filled on order of merit - the higher your class rank, the better chance you have of getting your top choice. There is a program called BRADSO that allows a cadet to get their branch of choice in exchange for three additional years of active duty obligation. For most branches the first 75% of the slots are filled by order of merit. The next 25% are filled BRADSO, but if there are slots remaining after that it returns to order of merit.

Branch popularity changes over time. At one time you had to be in about the top third of the class to get Engineers. Today about top 60% can get it without BRADSO. With BRADSO even the most popular branches are within reach for most cadets.

Here are the results for the Class of 2107 for Engineers and Chemical:

# of Allocations: Engineers - 116; Chemical - 12
Class rank of first cadet to choose: Engineers - 9; Chemical - 431
Class rank of last cadet to choose without BRADSO: Engineers - 551; Chemical - 913
Class rank of last cadet to choose with BRADSO: Engineers - 945; Chemical - no one needed to BRADSO
 

sci-fi girl

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Feb 28, 2017
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There is always the life after the academy forum/ thread to check out.
Where did you find the allocation #s jl123
 

jl123

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There is always the life after the academy forum/ thread to check out.
Where did you find the allocation #s jl123
I have a picture of the allocations #'s from a slide presentation. I tried to post it, but got an error message that the file size was too large.
 

lstoner7

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Joined
Aug 8, 2017
Messages
48
I'm currently in application process for the USMA, and am wondering what kind of choices and opportunities would lie ahead of me after your 5 years of active duty. I plan on majoring in chemical or nuclear engineering, and would love to enlist in the Corps of Engineers or the Chemical Corps after my four years at West Point. So, I have a couple questions. What are one's chances of getting into the Chemical Corps or Corps of Engineers right out of West Point? I saw only 13 of the last graduating class went chemical. After 5 years, what would be the route for an aspiring chemical engineer? Graduate school? Go into the work force? Or would I make good money and be able to have a family life while continuing on active duty? If I was in the Chemical Corps would I be stateside in more of a 9-5 or out in the field? Would I be better off going to the USNA for nuclear engineering, and have better job prospects in the Navy?
For most branches what you study at West Point has nothing to do with your branch choice. Two exceptions are Medical Services and Cyber. You can major in Philosophy or Political Science and still choose Engineers or Chemical. All cadets take a core curriculum that includes enough math, science, and engineering to prepare them for service in most branches.

Most branch choices are filled on order of merit - the higher your class rank, the better chance you have of getting your top choice. There is a program called BRADSO that allows a cadet to get their branch of choice in exchange for three additional years of active duty obligation. For most branches the first 75% of the slots are filled by order of merit. The next 25% are filled BRADSO, but if there are slots remaining after that it returns to order of merit.

Branch popularity changes over time. At one time you had to be in about the top third of the class to get Engineers. Today about top 60% can get it without BRADSO. With BRADSO even the most popular branches are within reach for most cadets.

Here are the results for the Class of 2107 for Engineers and Chemical:

# of Allocations: Engineers - 116; Chemical - 12
Class rank of first cadet to choose: Engineers - 9; Chemical - 431
Class rank of last cadet to choose without BRADSO: Engineers - 551; Chemical - 913
Class rank of last cadet to choose with BRADSO: Engineers - 945; Chemical - no one needed to BRADSO

Thanks for information, would you have any clarification on what would be different about serving in the Corps of Engineers vs. Chemical? Just in the day-to-day duties, and would either of them give me a better opportunity to use my major either within the army or in civilian life in the future?
 

another13mom

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Jun 18, 2008
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If you think you'll want Chem Corps, you'll get it (as scout pilot noted, anyone who wants it gets it). Concentrate on surviving the Chem E major; it's not a walk in the park. That and mech e are among the hardest majors offered.
 

jl123

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Thanks for information, would you have any clarification on what would be different about serving in the Corps of Engineers vs. Chemical? Just in the day-to-day duties, and would either of them give me a better opportunity to use my major either within the army or in civilian life in the future?
I don't know much about Chemical Corps, but I wouldn't think of it as being in a laboratory patenting discoveries. Probably more like running a decontamination unit for soldiers and equipment exposed to chemical agents or other hazardous material. That is the extent of, and probably exceeds, my knowledge of Chemical Corps.

In my day Engineers was divided into two segments - Combat and Combat Heavy (construction). Today, I believe what used to be called Combat Heavy is now divided into Vertical and Horizontal, but is still basically construction. Not Hoover Dam or Panama Canal type construction. More typical would be improving roads and airfields, building temporary or semi-permanent facilities like barracks, etc.

My experience is quite dated, so anyone with more recent experience please jump in. Combat Engineers support maneuver units through mobility, counter-mobility and survivability. Mobility - clearing minefields, breaching obstacles, demolitions, crossing rivers, etc. Countermobility - putting in minefields and other obstacles, blowing up bridges (my personal favorite). Survivabilty - constructing fighting positions and bunkers for armor, infantry, etc. A 2LT leads a platoon of soldiers and equipment and is responsible for planning and allocation of those resources.

The Combat Engineer essentially answers these questions for the maneuver commander:
  • "How can you help me get from here to there?"
  • "How can you get the enemy to put themselves into a position where I can kill them?"
  • "How can you keep enemy fire from blowing the crap out of me before I blow the crap out of them."
 

-Bull-

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A little late to this part, but if you’re torn between Chem and Engineers, go Engineer, you’ll get to actually do your job. As a ChemO, you’re job will be USR, and the only thing you’ll be advising the commander on, with the exception of a random field problem where someone wants to play with MOPP, is whether or not him deadlining a pacer now makes the unit an R-3 or R-4
 

jl123

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A little late to this part, but if you’re torn between Chem and Engineers, go Engineer, you’ll get to actually do your job. As a ChemO, you’re job will be USR, and the only thing you’ll be advising the commander on, with the exception of a random field problem where someone wants to play with MOPP, is whether or not him deadlining a pacer now makes the unit an R-3 or R-4
Now I know I'm an old old grad. The only thing I understood was MOPP. :scratch:
 

MidwestDad

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Feb 15, 2017
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Out of curiosity what is a typical career path that gets you into Corps of Engineers designing and maintaining domestic dams / locks / flood control projects etc etc etc? Here in the Great Lakes region its pretty important, on the Mississippi too.

I mean if you really really want to live in Duluth or Sault Ste. Marie . . .
 

Humey

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That is the part I never understood about the military in terms of education. There is seems to be an overemphasis on STEM majors and while that is great, is it really necessary? I dont know and just asking. Air Force likes engineering majors and yet I have to imagine a good chunk of them never actually use their engineering degree once they get in, especially in terms of being a pilot. So what was the point? Is it better to get a 3.8 gpa in philosophy over getting a 2.9 in aerospace engineering? I have to imagine that engineering is way tougher a degree than philosophy but is the 3.8 going to get your farther than a 2.9? On a side note, my sons friend just graduated from Purdue in Aerospace Engineering and while his grades were good they werent 4.0 good. He applied to law school and got in but his choice of law schools was limited because of a 3.4 gpa (just guessing) and couldnt compete with the person who got a 3.8 in political science. Law schools dont seem to care what your degree was, they only care about GPA. Back to my question, what is the point of getting an engineering degree if they put in you in infantry and never use your degree? I guess once you get out, you can get back into it.
 

MidwestDad

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That is the part I never understood about the military in terms of education. There is seems to be an overemphasis on STEM majors and while that is great, is it really necessary? I dont know and just asking. Air Force likes engineering majors and yet I have to imagine a good chunk of them never actually use their engineering degree once they get in, especially in terms of being a pilot. So what was the point? Back to my question, what is the point of getting an engineering degree if they put in you in infantry and never use your degree? I guess once you get out, you can get back into it.

SAs want to develop leaders and thinkers; STEM and engineering require analytical thinking and problem solving which can be applied to many different scenarios. Also todays military is very tech heavy; helps to have the STEM background.

I am also not convinced that liberal arts majors at SAs are a ticket to a 3.8; grade inflation is pretty nonexistent. And even a philosophy or language major still has to get thru the 1st 4 semesters of STEM heavy coursework; its a GPA equalizer. Remember that branch night comes before 7th semester grades; your 6th semester GPA is dominated by plebe and Yuk years where cadets all take most of the same courses.

Like everything else in life you grow by challenging yourself and not by coasting down the easy path . . .
 

Hurricane12

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Personally, I don't think it's really necessary for most people. While there are some paths that require Officers to have specific technical skills (Navy Engineering Duty Officer, for example), they are normally offshoots from a standard career. What STEM skills are useful for is building good study habits and ensuring a basic technical background. The services can also use it as a screening tool for candidates to determine that their academic background incorporates some level of rigor.
I am a History major. Having a solid background in STEM stuff from USNA was helpful for me through flight school, not for any specific skill (a decently sharp 3rd grader could do the math necessary in flight school or as a military pilot), but more for having a good conceptual background (when I do X to the aircraft Y happens because of science).

Of note, the Marine Corps could not care less what a candidate's academic major is, air contract or otherwise, and the Marines are world renowned as the most intellectual of services.
 

jl123

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That is the part I never understood about the military in terms of education. There is seems to be an overemphasis on STEM majors and while that is great, is it really necessary? I dont know and just asking. Air Force likes engineering majors and yet I have to imagine a good chunk of them never actually use their engineering degree once they get in, especially in terms of being a pilot. So what was the point? Is it better to get a 3.8 gpa in philosophy over getting a 2.9 in aerospace engineering? I have to imagine that engineering is way tougher a degree than philosophy but is the 3.8 going to get your farther than a 2.9? On a side note, my sons friend just graduated from Purdue in Aerospace Engineering and while his grades were good they werent 4.0 good. He applied to law school and got in but his choice of law schools was limited because of a 3.4 gpa (just guessing) and couldnt compete with the person who got a 3.8 in political science. Law schools dont seem to care what your degree was, they only care about GPA. Back to my question, what is the point of getting an engineering degree if they put in you in infantry and never use your degree? I guess once you get out, you can get back into it.
In addition to midwest dads comments, non-STEM majors also take a required 3 course engineering sequence in addition to the plebe and yuk courses.

With respect to GPA and graduate school, admissions offices are pretty savvy. Looking for a well rounded class, they won't compare a 3.2 Computer Science major to a 3.6 History major. They will compare the History major's GPA to other social science applicants and the CS GPA to STEM applicants and use standardized test scores to reconcile differences as necessary. That is why test scores are so important - they level the playing field among applicants from different undergraduate institutions and fields of study.
 

jl123

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I am also not convinced that liberal arts majors at SAs are a ticket to a 3.8; grade inflation is pretty nonexistent.

For some, liberal arts is the more difficult path. My grades in Philosophy and Literature always lagged behind my STEM grades.
 

THParent

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...the Marine Corps could not care less what a candidate's academic major is, air contract or otherwise, and the Marines are world renowned as the most intellectual of services...

You know, we can tell when you rust-pickers are making fun of us! :)
 

Humey

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I am also not convinced that liberal arts majors at SAs are a ticket to a 3.8; grade inflation is pretty nonexistent.

For some, liberal arts is the more difficult path. My grades in Philosophy and Literature always lagged behind my STEM grades.
I thought about it after I wrote it. I wasnt trying to diminish philosophy or any other liberal arts major. It is easy to believe that there are plenty of people who would do much better in a STEM major than in liberal arts.
 
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