June 20th will be 5 years since I went barreling out of the gate without so much as a glance in the rear view mirror. I still remember Mama Waller yelling at me about my uniform as I was leaving.
Too be honest, I'm surprised that I have been sailing as long as I have, the life style isn't always easy, but there are aspects of it that I'm not ready to give up (the money and the ability to take long vacations when I'm home chief among them). I'll just give you my personal, one man anecdotal outlook.
I'm sailing Chief Mate, so at this point there is a competitive advantage to sailing long enough to get an Unlimited Masters license (December of this year). No matter what I do when I come ashore, at the very least it will be a cool thing to put on the wall, and if I choose to come ashore in the maritime world it gives a certain level of credibility to almost any role I could be applying too. With that said I'm working on enough AD time to get at least some percentage of GI bill, and I do think grad school isn't unlikely unless I wind up starting a pilot apprenticeship somewhere. Lots of folks in my class have started re-tooling themselves with grad school and office jobs.
What amazed me plebe year was talking to graduates at homecoming about the breadth of careers (one of of the ex-mods on here is a ophthalmologist, @kp2001
) Lawyers, Doctors and Indian chiefs all over the country in every imaginable sector. The KP alumni network goes above and beyond to look out for their own, and we're also capable as a group of thriving almost anywhere. It leads to a KP'r getting in at a company, moving up quick, and sucking in other KP'rs to fill the void. I watched this happen with the Cargo Supers in one of the ports we call, they hired a 97' grad, he was there for 8 months, got promoted to director of the region, and now has three recent KP grads working in junior roles.
The other thing the KP does is front loads a high income job at the beginning of your career. You graduate at 21, with no debt, making 100k a year (...and at least for me having a hell of a lot of fun doing it). Money that big gives you a TON of flexibility to take huge risks career wise, which I think is an undersold aspect of the beast. It is a snow ball effect, because I have money in the war chest I can take gambles that my high school peers can't. They have student loans and in most cases aren't near the same income level. When opportunities come along they often can't afford to go out on a limb to make it happen.
I took a dip into another line of work last year, it was something I wanted to do, and to connect all the dots I knew I'd need to take six months off and not work. In the end it didn't work out, but because I'm debt free, and making as much as a Chief Mate does I was able to strike out and take this risks. Being able to do this young and not have student loans holding you down is way more huge than I could have grasped at 18, and over the course of a lifetime probably worth millions of dollars.
Tl;dr: Go to KP. You'll thrive HUGE anywhere you go.