Would a career in the armed forces suit me?
There are so many different roles in the armed forces that it’s highly likely you’ll find something to suit your talents, whether you’ve set your sights on a career in logistics, information analysis, animal care, engineering, medicine, education or some other area. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider whether you’d enjoy working life in the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Air Force.
You probably won’t be a good fit for an armed forces career if…
- You’re not keen on exercise or the great outdoors.
- You wouldn’t want to be assigned a rank in a hierarchy or to wear a uniform.
- You don’t want to make the commitment required. It is usually expected that you will serve in the armed forces for at least four years after joining.
- You want to have control over where you work. In a career in the armed forces you are likely to have to relocate from time to time even when not on active service. Depending on the role you take, you may need to be prepared to go wherever you are needed at very short notice – for example, if you join the Royal Marines, you may be expected to be ready to respond rapidly to events around the globe.
Everyone in the armed forces can face potentially life-threatening situations, so it’s not a career to be entered into without serious consideration. You’ll need to be dedicated and sure about what you want, and clear about what is expected from you.
The armed forces act on the decisions of the government of the day and armed forces personnel are expected to follow orders. If the country goes to war and you are in a combat role you may be required to take part in armed conflict regardless of any personal views or opinions you might have.
You might suit an armed forces career if you can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:
Are you physically fit? Fitness tests are a standard part of the recruitment process. If you love sport, the armed forces offer lots of opportunities to keep in shape and to compete.
Are you adventurous? A career in the armed forces can involve plenty of travel, and at some stage you could be stationed abroad.
Are you a team player? Many employers want to recruit team players, but a career in the armed forces can take this to a whole new level. It takes a special kind of person to cope with spending extended periods of time at close quarters with others on a submarine, for example. Whatever career path you choose in the armed forces you are likely to find yourself living with or close to your colleagues, during training or on active service, and there could be times when your ability to work together is quite literally a matter of life and death. If you want camaraderie, this is where you’ll find it.
You can find out more about what the armed forces look for in recruits and the assessments they use in our advice on how to get into the armed forces. If you’re interested in joining the Army you could look into doing one of its residential insight courses, which are three to five days long and are designed to give potential recruits the chance to experience Army life.
Have you joined the cadet forces?
If you’re considering a career in the armed forces and want to see if you’d enjoy it, you could look into becoming a cadet. All cadets take part in ceremonial events as well as adventurous outdoor activities and camps, some of which may be overseas, and there’s the chance to work towards a range of qualifications, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s award. Many cadet forces have their own bands and there is the chance to get involved in playing music at military parades and band events and camps.
- The Army Cadet Force (ACF) is for 12 to 18 year olds and is a chance to spend your time on outdoors activities such as rock climbing and mountain biking, as well as to learn fieldcraft and navigation.
- The Sea Cadets is for 10 to 18 year olds and aims to introduce teenagers to water-based activities such as sailing and diving as well as mountain biking, rock-climbing and other land-based activities.
- The Royal Marines Cadets (RMC) is part of the Sea Cadets. You can join at 13 and stay on till you reach 18. Royal Marines Cadets take part in both activities on water and adventure training, including orienteering, fieldcraft and weapon handling.
- The Royal Air Force Air Cadets is for 12 to 20 year olds and gives you the chance to try gliding and flying a plane as well as other sporting and adventurous activities. Around 40% of RAF officers and 50% of aircrew are ex-cadets, so if you’re thinking of applying to the RAF joining the cadets might increase your chances of success.