The university route into a career in the armed forces

The university route into a career in the armed forces
Find out about how you join the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Air Force and about armed forces schemes to help fund your university study.

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The Defence Technical University Scheme Army Royal Navy Royal Air Force

Graduates from any degree background and any combination of A level subjects can apply for officer training and take up leadership roles in the armed forces. A degree is not a standard requirement and graduates apply for officer training in the same way as candidates who have A levels but have not been to university. However, the majority of successful candidates are graduates.

Although officers are drawn from all degree backgrounds and some are non-graduates, some degree subjects may be an advantage in particular roles. For example, science and engineering degrees are likely to be relevant in operations or combat roles involving artillery, weapons or flying. If you choose to work with ammunition and explosives, a degree in chemistry might give you valuable background knowledge, while if you apply for a role in HR, a degree in finance, accounting, HR or business management might be useful. If you apply to join the armed forces as a graduate, an advisor at an Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO) will be able to give you information about any roles that would enable you to make use of your degree.

There is a range of bursaries and sponsorship packages that provide support to university students who are committed to careers in the armed forces and have passed the officer selection process. Special funding arrangements are available for medical, dental and engineering students, including the Defence Technical University Scheme (DTUS) for potential engineer officers. When you research armed forces sponsorship for university study, make sure you are clear about the commitment to your future career required from you in return.

The Defence Technical University Scheme (DTUS)

You can receive support from the armed forces to study at university through the Defence Technical University Scheme (DTUS). You’ll need to attend an approved course (mainly engineering or science-based, with a few management degrees) at an approved university. The degrees on offer depend which branch of the services you have joined through and, in the case of the Army, which corps you hope you join.

You can attend any of the approved universities, regardless of which branch of the armed forces you have joined through. They are as follows:

  • Aston
  • Birmingham
  • Cambridge
  • Loughborough
  • Newcastle
  • Northumbria
  • Oxford
  • Portsmouth
  • Southampton
  • Strathclyde.

DTUS is administered jointly by the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Civil Service, and participants in the scheme receive a bursary of £4,000 a year. Taking part in the DTUS scheme is a fast track to a place on the MoD’s DESG (Design Engineering and Science Group) graduate scheme.

Funding for university students who want to join the Army

The Army provides undergraduate bursaries worth £1,000 a year with a further £3,000 on completion of officer training. These are open to students of any degree subject at any UK university as long as you pass the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB); you can apply either once you have a confirmed or conditional offer of a place at university or during your studies. You can find out more about the AOSB and the range of options open to graduates interested in Army careers from our advice on how to get into the armed forces.

Army Medical Service Professionally Qualified Officer bursaries are available to potential medical, dental, veterinary, nursing and allied health professional officers. The scheme provides financial support during your studies and a job in the Army after graduation. Doctors and dentists receive £10,000 a year and others on the scheme receive £5,000 a year, followed by a lump sum when you successfully complete initial military training. The lump sum is currently £45,000 for doctors, dentists and vets, £36,000 for pharmacists and £27,000 for nurses and environmental health officers. You can find out more from the advice on funding on the Army website.

Bursaries and scholarships from the Royal Navy

Any student at any UK university who wants to join the Royal Marines or the logistics, warfare or Fleet Air Arm branches of the Royal Navy can apply for a bursary of £1,500 per year. Applicants who want to join as engineer officers and are studying an accredited maths, physics or engineering-based degree at a non-DTUS university can apply for a bursary worth £4,000 a year.

Medical and dental cadetships are also available; these are worth up to £15,379 a year, in addition to having tuition fees paid. You’ll need to pass the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB) before applying – see our advice on how to get into a career in the armed forces for further details. Further information about bursaries and scholarships is available from the Royal Navy website.

Support for university study from the Royal Air Force (RAF)

Bursaries and sponsorship are available for university students who want to join the RAF, with special arrangements for potential medical officers and engineer or logistics officers. The medical cadetship scheme for RAF medical officers includes a grant to cover tuition fees. You can find out more from the RAF website.

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