The university route into a career in the armed forces
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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 Undergraduate 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.
You can receive support from the armed forces to study for an engineering, technical, business or logistics degree at a university that is part of the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS). The aim of DTUS is to provide engineering and technical graduates to the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and the MOD Civil Service. The scheme is run by the Defence Academy, which is responsible for training and postgraduate education for the armed forces.
Students on the DTUS scheme are affiliated to one of four squadrons: Taurus in Birmingham, Typhoon in Loughborough, Trojan in Newcastle and Thunderer in Southampton. They receive a bursary of £4,000 a year and can earn up to £2,000 a year on top in training pay.
The DTUS partner universities are:
- Imperial College
Places on DTUS are automatically awarded to students who have completed two years at Welbeck, the Defence Sixth Form College (DSFC). It is also possible to apply to join the DTUS scheme as a direct entrant. The overarching programme that oversees both Welbeck and DTUS is the Defence Technical Officer Engineering Entry Scheme (DTOEES), which provides education and support to 14 to 22-year-olds preparing for a career as an engineer or technical officer in the armed forces or MOD Civil Service.
You apply to join DTOEES through the Armed Forces Careers Offices. Alternatively, for the MOD Civil Service, you can apply through the Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG). The DESG offers both university sponsorship and a graduate scheme.
- Find out more about DTUS from the Defence Academy website
- Find out more about the DESG university sponsorship scheme from GOV.UK
- Find out more about the DESG graduate scheme from GOV.UK
In addition to the support available through DTUS, other bursaries are also available for undergraduates who meet the requirements and commit to a career in the Army. Applicants for all these bursaries must pass the AOSB Main Board, the selection process for Army officers. 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.
Standard Army undergraduate bursaries. There are up to 150 of these available each year, usually with a total value of £6,000 each, paid over the course of your undergraduate studies – so, for example, you could receive £2,000 a year throughout a three-year degree. Applicants who received support through the Army officer scholarship scheme for sixth formers are automatically awarded the standard bursary, although they can apply for DTUS or the technical or enhanced Army undergraduate bursaries.
Technical Army undergraduate bursaries. This is a new award worth £16,000 overall, payable in four annual instalments of £4,000. It is suitable for candidates who have a place on an Army-endorsed engineering or science degree and want a career in a technical role in the Army, but are not part of the DTOEES scheme (see above for details).
Enhanced Army undergraduate bursaries. This award is intended for candidates who are both strong academic performers and show the qualities expected of potential officers. It is worth a maximum of £24,000 – up to £18,000 payable at university, plus £6,000 on joining the Army if you achieve at least a 2.1.
Recipients of Army undergraduate bursaries must serve at least a minimum of three years in the Army after completing their training. More information is available from the Defence Academy.
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 and £27,000 for nurses. You can find out more from the advice on funding on the Army website.
If you want to study for a degree before joining the Royal Navy or Royal Marines, support is available through the following schemes:
DTUS – see above.
Military Aviation Academy. If you want to become an aircrew officer and join the Royal Navy straight from school or college, you’ll be awarded a foundation degree in military aviation studies from the Open University. You’ll have no tuition fees to pay and will receive a salary while completing your flying training at the Military Aviation Academy. You then have the option of studying for the credits you need for a fully-funded BA Hons or BSC Hons degree in military aviation studies.
In-service degree for some officer roles. If you join straight from school or college as a warfare, hydrographic and meteorology, or logistics officer, you’ll be awarded a foundation degree in maritime studies or maritime science from Plymouth University when you complete your professional training. You can then choose to continue to study for a BSc Hons in defence studies or maritime science, which will be fully funded.
Standard bursary. If you want to join the Royal Marines or the warfare, logistics or Fleet Air Arm branches of the Royal Navy as an officer, you are eligible for a bursary worth £1,500 a year to help with the costs of studying any subject at any UK university.
Technical bursary. You can apply for a technical bursary worth £4,000 a year if you want to study for an accredited maths, physics or engineering degree at a non-DTUS university and join the Royal Navy as an engineer officer.
You can find out more about funding from the Royal Navy website.
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.