Editor Matt Moody sat down with British Army Senior Careers Advisor Major Jo Fitton to discuss graduate careers opportunities in the Armed Forces.
In an increasingly uncertain world, a career in the Armed Forces offers things that are only becoming harder to come by in the graduate job market – almost unparalleled job security and promotional opportunity, and plenty of opportunity to travel. But what can you actually do in the army? We sat down with Senior Careers Advisor Major Jo Fitton to shed some light on what graduates can expect.
‘The Army is known to the public by its infantry – the soldiers in the field defending the UK at home and abroad. What less people are aware of is the huge potential to specialise – almost any career you can think of in a civilian capacity, you can do in the army. Finance, HR, intelligence, even chefs, musicians, bomb disposal teams, all kinds of things are available.’
‘In terms of the army as a whole, we’re known mostly for our most recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re stationed in more places than you’d expect – we have humanitarian and peacekeeping roles all over the globe, supporting NATO and the UN.’
So there’s plenty of chance to see the world? ‘Oh absolutely, I can’t think of any other job with as much potential for travel, except maybe airline pilot! As well as the campaigns and peacekeeping roles, we run adventure training across the globe – we’re in Canada, Belize, Kenya at the moment, hot and cold climates’.
So if there are so many careers with the army that aren’t on the frontline, can you join without ever having to use force? ‘I don’t think there’s any getting around the fact that being in the army can be a dangerous job – it’s less of a 9 to 5 and more of a lifestyle. Everyone who enters the army at officer or infantry level is given basic training, learning how to defend themselves, but after that everyone goes on to learn a trade, whether that’s how to be an engineer, vehicle mechanic, logistician etc’. Can you use these qualifications and training outside of the army? ‘Definitely – the minimum term with the army is four years, but everything you learn is fully transferable to the civilian world. For example, geo-technicians will often go to work for forestry or oil companies after their army careers.’
How competitive a salary can the army offer new graduates compared to other industries or careers, and how future-proof is a career with the army? ‘The army is competitive on base salary and benefits – all graduates start as officer cadets, where we train them as future leaders for a year at Sandhurst. Straight after that, aged 22 or thereabouts, you’re earning just over £30k a year – there are few careers that can offer such a good combination of responsibility and salary so early on.’
‘In terms of benefits, there’s all sorts… there’s free gym membership, subsidy for things like skiing, as well as the unofficial benefits you get as part of the actual job like travel, and perks like dental and medical care included.’
One thing the army is known for is its structure and discipline – Major Fitton sees this as a good thing for career progression. ‘The clear progression plan we have is definitely an advantage – you can see how you’ve progressed and improved and you can really plan where you want to be in the future, both in terms of responsibility and rank, and financially.’
‘There’s really no limit to how far you can climb the ladder – the key is how quickly you can do it in your 20s. Within three years you can be a Captain, earning between £39k and £46k before you’re 25.’
So how has the army weathered the storm of austerity and government cutbacks over the last few years? Is it a good time to be joining? ‘There are loads of vacancies at the moment – the army is definitely in hiring mode. There were redundancies a couple of years ago, but no more are planned. The fact is, although the face of the army is changing, it will always be around, and demand will increase in different areas. We’re definitely seeing a surge in demand for graduates with digital and IT knowledge and training, but really there’s always a need for specialised professionals, both in terms of us hiring, and the skills we give.
So how best to get involved and pursue an army career? ‘You can find all the information you need by searching “Army Jobs” online, but if you’d like to speak to someone directly, we have a recruitment centre in Birmingham city centre on Corporation Street.’