Military science and technology programs typically let you earn a college degree while simultaneously preparing for a career as an officer in the U.S. armed forces. Read on to learn more about military science and technology programs and career options, including salary information.
While earning a degree in the major of your choice, you can also pursue military science and technology training through elective courses in a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. These military science programs, offered through colleges and universities, typically take 2-4 years to complete and aim to prepare you for a career as a commissioned officer in the U.S. military. Scholarships are available. The leadership and management abilities learned in military science programs, plus the actual military experience that follows, may benefit you in a civilian career after leaving the military.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were more than 2.3 million military personnel serving in the U.S. as of 2011, with excellent job opportunities expected for members of the military during the 2010-2020 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS also projected that the number of active-duty military personnel would stay approximately the same despite the winding down of recent armed conflicts. Additional military personnel would probably be needed to fill vacancies caused by personnel retiring, being promoted or leaving the service.
Basic pay for military personnel depends on rank, time in service and duties. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the basic monthly pay for a commissioned officer with the lowest pay grade and less than two years of service was $2,828.40 in 2012, or about $34,000 per year (www.militarypay.defense.gov). Military personnel also typically receive allowances for necessities including housing, food and clothes.
While pursuing traditional college studies for your chosen major, enrollment in an ROTC program allows you to also study military tactics, hone communication skills and practice leadership, as well as improve your physical conditioning. Specific topics are diverse and may include weaponry, military customs, war theory, first aid, combat skills, rappelling and wilderness survival.
Different branches of the U.S. military have their own ROTC programs. U.S. Army ROTC programs prepare you for various military careers, such as teaching for the Army. A basic ROTC course takes 2 years to complete and, unless you have a scholarship, carries no military service obligation. An advanced course takes 4 years and, upon graduation, you're commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Army Reserve or National Guard. You'll be obligated to serve 8 years, which may include 3 years of full-time Army service. Some graduates are allowed to hold a civilian job while serving part time in the Army Reserve or National Guard.
U.S. Air Force ROTC programs include a 2-year general military course followed by a 2-year professional officer course, after which you'll become a commissioned officer. You can then pursue an Air Force career. Most officers serve 4 years, but a commitment can run 6 years for battle managers and combat systems officers and 10 years for pilots.
Upon graduating from a U.S. Navy ROTC program, you'll be commissioned as an ensign in the Naval Reserve. You'll be on active duty for at least 5 years or 4 years if you're a nurse. You may also enroll in the Navy ROTC as a Marine-Option Midshipman. You'll be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from both college and the Navy ROTC program, in addition to finishing at Marine Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia.