The Canadian Armed Forces can provide rewarding educational and professional opportunities for students and recent grads alike, but – like any choice related to your career – joining the military is a big decision.
There’s a lot to consider. What will you do? Where will you be posted? What is it like? Most importantly, perhaps, are the following questions: Will you fit in and will you enjoy it?
Canadian Armed Forces officers often say that they like the same things about their jobs: they enjoy leading people, staying active and fit, helping Canadians and people around the world, travel, the Forces’ unique training and education opportunities, and being paid quite competitively. Above all, they’re passionate about serving and protecting Canada.
If you’re still not sure about a career as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, complete the checklist below to see whether it could be a good option for you.
You enjoy analyzing, planning, making decisions and providing advice
Canadian Armed Forces officers are strategists, managers and problem solvers. Your university education in combination with the Officer Training that the Forces provide means that you’ll have the technical, critical thinking and leadership skills required to head up a team of anywhere from a handful to more than 100 troops.
As an Electrical Mechanical Engineering Officer in Valcartier, Que., Angie Little is in charge of about 50 technicians who perform repairs and maintenance on Army equipment, vehicles, weapons systems, materials and electronics or electronic systems. “Being an EME Officer is like running a multi-tasking engineering firm with at least 30, and sometimes more than 200, employees,” she says. “They don’t expect you to be able to repair a vehicle. What they want is for you to have a strong character. They want you to make decisions and stick with them.”
You’re passionate about helping people
The Canadian Armed Forces often participate in missions related to disaster relief, sovereignty and law enforcement here in Canada, and peacekeeping and humanitarian relief abroad.
As an Infantry Officer based in Shilo, Manitoba, Tyler Riches and his company of soldiers helped fight the floods in Portage La Prairie in 2011.
“We’d work from six in the morning until six at night just slinging sandbags,” he says. “We looked at it as an opportunity to help out around the community here. It was a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, it made us feel like we’d accomplished something in our own backyard.”
Staying physically fit is important to you
Life in the Canadian Armed Forces is all about being healthy and fit. It starts in Basic Training, where you’ll participate in field exercises, marches, running obstacle courses, swimming and other physical training activities. Throughout your career in the Navy, Army or Air Force, you will be required to perform physically challenging duties.
That’s why the Forces provide trained professional staff, first-class facilities, and a wide range of exercise, sport and recreation programs.
“Where else would you go where it’s kind of required that you go spend time at the gym during your working hours?” asks Lyn Kingsley, a Social Work Officer in the Navy who is currently posted to Canadian Armed Forces Base Esquimalt in British Columbia.
Whether you’re on base in Canada or deployed on a mission abroad, you’ll be able to get in regular workouts and also participate in intramural and competitive sports at the local, regional, national and even international level. See what life in the Canadian Armed Forces is like.
You want to earn an above-average salary
Maybe you want to buy a house, raise a family or take vacations (by the way, Canadian Armed Forces members start with 20 paid vacation days per year). In any case, you’ll need to make a decent living to support all of those expenses.
Luckily, the Forces pay their members extremely well: officers’ salaries start at a minimum of about $3500 per month and increase as you rise through the ranks. Check out the Canadian Armed Forces’ pay scales.
“I’ve been in for several years now and, I have to admit, I really enjoy the perks that I have,” Lyn adds. “I get paid quite well.”
You’re a lifelong learner
When you start your career with the Canadian Armed Forces, your education doesn’t stop with your university degree.
The education and training opportunities offered by the Army, Navy and Air Force are unparalleled. They offer months of military and vocation-specific training even before you’re posted in your first full-time job.
From there, depending on your occupation, you may have the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree, fully paid for by the Canadian Armed Forces, and continue to upgrade your skills in order to be promoted. Learn more about paid education with the Canadian Armed Forces.
You want to see the world
As a Canadian Armed Forces member, you will visit more destinations within the first few years of your career than most people will see in a lifetime.
Depending on which occupation you enter, Basic Training and Officer Training could have you crisscrossing the country, and then you may be posted to a brand new location when you finish your training. Plus, Forces members are regularly deployed all over the world for a variety of missions.
“You’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to be a part of that global community, and to build relationships with colleagues from all over the world,” says Marie-Sonya Sowa, a Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officer in the Canadian Navy.
“I’ve personally had the opportunity to travel to many locations from Hawaii to San Diego, San Francisco, Mexico and Alaska. I’ve travelled a lot on the West Coast which is where I was posted.”