From building, operating and maintaining technologically-advanced equipment to leading and managing their fellow officers, engineers play a critical role in all three environments of the Canadian Armed Forces.
However, starting your career in the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army or Royal Canadian Air Force is much more than a typical engineering job – engineering officers in the Canadian Armed Forces are also trained in leadership, basic weapons handling, first aid and military service, as well as how to effectively manage resources, people and time.
No matter which environment of the Canadian Armed Forces or which engineering role you work in, you’ll be counted on as a leader and a source of strength for other members.
In addition, the Canadian Armed Forces are committed to providing ongoing educational opportunities to ensure their engineers have the most advanced and specialized skills and training available. As an engineering officer, you may even be given the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in a number of specialized engineering disciplines.
You won’t find that combination of training and experience anywhere else!
Keep reading to learn more about some of the most in-demand engineering roles with the Canadian Armed Forces:
Construction Engineering Officer
Construction Engineering Officers provide engineering support to military operations both in Canada and around the world in the form of facilities management, fire engineering, contract and project management, and construction and environmental engineering. Similar to civilian Construction or Civil Engineers, these officers might prepare or approve construction drawings, designs, specifications and cost estimates relating to labour, money and materials.
“Whether the job calls for setting up humanitarian assistance camps in Haiti, weatherproofing a radar installation in the high Arctic, or flood control in Manitoba, we’re always ready to travel anywhere in the country and the world,” says Construction Engineering Officer Laura Locklin, who is based in Comox, B.C.
Ideally, Construction Engineering Officers will have a Bachelor of Civil, Electrical, Environmental, Fire Protection or Mechanical Engineering; however, the Canadian Armed Forces may accept some other engineering and science degrees.
After Basic Officer Training, you’ll spend 11 months at the Canadian Armed Forces base in Gagetown, N.B., learning how to adapt your engineering expertise for the military. There are three phases of training, which include combat leadership, airfield engineering and team leadership. Upon the completion of your training, you will likely be sent to a construction unit at one of Canada’s Air Force or Navy bases, where, like Laura, you’ll lead teams of construction engineering technicians in the planning, budgeting and execution of airfield and other infrastructure projects.
Yes, some engineers actually have combat roles in the Canadian Armed Forces! In battle, Engineer Officers help the army live, move and fight, and sometimes they even fight as infantry themselves when they’re required. They may perform tasks such as breaching minefields, using explosives to destroy roads or bridges, constructing bridges or ferries using re-usable military equipment, building combat roads, disposing of explosives on the battlefield or constructing obstacles.
A Bachelor of Civil, Mechanical or Electrical (Power) Engineering is preferred, but the Canadian Armed Forces may also consider certain other engineering and science degrees, as well as some three-year college technology diplomas.
After completing basic training, you’ll be trained at Gagetown in basic infantry skills such as navigation, radio communication and weapons handling, as well as learn to lead a section of eight soldiers and employ war fighting infantry tactics. Subsequent phases include two and a half months of basic combat engineering training, and nine months of reconnaissance, planning and troop-level combat engineering training.
Throughout all of this, you’ll be assessed on your ability to lead a troop as Engineer Officers start their careers as Troop Commanders, leading up to 40 members and several armoured vehicles in the field.
“As an Engineer Officer, you build up a resume of skills and experiences that you just wouldn’t get anywhere else,” says Kurt Grimsrud, an Engineer Officer serving in Edmonton, Alta.
“At a very young age, we get a lot more responsibility than you’d get on the civilian side and a lot of experience in project management with a lot of various different types of projects.”
Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officer
The Canadian Navy can be found all over the world supporting our allies, preventing conflict, patrolling domestic waters and supporting search and rescue operations. Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officers, also known as CSEOs or NCS ENG, work on ships and submarines and on shore to ensure that the vessels of the Canadian Navy are ready to fight. They also lead the other members of the Combat Systems Engineering Team.
“As a team we’re responsible for the operational readiness and maintenance of naval weapons systems, communications, radars and sonars,” says Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officer Marie-Sonya Sowa.
“CSEOs must be engaged leaders, be able to manage resources and have the technical expertise necessary to be responsible for the multitude of combat systems aboard modern warships. We also design and apply new weapons technologies to ensure the survivability of the ship and its ability to respond in tactical situations.”
The Canadian Armed Forces are looking for candidates with Electrical or Computer Engineering degrees, but they may consider applicants from other engineering and science backgrounds for this role.
Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officers also have unique opportunities to pursue fully funded post-graduate education in Canada or abroad, as there is an ongoing need for engineers with master’s degrees in Combat Systems Engineering, Weapon System Engineering, Underwater Acoustics and Naval Architecture.
The first stage of training for a successful Naval Combat applicant is Basic Officer Training at the Canadian Armed Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. From there, you’ll move across the country to Victoria, B.C., for a nine-week Naval Environmental Training Program, which introduces you to life at sea and includes four weeks on board a minor war vessel.
Then you’ll cross Canada again for several professional training courses at the Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School in Halifax, including Naval Engineering Indoctrination (11 weeks), which includes seven weeks on board a major warship, and Naval Combat Systems Engineering Applications (28 weeks). Upon completion of these courses, you’ll be assigned to your first ship for a year where you can put all of your engineering skills, education and training to work on the water.