Exploring Officer Entry and Educational Opportunities in the Army

This presentation was part of our 2024 Pathways Programme. Access additional resources and Old Sedberghian professional profiles at the Old Sedberghian Club, OS Connect.

Joining the army as an officer gives pupils the opportunity to gain professional skills and progress to higher qualifications, including full bachelor’s and master’s degrees with a bursary and/or scholarship to help with living and course costs. Sedbergh is incredibly proud of distinguished alumni who have followed this path. We invited Liz Taylor, Armed Forces Liaison Officer, to talk to Sedbergh pupils interested in this pathway. It was a whirlwind, information packed, session and our pupils had plenty of questions.

Liz started by making the distinction between joining as a soldier and an officer and gave an overview of the full range of roles – over 200 – available in the Army. Below are a few of the presentations key points about scholarships and bursaries. More information is available directly from Liz (pupils should be sure to email from their school account) and on the army website.

The army is huge. People tend to think that combat infantry is predominantly all we do; but about a quarter of the army is frontline infantry. We also have the medical part of the army. To cut a long story short, any role that exists in the NHS pretty much exists in the army.

Intelligence and communications work very, very closely with the government intelligence as well. It’s a really interesting part of the army to be in. If you have any languages that you’d like to develop, whether it’s French or Spanish or Mandarin or Russian, it’s an excellent part of the army to do it in and you will essentially be gathering intelligence and communications for the army in a lot of super secret ways that even I’m not allowed to know about.

We really welcome people from all degree backgrounds and disciplines. We have officers with politics degrees, with science degrees. It’s entirely up to you when you start your training at Sandhurst. If you come straight to Sandhurst after sixth form, you will be automatically enrolled during your 44 initial weeks of training at Sandhurst on a degree in leadership and strategic management. That degree is not an army degree, it’s accredited by the University of Reading, so it’s an official degree and the training that you receive at Sandhurst automatically makes a part of that degree.

There are two routes to become an officer with the army. One is called the Army Scholarship Scheme with the scholarship and bursary – and you’ve got direct entry where you are still eligible for University bursaries. Just fund everything yourself and you just come straight into the army.

The scholarship scheme is a unique opportunity for people to apply in year 12. What it basically means is rather than wait until you’re 18 and apply for direct entry as an adult (normal regular officer entry route), you have a unique opportunity to get your application in year 12 and apply as part of the scholarship scheme. If you go through the scholarship scheme, you basically apply now, go through your interview, go through assessment this summer (2024) and you will have a job offer in your hand by this July, 2024 to start training at Sandhurst when you complete year 13 in 2025. It’s just an offer, and that offer is valid for six years. The nice thing about the scholarship scheme is it gets the application process done in year 12 so that once you’ve got that offer, you can then knuckle down and focus on year 13. Should you choose to go focus on university – that’s OK too. Your offer is valid for 6 years.

If you’re successful, you would receive £3000 at the beginning of year 13. You can spend that on anything you want – it’s literally up to you. The idea is it’s there to help fund your education and support your future. Once you’ve got the scholarship, should you then choose to go onto university, you will automatically be awarded £6,000 towards your university studies regardless of what degree you study. If you study certain subjects that £6,000 becomes more because we offer up to £75,000 for specialist subjects.

The other route is to go in as an adult at 18, which is almost exactly the same as what I’ve just described, but you have to wait until you’re a little bit older. If you wait until you’re in year 13 or 18 to apply the adult route, the key difference is you will just lose £3000 because that’s exclusive to the scholarship, but you would still be eligible for the bursary.

We also offer something called an army officer internship. People normally apply for this between year 13 and university or in a sandwich year at university. You can dip your toe in the water by doing one year with the army in what we call the officer internship. You get paid a salary of £18,000. Most of them tend to be in the infantry, but so that you are aware, you will have no control over what part of the infantry, but you would shadow an officer for a year.

So what kind of job would I then go on to do even when I left the army? Depending on the role that you do, being an officer in the army is leadership experience. If you specialise in engineering or intelligence, you’re going to make obvious contacts in those fields and you are likely to be able to transfer over to a different part of the government intelligence agency. If you work in intelligence signals it, you could work in the cyber industry command a good salary. Engineering in the army will make you a chartered engineer after your fourth year as an officer. You normally have to pay about £50,000 for that as a civilian, I believe. So, then when you leave the army, you could project manage huge construction projects, structural engineering – depending upon your specialisation.

But someone asked me the other day, well what if an infantry officer that’s not a specialist? Sandhurst is the best leadership school in the world, literally. That’s not me selling it, that that’s just a fact. So the answer to you if you went in the infantry or any part of the Army as an officer is that you would be, regardless of the field, whether it’s banking, whether it’s manufacturing, anything really, it doesn’t matter, any employer worth their salt will recognise the quality of having been through Sandhurst’s Leadership training for a year.

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