Exciting high-tech career options offered by the military

There are many different ways to pay for your education.

There are many different ways to pay for your education.

The most common is your parents, student loans and juggling part-time work with full-time study.

More innovative approaches include having someone pay you to go to school which isn’t as uncommon as you think.

Today in Canada, as is the norm for most western countries, if you are willing to go into military service your educational costs may be covered by the government.

A local example of this form of education financing is Okanagan College’s electronic engineering technology program.

This two-year diploma program was accredited by the Air Force last month for a career in aerospace telecommunications and information systems, and in July 2009 by the Navy for a career in naval electronics (communications, sonar, radar and weapons).

What this means is that students who are interested in serving their country and who have a keen interest in electronic engineering can enroll in this Okanagan College program and get paid while they are going to school.

The Forces don’t just cover tuition fees, books, and academic equipment, but students are also paid a salary plus benefits while they complete their program.

Benefits include the basics such as medical and dental but they also offer paid vacation.

A recent high school graduate, current Grade 12 student or adult student who is interested in Okanagan College’s electronic engineering technology program and considering a career in the armed Forces can apply to the Non-Commissioned Member Subsidized Education Plan.

Once accepted, the forces would pay the student $31,020 per year for their first year of the program and $37,932 for the second year of the program.

During the summer months the student will attend basic training, including specific on-the-job training required once the student determines which career they wish to focus on.

Add the two years’ salary together, and you realize that students enrolled in the program and on the Forces’ payroll will earn $68,952 between the first day of classes and graduation.

That’s a lot different than amassing student loan debt.

Upon graduation, students have to commit to three and half years of service.

Salaries after the initial three and half years of service are completed start at approximately $75,000 plus benefits.

Qualified members of the Canadian Forces interested in obtaining a civilian certification can also apply to the electronic engineering technology program under Non-Commissioned Members (NCM) Education Reimbursement (ER) program.

The NCM ER program helps individuals increase their knowledge base, promotion potential and employment opportunities within the Forces.

These gains can also help with future civilian employment.

So what about the work?

Looking at their website, just about every career looks exciting.

For example, aerospace telecommunications information systems technicians travel the world supervising and repairing all kinds of Air Force telecommunications systems.

Those interested in the navy can become a naval electronics technician and from there can choose from three different options: communications, radar or sonar.

The final option is a naval weapons technician which involves maintaining and fixing onboard weapons.

If you visit the Okanagan College website at www.okanagan.bc.ca/electronics you will see a link called subsidized programs.

On this page it will provide you with a direct link to all of these careers.

In true military fashion, the Forces provides a very in-depth outline of each job, including what type of work you will be doing, career development options, your work environment and more including a video.

Navy ships carry very sophisticated equipment that would be fascinating for someone interested in electronics.

Ditto for the Air Force Technician career—it looks as though technologists would be involved with systems that very few would ever have the opportunity to work on.

Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College. Comments can be forwarded to jmuskens@okanagan.bc.ca