Opinion: Students can find fulfillment and stability serving in the Army

Frankly, I always saw the college degree as half the battle. It’s easy to spread the “get your degree” gospel to students: they’re young, unsure and equipped only with their passions. They hear it at home: get your degree. In high school: get your degree. At university, then home again: get your degree.

After the degree, then what?

In 2018, an undergraduate degree holder averaged a $50,000 salary against a 2.9% unemployment rate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The number is decent, but the unreported factor behind these statistics goes beyond salary.

Do these people feel like they’re making an impact? Are they satisfied with what they do?

In 2014, the NCES reported 33% of students who began a bachelor’s degree changed their major before graduating. Anecdotally, a lot of my colleagues changed their major.

Even after university, many young people jump from job to job, seldom remaining with one employer for more than a few years. The numbers suggest that young people aren’t sure what they want to do, remaining unfulfilled post-graduation: a major let-down for the famed college degree.

On the other hand, earning a commission in the Army receives infinitely less attention from educators. Instead of job-hopping for a few years, students should consider deferring a career decision until after a few years in the Army.

The Army gives bachelor’s degree holders a chance to travel the world, enrich their character, build career experiences and interact with people from every walk of life.

They can spend the first few years of adulthood working with peers from across the world. There’s a good chance they’ll literally work across the world, with Army posts in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea. Army officers can spend some time living before deciding what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

Army officer life isn’t just fun, but also provides stability. Few educators, and even fewer students, understand the benefits of commissioning: as a UTA Spring ’21 Spanish graduate, I already earn $55,389 a year, including my housing allowance. The Army pay chart shows me what raises I can expect to receive at any given time. The standardized career progression chart says when I’ll receive more education, training and career development.

These don’t start after graduation – during undergrad, I spent a summer in Brazil for a Portuguese immersion course, free through the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

Army ROTC Cadets – officers in training – are the only university subgroup guaranteed employment upon graduation. Whether full time or part time, they enter the workforce with a secret security clearance, which increases their median expected income to $103,199 outside the Army – exceeding the median expected salary of a master’s degree holder by over $30,000.

Further, Army health care beats every private plan, covering 100% of any ailment, copay included. Combined with the tax-free allowances, like the famed Basic Allowance for Housing, Army officers live extremely comfortably from Texas, Hawaii, Washington State, Germany and Italy, just to name a few – all rent-free.

Beyond the monetary and travel benefits, a young person can find real fulfillment in service to others.

It’s difficult for young people to find fulfillment and pay the bills, and the Army can give them just that. Students have always been markedly involved in activism, and becoming an Army officer gives them the chance to play an active role in improving the lives of others worldwide without sacrificing their ability to take care of themselves.

High school counselors and college advisers tend to neglect considering commissioning in the Army as a possibility for their students, regardless of career path. As a result, most students don’t think of themselves as “Army material,” but I seriously encourage them to reconsider.

The Army is an effective team not because everyone is identical but because people from every background play an active role. Trust me: anyone can become Army material. The on-campus commissioning program, Army ROTC, does just that.

Although frequently overlooked, people of all interests and backgrounds should consider pursuing a commission in the Army. It can pay dividends – not just during their military service, but for the rest of their lives.


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