Canada Canadian Armed Forces Craig Moorhead Strategic Reserve

Careers in the Canadian Armed Forces

Careers in CAF Picture
Photo courtesy of the Canadian Armed Forces

One of the most challenging parts of any person’s life is deciding how to turn a passion into a career; as the old saying goes: if you love what you do for a living you never truly work a day in your life. Contemporary society more so than ever has pushed this problematic question of what to do with your life onto our high school students by pressuring them to make career choices with expensive consequences prior to their graduation.  For those with an interest in politics and international affairs, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) offers plenty of options for young students wanting to get involved in our nation’s affairs.

Canadian Cadet Organizations

Cadets programs offer our students an opportunity to learn valuable skills and discipline, offering them a head start for whichever future careers they choose. The Royal Canadian Navy, Army and Air Cadets are federally funded and have nationally-operated programs targeting children ages 12-18 with the goal of encouraging young Cadets to become active and responsible community members while fostering valuable life skill development in the areas of teamwork and leadership. After deciding to join the Cadets program, cadets must choose which branch they wish to be a part of. Sea Cadets learn seamanship skills and how to sail. Army Cadets focus on adventure training and outdoor activities, and Air Cadets learn the principles of aviation and for some the opportunity to be trained as pilots.

Parents also wish to instil strong values in their children and motivate them to become future leaders and ambassadors for Canada have a great option to direct them to cadet programs. These programs advocate values such as respect, professionalism and integrity in their members in addition to placing an emphasis on success and staying in school. In addition to skill development, the Cadets programs also offer cadets the chance to travel to different parts of Canada and make connections that can last a lifetime.

Canadian Forces Reserve Options for High school Students

The Canadian Forces Reserve offers exciting part-time careers to men and women, both young and old.  As a Reservist you undergo the same training as Regular Force members and serve on a part-time basis, typically one evening per week as well as weekend exercises that can last a few days. For high school students as young as 17 (with parental consent), the Reserves offers a co-operative education training option in partnership with high schools around the country, allowing students to earn academic credits as well as monetary compensation for completing their basic military qualification course and occupational training as Non-Commissioned Members (NCMs). Alternatively, high school students can choose to work fulltime during the summer months to complete their training in a more intensified environment. An often overlooked fact is that the CAF offers career paths stretching far beyond the Combat Arms of Infantry, Armour, and Engineers. Experience in a Reserve Unit as a Signals Officer, Vehicle Technician, Telecommunication & Information Systems Technician, or other in-demand trades can give young people the edge they need in today’s weakened economy and competitive job market.

Paid Education – University and College Programs

The Canadian Armed Forces offers to the brightest of its student applicants the opportunity to have their Post-Secondary Education paid for. The most common of these options is the Regular Officer Training Program (ROTP) and the Royal Military College of Canada. Taking this route allows students to not only earn a university degree free of charge, but also earn a salary while in school and graduate with a guaranteed job waiting for them as commissioned Officers of the Canadian Forces. Outside of RMC there are also students who pursue their studies at civilian universities and join their RMC counter-parts in completing military training over the summer months. The Reserve Entry Training Plan allows a much smaller cohort of students to attend RMC at their own cost, although there are paid allowances during training in the summer months, and work part-time as Reserve Officers while receiving the same quality education as ROTP students.

For those students less academically inclined, or simply more interested in the hands-on over the theoretical, the Canadian Forces also offers paid education for college programs in exchange for service as a Non-Commissioned Member using those skills garnered for the benefit of Canada’s military. The list of eligible programs changes regularly and can be obtained from any Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre. These highly technical career paths range from managing battlefield communications systems for the Army, to managing a naval warship’s engines, communications, radar and weapon systems, to working on highly-sophisticated avionics and aircraft.

Regular Force – Direct NCM and Officer Entry

For those who have already completed their education, or are simply looking to get into a military career without spending additional years in school, there are a variety of entry options. The Direct Entry Option (DEO) allows prospective recruits who meet the educational requirements (typically a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree) to enter the Forces as an Officer Candidate and graduate training with a Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant or as an Ensign for Naval trades.  Many Non-Commissioned Officer Trades that make up the majority of the CAF positions only require a high school education, but still offer appealing careers for those ready to dedicate themselves to the safety and security of Canada and our nation’s interests abroad.

Interested parties wishing to pursue any of these promising career opportunities should contact their local Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre for more information and a list of currently in demand trades, or the nearest Cadet Corps/Squadron for Cadet Opportunities. The recruitment process requires commitment and dedication from prospective candidates, but for those who stay the course an exciting and rewarding role in Canada’s future awaits.

Craig Moorhead
Craig Moorhead is a 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Western Ontario completing a Double Major in Political Science and Criminology. A Toronto-native, Craig has worked for a number of years with the Toronto Police Marine Unit as an emergency responder performing Beach and Boat Rescue. His research interests include International Security, Terrorism and Counterterrorism, as well as Defence Policy and Foreign Policy. Craig plans to study Government and Security Studies at the graduate level and later enter a career in the federal public service or in law enforcement.