Military Engineer: Requirements, Duties and Outlook
Military engineers can choose various specialties, ranging from project management to combat support. Many engineers obtain officer status, which requires a bachelor's degree and additional officer training. Work experience gained by military engineers is applicable to a variety of civilian professions.
Military Engineer Requirements
Many military engineering professions require a bachelor's degree in civil, electrical, environmental or mechanical engineering or architecture. Students can complete their bachelor's degree program at a public, private or military school, but prospective military engineers should consider signing with a branch of the armed services as they enroll in an engineering program. Each military branch has tuition assistance programs, and some students may receive full tuition through Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs.
The military engineering requirements for officers are similar for each major branch of the U.S. military. For the U.S. Navy, military engineers are part of the Civil Engineering Corps, which requires an engineering-related bachelor's degree and completion of a 12-week Officer Candidate School program (www.navy.com). Candidates with a college degree have the option of entering the Air Force as an officer and training as a civil or developmental engineer (www.airforce.com). Army engineer officers begin with an undergraduate degree and must complete a course in officer leadership (www.goarmy.com).
Military engineers also have the option of joining as enlisted personnel rather than officers, a route that doesn't require a bachelor's degree. Enlisted engineers can apply for different specialties in combat, construction, special forces, watercraft or technical areas, and each specialty requires achieving a certain score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and completing additional military training courses. All military engineers must be U.S. citizens, be at least 18 years of age and meet physical requirements.
Military Engineer Duties
Like all officers and enlisted personnel, military engineers are expected to strictly adhere to military codes of conduct, but duties can vary by location, specialty and branch of the Armed Forces. For example, engineers working in research and development may never set foot on a battlefield, while combat engineers may be part of a team of soldiers in hostile territory. Whether they are maintaining and rebuilding military or civilian infrastructures at home or abroad, engineers must be able to plan efficiently, communicate effectively and adapt quickly.
At home, military engineers are mostly responding to man-made and natural disasters, which often involve maintaining U.S. water systems and contributing to sustainable, environmental efforts. In war zones, engineering duties take on both defensive and offensive purposes. Defensive duties can include constructing fortifications, building bridges, planting landmines and clearing transportation routes for armored vehicles. Offensive tasks can include strategically demolishing enemy bridges, clearing improvised explosives and deconstructing enemy structures.
Military engineers, especially those in officer roles, supervise soldiers and civilians in planning projects and missions. Many military engineering projects are a complex interplay of public and private sectors, so military engineers in leadership roles must make sure that civilian contractors and active duty members understand their roles in enhancing mobility, security and survivability. These duties can range from enforcing sanitation measures on a base to formulating new training procedures. Whether they're providing humanitarian aid to war-torn countries or combat support to soldiers, many military engineers can expect their daily tasks to be physically demanding.
Military Engineer Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that military careers across all branches should be excellent from 2010-2020, which meant that job openings were more numerous than job seekers (www.bls.gov). Defense operations is a rapidly growing section with demand for qualified engineers. While most enlistment contracts involve eight years of service, many military engineers retire after 20 years of service and receive a pension. Like any military personnel, engineers can receive promotions and elevated pay grades, but higher ranks have a more competitive selection process.
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