Too old to join as an officer?

Discussion in 'Joining Up - Royal Navy Recruiting' started by PhDiver, Nov 9, 2014.

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  1. Hi,

    I'm strongly considering joining the Royal Navy. I've always liked being at sea and there is also a naval tradition in my family. However, I think my age might be an issue.

    My situation is: I am a 24 year old student studying for a PhD in molecular genetics and climactic science. I am also a British Sub-Aqua Club qualified Dive Leader and Open Water Instructor, in the process of completing my Advanced Diver qualification.

    The roles I am interested in are both sub-specialities of a Warfare Officer; Mine Clearance Diving Officer and Hydrography, Meteorology and Oceanography Officer.

    The problem is that I will complete my PhD in September 2016. At this point I will be 26 years old, however the maximum age for Warfare Officer Training is 25. The caveat to this is appears to be the Hydrography, Meteorology and Oceanography Officer which is listed on the RN website as having a maximum age of 26.

    My questions are;

    1) Is the RN website listing of 26 incorrect (in light of the recent age boundary changes?)
    2) Is it possible to get an age waiver and begin officer training at 26? If so, how difficult is this?
    3) Are there any steps I can take over the next 2 years that will better my situation (without quitting my PhD)?

    Any advice you can give would be appreciated. I have looked through the forums but I haven't seen a situation quite like mine.


    NB: I am due to schedule a meeting with a Navy Officer at my local AFCO in the coming week, but it's good to have other thoughts and opinions.

    Edit: If it's relevant then I have 11 GCSE's grade A*-B, a 2.2 in Biology, a Masters with Merit in Bioscience and 420 UCAS points.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2014
  2. I think that no-one on this board will be able to give you an answer; the AIB will be the only people who can do that.

    If I were the AIB (and I'm not!), my question to you would be: why are you worth an age waiver?
  3. It's a fair question! It's also a question I have answers for.

  4. I would imagine that this would be a decision for the training pipeline manager/branch manager to make? I've never heard of a waiver being granted for those not yet in Service, although I've heard of an in-Service age waiver for a branch transfer. I'm guessing it will depend on how flush they are for decent Warfare Officer candidates. Good luck, and let us know what happens.....
  5. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    Have you considered taking a break in fulltime education, getting a job, then continuing your PhD?

    It may sound facetious, but it's one way of achieving both without compromise & earning a living wage. Not only that, the Enhanced learning Credit scheme will cover additional costs to a large degree (85%).

    As I'm sure you are aware, a Masters or PhD is not required for this particular job.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. And the answer is......
  7. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    As a matter of interest, which specific qualifications and grades give the 420 UCAS points? (Bearing in mind HND, HNC or foundation courses are not accepted in lieu of A Levels).
  8. Thanks for your responses everyone.

    Drakey: Some of the reasons I would give for being considered at 26 are;

    - Whilst I have no formal military training I have extensive experience of people management, stemming from both Chairing a University SCUBA club committee and being a SCUBA Diving instructor. The latter required trip organisation and dive site management (it isn't easy to maintain order among groups of 18 year olds). The former required excellent communication skills and the ability to run my club in accordance with regulations from multiple organisations, together with the ability to assess and utilise the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on my committee.

    -As a SCUBA diver I have an above average level of knowledge about the marine environment, which I see as being important in a RN career.

    -As a scientist I have a proven aptitude for verbal and numerical communication and reasoning.

    -My general fitness is very good

    -I have previous experience teaching, demonstrating my ability to convey complex ideas in an accessible way.

    -I deal well with pressured situations and am equally able to work as part of a team or as a leader (proven in situations where I have had to perform and manage diver rescue).

    -The broad nature of my current research means I have a grounding in all of geography, biology, chemistry and engineering. As such I can engage with specialists from numerous areas and collate information in a useful way, a trait I see as being useful if placed in any sort of command position.

    -In itself being able to complete a PhD demonstrates a very high level of commitment and tenacity.

    In all honesty I do not know what the Navy want's from its officers. I will fully admit to having never served on a ship. I do think that my skills are useful though, and they are not purely academic. Any thoughts on what an AIB would be looking for are welcome.

    Ninja: Taking a break doesn't sound facetious at all. It's an option I've looked into, however the nature of my PhD requires me to see it to completion now. There is also a degree of personal choice here, as when I have completed my PhD I will feel able to close the academic chapter of my life and move on.

    With regards to the 420 UCAS points; I did 5 full A-levels with varying grades in each. Looking back I should probably only have done 3. 5 was a couple too many to handle.

    As a general update to anyone who is following this:

    I got a call from my AFCO today. They are recommending that I apply for Officer training just prior to the completion of my degree (If I apply at the end of June I will still be 25). I've been told that they are possibly going to change the age limit in the next year or two anyway, so my issue might not be an issue when the time comes.

    There is also a possibility of applying as a logistics officer and then doing a horizontal transfer once I'm in the system (though I don't know how true this is...)

    In the mean time I thought joining the reserve might be a god idea to improve my eventual application?
  9. wave_dodger

    wave_dodger War Hero Book Reviewer

    I really wouldn't place much store in that route. Firstly you will deny someone who really wants to be a Loggie a place and secondly you will find it harder than you expect to be allowed to transfer.

    Joining the Reserves may be of some value to you and the MR. You will get a degree of insight into what the RN does and what is expected but to be on the trained strength and do something "useful" you will have to devote a lot of time and fight a training pipeline that is not particularly suited to advancing people quickly. I don't see this as a bad option but I suspect you should temper your expectations. A more recent MR with no doubt pop along to give you a more informed view.
  10. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    Must admit I've not heard anything official on increasing age parameters.

    The Logistics route is otherwise the only current alternative open for those joining the regular service over age 25 with non-vocational qualifications. It's more Hobson's Choice rather than an option. Switching branches after joining is by no means guaranteed & I'd still suggest the education break option unless you have something in writing to confirm you can still reach your goal by any other means.

    Either way, best of luck.
  11. Out of interest does anyone know the logic behind the age cap?
  12. We have an ageing Officer corps that is unable to meet the requirements for gaining experience whilst being competitive for v senior jobs.
  13. Hi Alfred, would you mind going into that point in some further detail? Thanks.
  14. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    I'm sure Alf will articulate it better, but in short: The younger you join, the higher the rank you can achieve before hitting the retirement age.
  15. wave_dodger

    wave_dodger War Hero Book Reviewer

    By their nature the Services are age driven (OF3 retire at 50, OF4 53/55 etc..), now some of that will alter as the New Employment Model is implemented but at the moment the age at which we promote people and the numbers of posts they can undertake prior to promotion boards, and the analysis of " Man Years" which highlights individuals time left to serve, means that the later we promote, the less chance we can grow people who are competetive ( in Tri service, international and open competitions) for ever higher positions, which is where the RN needs people to deliver and provide RN influence.

    The subtext to this is the increasing age profile of people promoting - for example I was an selected SO2 at 28, striped up at 29. The average now is probably 34-36. The average SO1 in mid 90s was more likely 35-37, now its 42-44. If you promote to SO1 after 42 you are very unlikely to be competitive for OF5 and above under the current models.

    There has been a reversal of this in sorts, with the RN trying to select younger people - taking more "risk". So instead of seeing SO2s with 9-11 years seniority being selected for SO1 we are seeing small numbers of 2-4 years seniority people being selected (same OF4-OF5). A regain, which is the right thing to do but of course is divisive in so far as there are people who see themselves being left behind as the bell-curve moves past them. Which will always be the case in manning/promotion.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2014
  16. So if I understand this right, the RN wants people to have time to 'grow' into senior officers?

    Does it also have anything to do with unit cohesion, wherein they don't want lieutenants aged 25 and 40 serving together for fear of them not getting on?

    I am hoping to be selected for BRNC entry in February, when I will be 29. All this talk is making me concerned that I will not only be older than my contemporaries, but may even be discriminated against based on my age, as promotion boards want to develop younger talent?
  17. wave_dodger

    wave_dodger War Hero Book Reviewer

    You need time to develop people, train them, give them sufficient experience and the time to demonstrate their suitability for promotion and ability to handle the additional responsibilility. But, promote too many too young and you will create a blocking effect.

    I don't think this is a factor

    I think it's a fair and reasonable analysis to suggest that if you compare yourself with a 19 year old - by the time he/she is 34 they are likely to be an SO2, yourself - thats questionable. By joining younger they have an edge in some respects but you can't write yourself off. As a warfare officer you would be joining an exceptionally competitive branch - do the Math - its aimed principally at developing COs and future leaders. Is that right, is another question. Engineering branches differ, joining later may not have any significant effect as traditionally they've promoted later.

    It does however come down to what you are comparing yourself against, a 19 year old in your entry is not what you should look at. Promotion boards themselves won't look at you in terms of age - they look at reports and evidence of merit. Where age is considered is in the sifting system - you will currenty be entered on Terms and Conditions of Service that mean you should factor in retirement at 50, 53 or 55 - this determines the number of time you will be presented at a promotion board. So working backwards 29 + x years to SO3, + y years to SO2, plus Z years to SO1. You've a minimum of 21 years to serve...stacks of time, but tight to make OF5 I would suspect, tight but not impossible.

    NEM may alter all of this! ATG will have a view.
  18. Thanks very much Wave Dodger. Am I right in thinking SO3 is Lieutenant and SO2 is Lieutenant-Commander? Would you also mind clarifying what NEM and ATG are for those of us unfamiliar with the terms?

    How does the sifting system work? Retirement age gets higher the more senior you are?

    I suppose it's far too early to worry about promotion prospects, but I am kicking myself slightly for applying for entry this late! Then again, I've had a rewarding career so far and have lived abroad twice, so all good life experience.

    You talked about the Warfare branch being highly competitive. I am (hopefully) going into the Logistics branch – what is the competition like there?

    Thanks again.
  19. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    You're right. The Armed Forces exempt themselves from age discrimination legislation - until they lose a court case, unable to justify the specific exemption relevant to the job.
  20. wave_dodger

    wave_dodger War Hero Book Reviewer

    SO3, is Lt, SO2 Lt Cdr SO1 Cdr; NATO use OF2, OF3, OF4 - we see a mix using the OF5 to follow SO1...

    It takes rank, say SO2, normal retirement age (50) then subtracts 3. So you last show at a promotion board for SO2 to SO1 would normally be 47, but there are realities here, noting the normal curve has people promoting at 42-44.

    This is my point about going later, you give yourself less shots at the various promotion boards. It may be a small difference, it may be big?

    Worrying is one thing, going in accepting you're unlikely to be Fleet Commander is another - it's good to manage your own expectations.

    Unsure for certain, BUT they take some of the higher scoring applicants, so internal competition will be high.

    ATG is Alfred_The_Great, our sleep deprived tame fish-head (Warfare Officer). He seems to be the one who does all the reading for their branch and is normally one with sane and educated posts.

    NEM is the proposed New Employment Model. All of our current Terms And Conditions Of Service will be revised and a new set of flexible TACOS proposed to better align with peoples expectations. In sum its the "offer" the MoD puts out to recruit and retain. It will have to have some form of transition/migration path for those currently serving. More and more detail is emerging but nothing absolutely concrete. We can expect to see retirement ages alter, promotion systems, pay and allowances revised etc
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2014
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