Army Soldier

The Job and What's Involved

The army is one of the Armed Forces that defend Britain and its allies, both in this country and overseas. It also takes part in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and UN (United Nations) operations wherever required in the world. Many of these overseas operations are for peacekeeping and humanitarian purposes.

The army offers a range of jobs or trades that aim to make the most of an individual's talents and skills. All soldiers also carry out a wide range of duties, including taking part in military exercises and operations.

From front-line troops to backroom staff, each job falls into one of seven job groups, all working together to make up the most effective fighting force possible:

Combat

Combat soldiers work in the field, peacekeeping in war-torn areas, or delivering humanitarian aid to where it is needed.

Engineering

Dealing with the nuts and bolts and electronic systems of running the army and its hardware, from building a base to getting a tank's weapons system repaired.

Materials and Supplies

Getting materials and supplies from A to B and making sure the army has the equipment it needs. It can involve taking supplies across country to ensure that all soldiers have food and water or backing up tank and helicopter crews with fuel and ammunition.

Intelligence, IT and Communications

The army relies on information, which means 100 per cent effective communication between allies, the field and those back at base. It also means listening in on the enemy.

Human Resources, Administration and Finance

The army recruits and trains its own human resources, administrative, finance and IT specialists to ensure it runs effectively and to support its most powerful weapon - its soldiers.

Medical

Doctors, nurses, dentists and vets protect the lives, health and well being of soldiers, civilians and the animals that serve the army.

Music and Ceremonial

Army musicians take part in the ceremonial occasions that keep the modern army in touch with its past and represent the public face of the army at concerts and military parades.

Working hours depend on the soldier's specialism. Some may work office hours, while others work shifts. Hours may be long and irregular when taking part in exercises and operations and soldiers may be separated from their families for long periods. Soldiers are on call at all times if needed and may find personal plans are cancelled if the situation demands it.

Army soldiers can be stationed in the UK or overseas. They are trained to work in a wide range of conditions and situations. Again, depending on their particular work, they may be in an office, outside in field conditions, or in specialist areas such as workshops or a kitchen.

Soldiers wear a uniform most of the time.

All recruits join on an open engagement for 22 years from the date they are 18, or the date they join - whichever is later. They may leave after four years' service from this date, giving one year's notice. There may be some restrictions if a soldier was involved in a long period of training that the army paid for. In this case, they may have to work a certain number of years in return for this training.

Recruits may leave after 28 days' service. They may exercise this right up to the six-month point if they are under 18 years, or the three-month point if they are over 18 years.

Pregnant women can choose to resign or take maternity leave.

Starting pay for army recruits is comparable to other first jobs in the civilian world, but benefits with the army include subsidised accommodation and food, on-site sports and entertainment facilities, free medical and dental care, discounted rail travel and subsidised crèche and nursery facilities on most bases.

New entrants earn £12,571.92 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There is a constant need for new recruits and suitable candidates are always in demand.

The first step should be to speak to an advisor at an Armed Forces Careers Office or get more information online at www.armyjobs.mod.uk.

Education and Training

The minimum entry age is 16. No qualifications are required for most jobs, but many candidates have GCSE's/S grades. Completing the BARB test (a simple aptitude, touch-screen test) can be more important than GCSE's/S grades. However, there are more specific qualifications for some jobs.

All entrants must pass the Army Entrance Test and an interview, followed by a physical assessment test, a medical and a further interview. They must also meet army nationality requirements.

Women cannot currently join regiments and corps involved in frontline fighting. This means that they can't join the Household Cavalry, Infantry or the Royal Armoured Corps.

People who are not successful at their first attempt to join can reapply, depending on the reasons why they were turned down at their first application.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

People at the stage of thinking about GCSE's/S grades and considering a career in the army can apply to one of the army's further education colleges: the Army Foundation College in Harrogate; the Army Training Regiment at Bassingbourn, and Welbeck College. Apart from those at Welbeck, students are paid from the start of their course.

Army training is physically and mentally challenging. All soldiers go through military training and are trained in weapons handling.

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Junior Entry Soldier Recruits

People aged between 16 and 17 years old enter the army as a junior entry recruit. They then have two options to complete Phase 1 Training: the Army Foundation College (AFC) at Harrogate and the Army Training Regiment (ATR) at Bassingbourn.

The AFC is a 42-week course for school leavers, consisting of 23 weeks of military training, five on leadership and initiative training and 14 on vocational skills.

The ATR is a 20-week course focusing on core military and vocational skills with a great deal of sport and adventure training. This is followed by Phase 2 training.

Senior Entry Soldier Recruits

Over 17's have four routes which offer basic soldier training. Three Army Training Regiments (ATRs) offer 14-week courses, where recruits learn skills in weapon handling, fieldcraft, drill, health and safety, map reading and navigation, and personal administration. ATRs are located in Lichfield, Pirbright and Winchester and are the bases for people planning to join the Royal Engineers, Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Artillery. This is followed by Phase 2 training.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A soldier needs to:

  • Be able to accept discipline.
  • Be able to work in a close-knit team, but also use their own initiative.
  • Be physically fit with good stamina.
  • Be prepared to go into combat.
  • Think and react quickly.
  • Communicate well.
  • Be prepared to work anywhere in the world.
  • Accept responsibility.
  • Be able to live in close contact with other people.
  • Be able to plan, think and act under pressure.
  • Have practical and technical skills.

There may also be specific skills and qualities required for certain jobs. For example:

  • Military clerks should be methodical.
  • Communications and intelligence personnel need foreign language skills.
  • Technicians need diagnostic and problem-solving skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion is through the ranks from private to sergeant.

Private

All new entrants enter the army as a private, but the actual job title depends on the particular Arms Service. In the Royal Artillery there are gunners; in the Royal Armoured and Army Air Corps there are troopers; in the Royal Corps of Signals signallers, and in the Royal Engineers sappers.

Lance Corporal

The first step into leadership requires supervision of small teams of up to four soldiers. There are opportunities to specialise in a trade, undertake specialist military and adventure training skills, and be eligible for promotion. Promotion typically requires three years of service.

Corporal

Having shown leadership skills, and with some additional trade and instructor qualifications, corporals are given command of more soldiers and possibly hi-tech military equipment such as tanks and guns. This typically requires six to eight years of service.

Sergeant

This is a senior role of responsibility acting as second in command to a troop or platoon of up to 35 soldiers. Sergeants are responsible for their conduct, discipline and performance. This typically requires 12 years of service.

Soldiers who leave the army may use their specialisms for a variety of careers in civilian life.

Get Further Information

Armed Forces Careers Offices - see www.armyjobs.mod.uk for a list of all offices

Welbeck College, The Defence Sixth Form College,
Forest Road, Woodhouse, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE12 8WD
Tel: 0845 600 1483
Website: www.dsfc.ac.uk/

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