Much has changed since the ban on lesbian and gay people serving in the military was lifted in 2000. Take one look at the websites for the Army, Royal Navy (which includes the Royal Marines) and Royal Air Force and you will see that they explicitly state their commitment to sexual orientation equality and even provide specific support for lesbian and gay officers (Proud2Serve offers information and support for LGBT people who are considering joining the RAF. As well as combat, there are opportunities to work in support roles such as administration, catering, engineering IT, and nursing.
To join at officer level you need to be at least 17 years of age. There are height and weight restrictions for some branches. You will need to take physical and aptitude tests, a full medical and pass nationality and residency requirements. You need five GCSEs (A-C), including English and Maths (and science or a foreign language for the army) plus two A levels or Scottish S grades/equivalent.
With a degree you could apply through Direct Graduate Entry. To work in a specialist field (e.g. as a nurse, medical or dental officer), you must already have the relevant qualifications and experience when you apply for officer training. You can also enter as a soldier and work your way up. The forces offer a range of financial support to help with A level or degree studies in return for commitment to future service. You could also work towards relevant qualifications for your trade, such as NVQs.
You could work part time or volunteer with the Territorial Army.
Hours could be long and irregular and you may be separated from family and friends for long periods, sometimes overseas, possibly in combat zones. Officers typically work 9-5 over a five-day week, but you may be on-call at all times.
Pay depends on rank, length served, and pay band for a particular job. Graduate Officer Cadets in the Army earn around £24,100. Higher ranks range from £37,200 - £98,900. If your job involves flying, you get additional flying pay. If you live in forces’ accommodation, a charge for rent is taken from your salary. There may be additional allowances including subsidised housing for married or civilly partnered soldiers.
Arrange an interview at an Armed Forces Careers Office to discuss your options. As a graduate, you may be eligible for faster promotion through the ranks. You could also move into a wide range of careers once you leave the army. Plenty of civilian employers will value what you have achieved in the Army.
Graduate profile: Sarah Coltman from the Royal Air Force
1. What subject(s) did you graduate in and from where?
Dip HE Nursing at University of Portsmouth. BSc Specialist Nursing Practice (Surgery) at Demontfort University Leicster. Both courses fully funded by the RAF in terms of tuition fees and paid employment throughout.
2. What is your current job role? Please provide a brief description of your duties
Aeromed Flight Nurse (Royal Air Force). As a trained nurse I am responsible for the care of patients in the air environment. Responsible for the clinical care of all military patients being moved by air for further medical treatment. Examples are the repatriation of battle casualties from Afghanistan to the Military receiving Unit at Birmingham hospitals, as well as the safe transfer of entitled civilians from the Falkland Islands requiring medical treatment in the UK.
3. What skills, knowledge and qualities does your job require?
The role of an RAF Nurse relies on a person being adaptable and able to deal with not only varied and complex medical issues, but also able to work in a variety of challenging environments.
4. What are the benefits of the degree/qualification(s) you studied for?
The future of nursing practice will be based on an all graduate programme. Early specialist training has enabled me to gain further skills and knowledge in a key area of my clinical interest. This increased knowledge and qualification has allowed me to enhance patient care within my environment.
5. Are there any additional activities or work experience that helped you?
I worked as a Health Care Assistant prior to starting nurse training, however this isn’t essential.
6. Is there any other advice you would give to someone interested in working in a similar field?
A good level of overall fitness is required, so regular exercise is of benefit.
7. How did you find your current job and what was the application process like?
Information is available online, or directly through a local Armed Forces Careers Office.
8. What do you think are the main keys to success in your field?
Positivity, personal drive and commitment, suitable education, adaptability and willingness to try new things.
9. What are your future career options?
Promotion through the Military ranks in line with other RAF trades, instructor roles, various clinical posts in either primary or secondary care as well as operational tours worldwide.
10. How has being lesbian, gay or bisexual impacted your career, if at all?
Not at all, The RAF is a fully inclusive employer.
11. How important was it that your university provided specific services/advice for you as an LGB student?
I did not feel the need to access these services at the time.