Advice on Army vs. Journalism for adventure?


I am 23 and about to finish a degree in International Relations and Politics at the University of Plymouth – and really debating over which career path to follow.

I have been training as a journalist whilst at uni - working for several local papers and press agencies and building up a good CV. Ordinarily I would be joining a local paper as a trainee reporter, safe in the confidence that I could easily leave at any time.

However due to the recession, I need to get my NCTJ qualification in London at a cost of about £7000 before being employable. This essentially means that – although I am fortunate to be in the position of my dad likely paying for it – I will be stuck in journalism for a few years, unless I pay him back.

The army has always been a career that has interested me – I did cadets for a year or so at school and won trophies for shooting.

The most important thing is that I want adventure. As a journalist, I would like to work for National Geographic, or as a travel journalist. Working for the army also seems a good way – getting involved in expeditions etc.

Adventurers such as Bear Grylls, and Ranulph Fienne’s recent ascent of Everest are pretty inspiring. Expeditions/adventure seem like the only kind of thing worth doing with a life.

If I were to join, it would be through Officer training at Sandhurst ideally – although I’m not decided on any section. Perhaps intelligence.

I do have several questions.

- How good is the army for adventure?

- Are there any positions such as army journalists?

- I am 5’ 9”, 12.5 stone, and have studied Muay Thai for several years – my weight lifting and fitness is more than decent, but I’ve got really overdeveloped legs and cannot do pull-ups. How much of an issue is this? Some have said you need to do them for basic training, others not. I have recently started getting into heavy free weights, but it will be some time before I break this barrier.

- I do a lot of music production/guitar – do you get time to pursue these kinds of pursuits in the army? I don’t drink at all and socialize less than most – is 2-3 hours an evening on a laptop with a guitar realistic?

- What are the entry requirements/grades for officer training at Sandhurst. And is it true they pay off university fees/overdraft?

I’m really in a bit of a dilemma as to whether I should be taking my NCTJ, going onto a news agency and working my way into travel journalism, or joining the army. The physical demands and training of the army are what inspire me, and focusing on my Muay Thai is the only thing I can think of that would satisfy that aspect of my personality otherwise.

Obviously army recruitment officers will tell me to sign up, and journalists tell me I should be writing for them. Some good advice would be appreciated!


In my forty years of connection to the Army I have fought ,climbed,sailed ,dived, parachuted,shot,mountain biked, Kyaked fornicated and got Pis*** up on every continent. why not do a few years as a squaddy and then try Jorno, It will look a lot better on your CV
Occasionally some soldiering might interfere with your adventurous training lifestyle but don't worry about that too much.
Pub_Regular said:
Occasionally some soldiering might interfere with your adventurous training lifestyle but don't worry about that too much.
At my demob interview, my CO said"you must admit you have used tha Army as your own little sports club"
tropper66 said:
Pub_Regular said:
Occasionally some soldiering might interfere with your adventurous training lifestyle but don't worry about that too much.
At my demob interview, my CO said"you must admit you have used tha Army as your own little sports club"
Having had some experience of this sort of situation I'll pipe up.

If you are set on having some adventure in your career I can't really recommend journalism. I worked as a travel writer for a nationally circulated magazine and whilst the press trips were great fun you are unlikely to come across many trips that are within the realms of climbing Everset.

From my own personal experience working in the print media means flying a desk (my very first travel writing assignment about walking holidays in Denmark was written from a desk in the south of England). I'm currently in the application process to join the Army as I'm bored to tears by sitting at a desk re-hashing press releases or such like and would rather get out and do something a bit more meaningful.
First of all, congratulations on seeing the light and choosing a noble calling over a life as a filthy journo hack. ;)

The army can offer you sport and excitement aplenty, provided you are willing to put the effort into some soldiering. No, I am not aware of any army journo role. Being able to lift your own body weight is pretty helpful; pressups are good for improving this. The social life is a central part of the army, so you will have to come out of your shell somewhat; certainly your musical talent will have to take a back stage at RMAS; not much spare time or space for guitars. Entry to RMAS requires IIRC 180 UCAS points. You can apply for a scholarship or join DTUS, where you will receive a contribution towards tuition fees.

You can always do a few years in then sign off and find a journo job in civ div.
This is a very strange, naive post. Why do you have to do your NCTJ course in London at such an exorbitant price?

Why, as a budding (or even part-time) journalist do you know so little about the army when it is so important to you as a serious career choice?

Who gave you the impression that there is so much as a job making the tea in a journalists office available?

I have no inside knowledge of journalism but because I think there is something a bit 'off' about this post I googled the NCTJ, found out what it is and discovered there are 42 different places in the UK to do it, it lasts 20 weeks and costs about £1,400.

From reading broadsheet newspapers, particularly the Guardian which has a media section on Mondays, I am aware that newspaper jobs are now rarer than rockinghorse poo because of frantic recession based cost cutting, so why, as a studying journo do you appear to think a job and career path is there just for the asking?

Not trying to be rude but blimey, for a 23 yr old you don't know much about the world, do you?
Some serious advice for you Alex

Work on CV fitness and endurance fitness, being able to pick up the heavy thing counts for little unless you can move quickly

Go to the Army website and look for Officer careers

Learn to socialise, no one trusts a man who doesn't drink!

Leave the guitar at home until the third term of Sandhurst
Thanks for the variety of responses, they have all been useful and I appreciate them – there are a few I’d like to respond to/question further.

SmokeyP – I’m very glad to hear of someone who can appreciate my position and give me firsthand experience. I know people in the army, and people in journalism. No-one who is considering both. I’m sending you a PM, do you mind replying?

Bravo_Zulu – I’m Working on body strength mainly with freeweights – will start working in pushups. Is there a requirement on pull-ups to get into Sandhurst? I can deal with guitar taking a slight back seat whilst I’m training, but do you get spare time in the evenings after passing out? And no I’m not some kind of recluse – I just got sick of getting pissed and trying to pull girls at uni!

Micawbet – In honesty I would say I know a lot about journalism, and a little about the army. I have an ex-Mirror journalist training me and was nominated for the NUS student media award – I just find people give me more advice when I don’t take things for granted.

The NCTJ at No Sweat and News Associates cost £3500-£4000 respectively. These are only two courses in London worth doing, and I live nowhere near any non-London centres. The train fares for 9 months will cost in the order of £3000 – whilst my parents continue to feed me and I am earning no money. Believe me, I’ve researched it.

And yes, getting a job as a journalist is extremely hard. Despite working at the largest press-agency in the country for some time and having a CV that barely fits my 2 pages, I am still not guaranteed any job at the end of my NCTJ. This is why the army is even more attractive.

BennyBagnuts – Thanks for the tips. Will be in the centre this week to find out. As I side, I do like a beer with friends – I just prefer boxing, guitar and reading to getting blind drunk!

So several questions I’d like to know are:
- After Sandhurst, do you get time in the evenings I could spend with my guitar/laptop?
- Is there a pullup requirement for Sandhurst?
- Do they expect any particular grade for your degree?
I know this seems like an odd post – but I’m just trying to work out what direction in my life will fulfil me most!

If I DID do a journalism qualification - spending my spare time working on fitness, boxing and building up my lifting a lot, what is going in for officer training like at 27/28?
Friend of mine just passed out of RMAS and he said he didn't really have a lot of spare time, most of it was taken up with personal admin and for a better word coursework.

I'm sure you would go down well if you spend your time playing guitar all the time instead of concentrating on the important things.
Of course studying would take priority - I'm pretty sure there must be other people who sign up who don't drop all their civillian hobbies though?
BWT Alex have you looked into entry as a regular soldier instead of an officer? i get that your qualifications say you can do either but have you really looked into the two? got to say mate it looks like you haven't a clue what the armys about
Last friday, one of the lads was given a challenge, bring the guitar to the NAAFI and as long as you keep playing, the pint will appear in front of you. problem sorted
Dude, once you commission you will have time to yourself, but as sort of hinted at, not everyone will find the guy who locks himself in his room and "plays with himself (and a guitar..)" to be their kind of bloke. In fact, in the Army, it would make you a bit of a pariah.

NOT to suggest that Mess life is ONLY about getting drunk - also as pointed out, you do have a job to do and some of that may require "homework", but generally being sociable in a mess will mean that 2-3 hours a night doing your own thing might make you appear to be weird.

As for qualifications needed - any degree fits the bill, but you can go to Sandhurst with A-levels. The better the grade, the better for you. A graduate is a graduate where the Army is concerned, but choosing a Regiment or Corps to serve with may be made harder if you have a 3:3 from a provincial ex-poly (you mentioned Intelligence, so Int Corps - these will want the higher calibre individuals).

Pull ups - no idea, can't remember.

Do the Army pay off your OD and student loan? - I wish, but again, that may have chenged since I went through. Maybe it is offered as an incentive to get Officers into the Army, rather than civvi street (knowing that Army wage may be less).

Will you get adventure? Yes. Adventure training is always available and any CO would be more than happy to take on a Young Officer who was keen to organise expeditions for the blokes. You could then go on said exped. Also Operational tours (fairly frequent at the moment), tend to be fairly adventurous!

Journalism in the Army is predominantly handled by Media Ops Officers in major HQs, with presumably a media ops officer sat in Land HQ and/or whitehall putting out statements etc. These posts will be a few years off from commissioning, but there is always the chance to shine journalistically. In my Regiment (RA) articles are always welcomed for the Rgimental magazine and for Soldier magazine. Knowing how to put something together that will appeal to a wide audience will help your article to stand out. There are usually competitions, for want of a better word, for essay writing etc. So you may be able to use your journo training in the Army. You may find that the CO finds out you are journo trained and makes YOU the Regimental Media Officer, responsible for drafting articles on Regimental business, events that take place, op tours etc for all the mediums you can think off - Army journals, magazines, civvi press, families etc. If you are any good at it, it would go on your OJAR (annual report) and may open journo related military job later.

Yeah I probably misrepresented myself a bit - I very much enjoy being with people, but doing something active. Going snowboarding with friends etc. is my idea of a good time - I'm just not too keen on alcohol (nothing wrong with a couple of beers in summer though).

Thanks for the tips on journalism in the military too - will be keen to keep it up once I get some experience.

It's just quite intimidating not personally knowing anyone who has been through Sandhurst yet. One of my best friends is a Para, but he went straight in as a soldier.
Are you trawling all Mil Forums on this subject? Seen you on Oracle. Cherish the advice from G the Brat. His posts on that Forum indicate a Battle hardened veteran who has a comment for everything, just the person to get advice from. Perhaps his expertise comes from Google and he has no combat service at all, what a thought.

You will get better advice from the young bucks on here. At least they have proven experience.

Just these two - they seemed the biggest. So are you being sarcastic in recommending G the Brat?

Just been on the phone to an ex-army captain who keeps on reiterating the importance of leadership qualities. It is slightly intimidating, but I think I can rise to the challenge. I also spent an hour talking to my mate in the paras, who cites joining the army as the best life choice he has ever made.

I've really made my mind up now. I'm going to the recruitment office and joining the TA for a couple of months to get more of a feel, but this is what I want to do.
I don't know anything about the relative merits of the army and journalism for adventure but I do know you might want to consider not using your own name as your ARRSE username whilst giving out so many personal details!

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