My bro-in-law did an education degree with Southampton Uni whilst in RAMC (retired as WO1): without doubt it helped him get his present job as a training manager with a medical company.
My school has hosted an OU history grad (serving Lt Col) doing teacher training in preparation for when he leaves the Army, and we employ a number of ex military who did degrees in-service, including our IT manager (ex R Sigs). Contrary to received opinion, the education world, in general, likes ex military - reliable self-starters, good team players with an excellent work ethic - and I've yet to come across one who had serious problems with maintenance of classroom discipline etc - a BIG plus! If your degree is in maths, sci/ technology/ IT then you'll be like gold dust to a lot of state schools. Another shortage area is foreign languages - not only is there a desperate shortage of qualified teachers, but most schools would love to recruit male language teachers, although - of course - no-one is allowed to say that openly!
Generally, employers are very impressed by people who have got degrees whilst working (demos a lot of commitment, self-discipline, good time management etc), and whilst other factors are always going to come into the equation (relevant experience, general quality of application, performance at interview/ selection tests etc, and whether or not they like you!), having a degree certainly isn't going to do you any harm. Also bear in mind that a lot of managerial positions these days are primarily geared to graduate entrance - not necessarily a good thing IMO, but that's the world we live in. So, I say do it if you can, especially if you can get the system to cover some of the costs.
Final note, doing a degree can also be helpful in "civilianizing" yourself - getting used to the ways/ norms of civvy street through contact with other students etc.. I'm not being patronising here - my brother, for example, found his first year out after 24 years in the infantry a bit of a culture shock: he had to learn, and damned quickly, that a lot of things that he regarded as simply "a laugh" went down like a fart in a spacesuit in the world outside the Army.
Go for it specky, it will look good on the CV, improve your employment prospects, and definetly a requirement for the more senior positions especially in the comms companies. Good luck. BTW Any qualification in H&S and or training can be one hell of a bonus. Good luck.
All the above advice is good and relevant, but don't overlook the subtleties: After god knows how long in the service, your brain could probably do with getting off the shelf, dusting off, starting up and being given a good first works
Do it, you'll enjoy it and it will expand your mind (as well as the more cynical CV material argument).
In the last four years I've done DD100, T209, B200 and B202 with the Open Uni. Got T305 (Digital Comms) just starting this month. So I should have a degree (BA Hons) in Business & ICT by the end of 2007 (by doing B300) plus the Diploma in Mgmt from WO CLM (currently doing it). That will leave me about 2 yrs or so before my discharge to get resettlement squared away (PRINCE2, ITIL probably).
I don't necessarily want to do a busy management job when I leave, but I'd like to at least have the option to do that - and make pots of cash to pay for my house - if I'm inclined. I reckon if you can get it in you should really go for that degree. OK it's lots of work but I'm really glad I've done it now. Even if I stopped now, I'd still have a Diploma in ICT, Diploma in Business, Diploma in Mgmt, but I reckon it's investing in your own future. No pain no gain and all that!
Be aware, all you SNCOs - the Level 4 Mgmt Diploma you get from WO CLM means you can actually go straight onto Phase 2 of a Masters in Business Administration (the Open Uni will recognise it). I reckon it will still take at least 2 yrs (probably 3 or 4), but that's a pretty good way of getting a masters degree in a short period of time, with outstanding use of the ELC credit thingies. Have a think about it - http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?Q02F02
Completely not R Sigs related, but does anyone have experience of both degrees taught fulltime at uni, and done through distance learning whilst in the service? I'm applied to join the RN, and I know their training offers foundation degrees for Warfare officers, and later on for Engineering ratings. But on the other hand, it might be worth just going to uni, joining the reserves and getting a degree finished before joining, I'm 19 so its not as if I'm pushing the age limits!
So anyone have experience of both parttime and fulltime degrees, whats the most valued? I suppose the whole commitment thing can be hard in-service what with deployments etc...
I have studied part-time and full-time. I enjoyed studying whilst I was in the Army, although it did require a lot more effort than it does now. It can also be difficult studying alone - I chose to go full time because I wanted to fully immerse myself in an academic environment and be with other, like-minded people. Which is something you wonât really get studying in the forces - you'll meet plenty of other part-time students, but rarely covering the same course as you. Also, if you join up as a Rating and study for a degree you may get that nagging feeling of being overqualified for whatever job you are employed in. But, then you can physically see someone change their opinion of you when you tell them you are studying for a degree whilst holding down a job, so it may help with promotion as a Rating.
I also used to get annoyed when we had room inspections etc when I was studying, as I would rather have been studying than preparing my room for an inspection. But then again, the Army was funding my study as well, which is something I was grateful for. And I also gained a lot of life experience from my time in the Army that I wouldn't have gotten if I didn't join.
Also, how valued your degree is depends on the employer. I have heard the term spoon-fed academia used about part-time degrees before, but I have also seen how highly regarded studying part-time is as well - I received 4 offers on my UCAS application; three of them from uni's in the top ten for my subject, and two within the top ten for uni's overall. Also, an interesting point is Gordon Brown used to work as an Open University Lecturer.
I prefer studying full time, and I am getting a lot of experience from uni that I didn't get while I was in the forces, including things that would be useful if I was to go back in (which I'm not!) . For example, it is easier to pick up responsibility at uni, volunteering for club committees etc. Even stuff like preparing PowerPoint presentations is useful - I am now over my fear of public speaking, or I at least find it a lot easier now than I did when I was in the Army. I am also able to fully concentrate on my subject 100%, something that is impossible to do whilst in the services. So in away I am lucky, as I gained the benefits from both types of study.
However if I were you, I would get your degree before you join, and then study for an MSc whilst you are serving.
Hope that helps and get back to me if you have any more questions,
Thanks for that Lobster, I'm tending to the idea of uni first to be honest. I definitely want to be in the forces fulltime but the navy will still be there in 3 years and there are the reserves 'til then. If I want a degree then it makes sense to concentrate on that first rather than try and get it with a job, deployments and all sorts of other distractions. Plus the next entry there is a new scheme for loan repayment I think, and good deals on fees for Welsh students in Wales (thank you Rhodri for something at last!)
I know for officers that its possible for your time studying to count towards your seniority when it comes to regular pay, no such incentive for ratings or ORs I suppose?
Myself I went straight to uni from 6th form and regreted it since (did the wrong subject, mindset wrong etc - result poor degree). Joining up first may not be the worst thing, if I was to do my time again I would have joined up at 18 and done what PoisonDwarf is doing/done.