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ETSO or PhD: between a rock and a hard place, sort of.

Hi all,

I’ve found myself facing a tough decision about my future and would really appreciate any advice or sage wisdom on the matter.

I’m a 24 year old Sport Nutritionist from the North-East. Since graduating my MSc (masters of science), I’ve been working towards a PhD (doctorate) on low energy availability (basically people doing too much and not fuelling themselves correctly, and how psychological stress or lack of sleep might make it worse). Whilst doing this I’ve also been working in professional/elite sport, providing nutrition support to pro rugby teams, upcoming Olympians, University athletes and so on. At about mid-lockdown I struck success, getting backing for my project. The plan was to use my main job at said University (I was scheduled to get a decent wedge from October onwards), to fund my living cost whilst studying. Scholarships/studentships which would be the usual way for someone with my socio-economic background to get funding, are even harder to come by since COVID-19 hit.

Unfortunately, the new budget for my department went from millions to thousands (despite the Uni being one of the richest in the country), and my resulting wage will now not even cover my weekly food cost. Bearing in mind that for the last two years I have been working four jobs for less than £11,000 a year, I feel like I am fighting for a lost cause. The whole idea of getting a PhD was so I could progress to my dream job of lecturing at a Uni and also get the financial/job security that is very rare outside of academia in my profession. Although I have been resilient through setback after setback, hollow promises seem to becoming more commonplace, and I’m concerned that I might be wasting the prime of my life chasing a dream that I can achieve through other means. I have given myself the deadline of January to get a deal on paper (even if I have to start later, as long as it’s confirmed), and then I’m going to have to follow a different career path.

I’ve always been interested in the military, I buy in to the values, I’m often working with or around military personnel with my job and have thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the experiences I have had with them. The sporting opportunities in particular have always been a draw. I’m quite accomplished in a number of sports (rugby, kayaking, x-country, athletics and climbing) and I’ve trialled for GB Skeleton Bobsleigh. I was quite unlucky in that one but since trialling I have hit the numbers needed in training, but trials have been cancelled due to COVID. Despite all this, until now I had always dismissed the idea of joining the forces myself. Being academic and more biologically than mechanically minded, I’ve never found a role that fit me. Then I found the ETSO role and thought that actually might suit me, or at least on the surface. Teaching at a high level and plenty of opportunity to develop as an academic and solider. In an ideal scenario (which I realise might not be possible), I’d like to serve and then transition into reserves for a time to complete a PhD and go from there. Alternatively, it could be something I could return to once leaving the Army, as lecturing is something I can do later in life.

On paper this looks like a good option for me but it is a huge fork in the road, even if I do end up at the same destination. This is all on the assumption that I pass AOSB, and offered ETS at RSB’s when at RMAS. Despite being quite accomplished, I do have quite moderate dyslexia and dyspraxia which I can deal with but takes me slightly longer and a lot of concentration to learn/perform certain skills. I was diagnosed as an adult at Uni, before that (and the 25% extra time I got with assessments), I was getting B’s & C’s when predicted A*’s because I was only doing 75% of the papers. A lot of it is down to my mental processing so reading and writing are ok but I have to really think about things. For example, mental arithmetic is a struggle but I seem to be really good with lateral thinking and problem solving using out of the box ideas.

I am doing as much research as I can to help weigh up my options as it is a hard decision to make and will change the course of my life, sticking at the academic stuff or joining the Army and potentially come back to a PhD. I currently have a friend at RMAS who I’ve spoke to about all this and have a good idea what general ETSO training will be like from the reading I have done. I’d like to ask what opinions you guys may have on if I should consider this as an option going forward or if I’m just kidding myself. Especially if there are any ETSO’s here, after reading all this, do you think I might be suited towards this career path or what I could expect if I joined in that role?

Thanks for your patience if you have read all of that waffle, any advice or wisdom will be greatly appreciated.
 
I have no idea what the answers to your conundrum is sadly, however, as somebody with a moderate learning disability, I wish you all the best whatever your path might turn out to be. I hope everything leads you to where you are supposed to be and where you will enjoy life.

Just remember, it may be that you can sort yourself out for the short term and return to a PhD or such later when things are in a better, non-COVID, place.
 
I have no idea what the answers to your conundrum is sadly, however, as somebody with a moderate learning disability, I wish you all the best whatever your path might turn out to be. I hope everything leads you to where you are supposed to be and where you will enjoy life.

Just remember, it may be that you can sort yourself out for the short term and return to a PhD or such later when things are in a better, non-COVID, place.


Thanks for reply, the advice and wishes.
I'll admit, it is a pretty tricky situation.
I really appreciate the support though, thanks.
 
I found myself in a vaguely similar position back in the early seventies. Having failed aircrew selection for the Navy I did not want to pursue the non-aircrew option. I seriously considered the Army but my father (a serving WOII at the time) persuaded me to go down the academic route.

In retrospect I regret having followed his advice. I have had a great life since then but Dr Johnson's words ring in my ears occasionally.

I can only offer opinion rather than sound advice but if I was in your shoes with what I know now (the curse of many an oldie) I would go for the Army option. There is plenty of time for the academic life afterwards (or during).

I imagine academic positions will be very few and far between in the immediate future so an alternative solid career might be a better option in the circumstances.

Ultimately it is only a decision you can make but it might be worth a few minutes thought experiment along the lines of "will I regret it in forty years time if I don't".

You don't come across as dyslexic by the way.

Good luck with whatever path you choose.
 
I found myself in a vaguely similar position back in the early seventies. Having failed aircrew selection for the Navy I did not want to pursue the non-aircrew option. I seriously considered the Army but my father (a serving WOII at the time) persuaded me to go down the academic route.

In retrospect I regret having followed his advice. I have had a great life since then but Dr Johnson's words ring in my ears occasionally.

I can only offer opinion rather than sound advice but if I was in your shoes with what I know now (the curse of many an oldie) I would go for the Army option. There is plenty of time for the academic life afterwards (or during).

I imagine academic positions will be very few and far between in the immediate future so an alternative solid career might be a better option in the circumstances.

Ultimately it is only a decision you can make but it might be worth a few minutes thought experiment along the lines of "will I regret it in forty years time if I don't".

You don't come across as dyslexic by the way.

Good luck with whatever path you choose.
I found myself in a vaguely similar position back in the early seventies. Having failed aircrew selection for the Navy I did not want to pursue the non-aircrew option. I seriously considered the Army but my father (a serving WOII at the time) persuaded me to go down the academic route.

In retrospect I regret having followed his advice. I have had a great life since then but Dr Johnson's words ring in my ears occasionally.

I can only offer opinion rather than sound advice but if I was in your shoes with what I know now (the curse of many an oldie) I would go for the Army option. There is plenty of time for the academic life afterwards (or during).

I imagine academic positions will be very few and far between in the immediate future so an alternative solid career might be a better option in the circumstances.

Ultimately it is only a decision you can make but it might be worth a few minutes thought experiment along the lines of "will I regret it in forty years time if I don't".

You don't come across as dyslexic by the way.

Good luck with whatever path you choose.


That's provided some great insight, I'll take that on board.
I will definitely give that thought experiment a try. I've been thinking something along those lines and even a little of that Dr Johnson quote you were speaking of, thinking meanly of one's self for not being a solider, or rather not taking up the opportunity. But I've been yet to have a proper sit down and think about that specific question deeply.

Thank you, I do get that observation a bit. I've put a lot of effort into becoming more articulate, as it is something I have often struggled with, same with physical training and coordination. Luckily and somewhat ironically, I discovered I have a bit of a knack for English once I got around some of my early barriers.

Thank you again for the wishes of luck and your advice. Both are greatly appreciated.
 
I have no idea what the answers to your conundrum is sadly, however, as somebody with a moderate learning disability, I wish you all the best whatever your path might turn out to be. I hope everything leads you to where you are supposed to be and where you will enjoy life.

Just remember, it may be that you can sort yourself out for the short term and return to a PhD or such later when things are in a better, non-COVID, place.


Shortened version of the above:- Can't help you, good luck.
 

halloumikid

Old-Salt
You should apply and try. You have two attempts. Remember an AOSB pass is valid for 5 years. You could finish your degree knowing you have a place at RMAS. You then have options. If you are successful at AOSB you may also get a bursary. Do not worry about your SpLD. Many present at AOSB with SpLDs. Makes little difference if you have coping mechanisms that work for you which you clearly do.
Halloumikd
 
You should apply and try. You have two attempts. Remember an AOSB pass is valid for 5 years. You could finish your degree knowing you have a place at RMAS. You then have options. If you are successful at AOSB you may also get a bursary. Do not worry about your SpLD. Many present at AOSB with SpLDs. Makes little difference if you have coping mechanisms that work for you which you clearly do.
Halloumikd

Thanks for the advice, I'll take that all on board.
 

manarkia

Swinger
If I was in your situation I would go for it - your research sounds highly useful to the Army and I'm sure you can find someone to fund it down the line - I for one would like to know more about optimum fuelling!
Process is free and till RMAS takes 1-1.5 years and you're not committed to it so you can change your mind later on - options are always good.

Plus you'll have a ready pool of underfed and overtrained peeps for research.
 
Hi all,

I’ve found myself facing a tough decision about my future and would really appreciate any advice or sage wisdom on the matter.

I’m a 24 year old Sport Nutritionist from the North-East. Since graduating my MSc (masters of science), I’ve been working towards a PhD (doctorate) on low energy availability (basically people doing too much and not fuelling themselves correctly, and how psychological stress or lack of sleep might make it worse). Whilst doing this I’ve also been working in professional/elite sport, providing nutrition support to pro rugby teams, upcoming Olympians, University athletes and so on. At about mid-lockdown I struck success, getting backing for my project. The plan was to use my main job at said University (I was scheduled to get a decent wedge from October onwards), to fund my living cost whilst studying. Scholarships/studentships which would be the usual way for someone with my socio-economic background to get funding, are even harder to come by since COVID-19 hit.

Unfortunately, the new budget for my department went from millions to thousands (despite the Uni being one of the richest in the country), and my resulting wage will now not even cover my weekly food cost. Bearing in mind that for the last two years I have been working four jobs for less than £11,000 a year, I feel like I am fighting for a lost cause. The whole idea of getting a PhD was so I could progress to my dream job of lecturing at a Uni and also get the financial/job security that is very rare outside of academia in my profession. Although I have been resilient through setback after setback, hollow promises seem to becoming more commonplace, and I’m concerned that I might be wasting the prime of my life chasing a dream that I can achieve through other means. I have given myself the deadline of January to get a deal on paper (even if I have to start later, as long as it’s confirmed), and then I’m going to have to follow a different career path.

I’ve always been interested in the military, I buy in to the values, I’m often working with or around military personnel with my job and have thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the experiences I have had with them. The sporting opportunities in particular have always been a draw. I’m quite accomplished in a number of sports (rugby, kayaking, x-country, athletics and climbing) and I’ve trialled for GB Skeleton Bobsleigh. I was quite unlucky in that one but since trialling I have hit the numbers needed in training, but trials have been cancelled due to COVID. Despite all this, until now I had always dismissed the idea of joining the forces myself. Being academic and more biologically than mechanically minded, I’ve never found a role that fit me. Then I found the ETSO role and thought that actually might suit me, or at least on the surface. Teaching at a high level and plenty of opportunity to develop as an academic and solider. In an ideal scenario (which I realise might not be possible), I’d like to serve and then transition into reserves for a time to complete a PhD and go from there. Alternatively, it could be something I could return to once leaving the Army, as lecturing is something I can do later in life.

On paper this looks like a good option for me but it is a huge fork in the road, even if I do end up at the same destination. This is all on the assumption that I pass AOSB, and offered ETS at RSB’s when at RMAS. Despite being quite accomplished, I do have quite moderate dyslexia and dyspraxia which I can deal with but takes me slightly longer and a lot of concentration to learn/perform certain skills. I was diagnosed as an adult at Uni, before that (and the 25% extra time I got with assessments), I was getting B’s & C’s when predicted A*’s because I was only doing 75% of the papers. A lot of it is down to my mental processing so reading and writing are ok but I have to really think about things. For example, mental arithmetic is a struggle but I seem to be really good with lateral thinking and problem solving using out of the box ideas.

I am doing as much research as I can to help weigh up my options as it is a hard decision to make and will change the course of my life, sticking at the academic stuff or joining the Army and potentially come back to a PhD. I currently have a friend at RMAS who I’ve spoke to about all this and have a good idea what general ETSO training will be like from the reading I have done. I’d like to ask what opinions you guys may have on if I should consider this as an option going forward or if I’m just kidding myself. Especially if there are any ETSO’s here, after reading all this, do you think I might be suited towards this career path or what I could expect if I joined in that role?

Thanks for your patience if you have read all of that waffle, any advice or wisdom will be greatly appreciated.
To me, you have a choice. Work out how to monetise your knowledge and expertise or find a job. Monetise is a horrible word, but it’s the reality.

A friend of mine is in a similar position; also a sports nutritionalist although he left education at Masters. He currently make a “living” as a personal trainer, a bit of gym work but his core income comes from roasting chickens at the local supermarket. He’s way over qualified for everything he does, but there are very few well paid jobs for his skillset and he doesn’t have the determination to build a business around himself. Few people do and I suspect you are the same; if you were entrepreneurial you wouldn’t be asking these questions.

You have nothing to lose by attempting AOSB and everything to gain. Go for it.
 
To me, you have a choice. Work out how to monetise your knowledge and expertise or find a job. Monetise is a horrible word, but it’s the reality.

A friend of mine is in a similar position; also a sports nutritionalist although he left education at Masters. He currently make a “living” as a personal trainer, a bit of gym work but his core income comes from roasting chickens at the local supermarket. He’s way over qualified for everything he does, but there are very few well paid jobs for his skillset and he doesn’t have the determination to build a business around himself. Few people do and I suspect you are the same; if you were entrepreneurial you wouldn’t be asking these questions.

You have nothing to lose by attempting AOSB and everything to gain. Go for it.

Similar thing here.

My BiL did Sports Nutrition and Medicine (I think) at St. Mary's in Teddington. Works (worked?) as a personal trainer (not massively lucrative) and painting himself orange and doing body builder competitions. God only knows what he has been doing during the pandemic. I think the Army would have been a better career.

Family friend followed in his footsteps at St Mary's. She went on to become a management trainee for John Lewis. Last time I bumped into her she was on the meat counter at Waitrose ("but only for a week").

Arguably both a waste of a student loan.
 
Thanks for the advice guys.
It's true that there is very little work in the world of nutrition, especially at the high level. I am very fortunate to have the job roles I have (I didn't actually apply for any of them, I fought my way in), if it wasn't for the infamous corona I'd have been looking at a nice wedge this year. Even with that, a lot of my colleagues in similar jobs at Universities and pro teams have their own free lance businesses. @bobthebuilder you're exactly right, the most entrepreneurial I tend to get is delivering online lectures or appearing on the odd podcast. I'm very good at my job but I really wouldn't like to rely on my social media skills for my income.

Good news is I've started my application and it is now at the review stage.
I'll make sure to keep everyone updated on my progress via the thread.
 
I'll make sure to keep everyone updated on my progress via the thread.

That would be great.

ARRSE is a bit of a wasteland for people asking for advice, getting it, and never showing up again.

At the very least that is not very helpful for people in a similar position who might get some benefit from seeing how various options came to fruition.

Good luck with the application.
 
Thanks for the advice guys.
It's true that there is very little work in the world of nutrition, especially at the high level. I am very fortunate to have the job roles I have (I didn't actually apply for any of them, I fought my way in), if it wasn't for the infamous corona I'd have been looking at a nice wedge this year. Even with that, a lot of my colleagues in similar jobs at Universities and pro teams have their own free lance businesses. @bobthebuilder you're exactly right, the most entrepreneurial I tend to get is delivering online lectures or appearing on the odd podcast. I'm very good at my job but I really wouldn't like to rely on my social media skills for my income.

Good news is I've started my application and it is now at the review stage.
I'll make sure to keep everyone updated on my progress via the thread.
The challenge in delivering online lectures and podcasts is how to monetise them. You can produce the best content in the world, but if you can’t get it in front of people, you can’t make money from it.

There are plenty of people who make (a lot of) money doing this, but you have to approach it in a thoroughly businesslike and entrepreneurial way.
 

Pteranadon

LE
Book Reviewer
I think you have to decide what is your priority.
If you are part way through your PhD and this really matters there are other jobs that may pay over the Covid 19 period. I am a historian and battlefield guide, but do other stuff to pay the bills

Joining the army as an officer is a big step. It assumes that your want to be an army officer. period. The ETS seems to be mainly a teaching not research role. If you are happy to do this good luck. Maybe there will be time to complete the PhD later in your career.
 
I think you have to decide what is your priority.
If you are part way through your PhD and this really matters there are other jobs that may pay over the Covid 19 period. I am a historian and battlefield guide, but do other stuff to pay the bills

Joining the army as an officer is a big step. It assumes that your want to be an army officer. period. The ETS seems to be mainly a teaching not research role. If you are happy to do this good luck. Maybe there will be time to complete the PhD later in your career.

Thanks for the advice.
You're right it is a huge step, which is why I've been taking it all underconsideration. One of the reasons I have been pursuing a PhD (other than I want to do it), is to help secure a teaching position at a University, which suits me down to the ground and offers a lot more security than as a Nutritionist. In fact a lot of the top nutrition jobs are actually taken by lecturers.

I haven't started the PhD yet, funding was cut before the project was finalised. If I had I don't think I would consider changing career so dramatically and would find a way to get the money (most likely teaching or chasing scholarship). Like you've said priority has been a big question, mostly do I want spend the rest of my 20s grinding out lots of work on the promise of funding that may never come or do I take the opportunity to develop myself as an officer and have the opportunity to do a lot of stuff that I want to but have had to turn down because of money or working commitments?

Plus like you said, I can always do the PhD afterwards when I'm in a better position.
 
Nutritionist is a slightly debased term nowadays. Anybody can call themselves a nutritionist and peddle odd dietary advice.

If you are not aiming for the legally protected title of dietitian then at the very least get yourself registered with the Association for Nutrition.
 
Nutritionist is a slightly debased term nowadays. Anybody can call themselves a nutritionist and peddle odd dietary advice.

If you are not aiming for the legally protected title of dietitian then at the very least get yourself registered with the Association for Nutrition.

Totally agree, a sad reality really.
Thankfully, I'm already accredited by the British Dietetics Association (a requirement of my roles within elite sport), which does provide me with legal protection and a union.
 

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