Defence and Military Career Guide

Working in the Defence and Military sector can be exhilarating, exciting, and highly fulfilling. There are a vast amount of careers available, and not all are about serving on the front line. This means that the MOD is regularly on the lookout for talented individuals with all kinds of professional and personal skill sets. A military career often offers some fantastic travelling opportunities as well, although its important to remember that you may well be facing life-threatening and highly dangerous situations when required. 
A British army soldier on a training exercise.

Potential Roles in Defence and the Military

There are a staggeringly large amount of roles within the Armed Forces. The most well known are perhaps those of Army Infantry, RAF Airman, and Royal Navy Sailor. However, there are a huge variety of other roles to choose from, which means there are likely good fits for most applicants, whatever their skills and interests. 

Air Operations Officers handle air traffic from military airfields and bases. They can be tasked with monitoring and scrambling fighter jets when required, and work to support fighter and bomber missions across the world. Air Operations Officers can be called out to active duty zones, where they will not only be responsible for controlling various missions, but also setting up temporary runways when needed. 

Marine Engineer Officers work within the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and have the important job of providing essential logistics and operations support to royal navy deployments across the globe. Marine Engineer Officers are the ones who keep the fleet going, making sure equipment is in top condition and ships are working at optimum efficiency. There’s often potential to learn a huge amount of skills in this role, so it’s ideal for those with an enthusiasm for picking up new knowledge.

Professionally Qualified Soldiers are always in demand in the Army. A PQS is a soldier that already has an existing skillset from civilian life. This can mean there are often opportunities for people with professional skills likes nurses, dentists, musicians, and pharmacists to retrain as Professional Qualified Soldiers. Even if you don’t have any existing professional skills, it’s possible to train for these in the Army, making it a good option for aspiring professionals.


A fighter jet taxis on the runway of an aircraft carrier ready to launch at sunset.


Salary and Career Progression

Air Operations Officers benefit from a comparatively high starting salary of £27,000 and above during initial officer training. As with most military career paths, progression is usually much faster than civilian equivalents. This means Air Operation Officer careers can accelerate quite quickly after initial training, and you can soon be earning over £31,000. It’s also important to factor in that many day to day essentials, like rent, food, and fitness costs will all be covered to some extent by the RAF. 

Marine Engineer Officers jobs have a very high earning potential. The starting salary for this role is £35,000, and this can rise to £80,000 or more should you reach Captain. In addition to the high salary, Marine Engineer Officers will also benefit from valuable training, including engineering chartership, which can be very useful in any civilian career after serving. Once again, most day to day living costs will also be covered by the Service, meaning more take-home salary every month. 

Professionally Qualified Soldiers earn varying degrees based on their specific qualifications. That said, overall Professionally Qualified Soldier roles start at around £15,000 during training. Once trade and/or army training is complete, then most Professionally Qualified Soldiers earn a starting salary of £20,000 or thereabouts. This can rise as you rise in ranks, or choose further specialisms. 


Qualifications, Education and Experience

Requirements for military positions are quite strict in some cases, so the exact application requirements as detailed by the relevant Armed Service are listed below.


Air Operations Officers will need the following to be accepted for training:

  • Be aged 17.5 – 47 years old (Must attest before 48th birthday)
  • Have GCSE at Grade C/4-5 or SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 in English Language, Maths and three other subjects
  • Have at least 2 A2 Levels/3 Highers at Grade C or above (excluding General Studies or Critical Thinking) which must total a minimum of 64 UCAS points. Or hold a UK degree at Grade 2:2 or higher (or acceptable alternative)
  • You must be a citizen of the United Kingdom or holder of dual UK/other nationality and have resided in the UK for at least the last 5 years
  • Commit to a minimum of 3 years post Phase 2 Specialist Training
  • Meet the health and fitness criteria
  • Pass a Fitness test


Marine Engineer Officers will need the following to qualify for training:

  • You’ll need to be aged 16, there’s no upper age limit
  • HND, or higher, in Marine Engineering
  • ENG1 medical certificate, unrestricted for worldwide sea service
  • The certificate of competency you have will determine which level you enter the RFA. You must have one of the following: Officer of the Watch (unlimited); Second Engineer (unlimited); Chief Engineer (unlimited)
  • Four elements of basic training, updated iaw Manila Convention 2010
  • Personal Survival Techniques (STCW Code-Table A-Vl/1-1)
  • Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting (STCW Code-Table A-Vl/1-2)
  • Elementary First Aid (STCW Code-Table A-Vl/1-3)
  • Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (STCW Code-Table A-Vl/1-4)
  • Applicants must be British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens. However, a number of career paths have nationality restrictions. Dual Nationality will be considered providing the first nationality is British. Note: Residency restrictions may apply
  • An ability to thrive on responsibility and lead from the front
  • Confidence making key decisions in high-pressure situations
  • A problem solver, with a common-sense approach, who can work well as part of a team
  • A love of all things mechanical


Professionally Qualified Soldiers are expected to have the following to meet eligibility:

  • You must be at least 16 years old to join the Army as a soldier.
  • You can start your application when you’re 15 years and 7 months.
  • Be enlisted before your 36th birthday
  • If you’re under 18, you’ll also need parental consent to join
  • Show evidence of your professional specialism (relevant qualifications etc)
  • Applicants must be British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens. 
  • Must pass required fitness and medical tests
  • Have no unspent criminal convictions


The Royal Navy Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Defender at sea.

Working Hours

Military roles are quite different to civilian jobs. This means that while strict timeframes are often in place, and there can be predictable shift patterns or work schedules, these can often change quickly. Deployment and emergency events, or training exercises can quickly alter routines. 

This is true for almost any military role. It is worth noting that active service or deployment can often result in intensive working for months at a time. The flip side is that time off can be of equal length, depending on the nature of your role and work. 


Notable Locations

The RAF has bases and facilities across the whole UK, although many facilities are located in the North East, East, and South. While it will be highly dependant on your area of deployment, some notable locations to consider are:

  • Nottingham
  • Lincoln
  • Oxford
  • Reading
  • Norwich
  • York

The Royal Navy is mainly based along the coast, as you might expect. As a result, the following places are often a good bet if you’re thinking about relocating for a naval career:

  • Portsmouth
  • Dartmouth
  • Faslane
  • Plymouth

For those considering a career in the British Army, a large number of facilities and barracks are located in and around the South and central England. This makes the following locations good starting points:

  • London
  • Southampton
  • Birmingham
  • Nottingham
  • Leicester


Next Steps

If you’re looking for a career in any of the Armed Forces, then make sure to sign up with JobLookup, and receive customised email alerts for the latest Armed Forces roles we’re listing. It’s also worth visiting the respective websites of the British Army, RAF, and Royal Navy for additional information.

People Also Read

Popular Jobs for Armed Forces
F&B Supervisor - Franchise
... professional development and careers for you. The Armed Forces Covenant  i...
F&B Assistants - Franchise
... professional development and careers for you. The Armed Forces Covenant  i...
Assistant F&B Managers - Franchise
... professional development and careers for you. The Armed Forces Covenant  i...
Hotel Cleaner - Franchise
... professional development and careers for you. The Armed Forces Covenant  i...
F&B Supervisors - Franchise
... professional development and careers for you. The Armed Forces Covenant  i...
Assistant F&B Managers - Franchise
... professional development and careers for you. The Armed Forces Covenant  i...