by Heidi Riley
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is a diverse organization employing approximately 100,000 Canadians at home and around the world. “The CAF is the largest sector of the Canadian Public Service,” says Sergeant Matt MacDonald.
The CAF offers approximately 100 different trades and professions in the Army, Navy and Air Force that interested citizens can apply for. They have their own trade schools for most occupations so they can provide all the required training. They also offer university and college education that in some cases can be fully funded.
“Joining the CAF is not just about combat,” says Matt. “You can get a profession or trade, and after a period of service in that occupation, take your experience and walk away with money in the bank and no student loans.”
The CAF offers either part-time work in the local area (the Reserve Force) or full-time permanent positions (the Regular Forces) in most Canadian provinces, depending on the trade or profession.
The Reserve Force
The Reserves is a program designed for students or those in regular full-time careers. Members work one night a week and one or two weekends per month. Members also get full-time employment from April to August for the first four years after joining.
Some job titles include Naval Warfare Officer, Human Resources and Public Affairs Officers. With the Reserves, members do not sign a contract and there is no minimum amount of time they must serve.
Sgt. Matt MacDonald grew up in Sherwood PEI and is in his 32nd year with the Reserves. “I have worked in seven Canadian provinces, and I have done a variety of jobs. You can find almost any civilian job in the military as well. There are a whole host of occupations, and you can get an education and job experience and still have money in the bank. We have unlimited jobs to fill all year round.
“When I was at UPEI, I worked in the Reserves for contracts of up to six months, and then I went to university for a semester.” says Matt. “As a result, I never needed to take student loans at all. After a tour to Bosnia, I also used my military hours for funding to go to Holland College for the Aircraft Gas Turbine program.”
P02 David MacPherson says careers with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are diverse and flexible, and a lot of support is offered to pursue an occupation of your choice.
“People equate the Canadian Armed Forces with combat, but of the 100 occupations available in the Regular Forces, only 10 are combat-related. Whether it is the Navy, Army or Air Force, there are a lot of support occupations.
“As a Reservist, you have the flexibility to work part-time, so it is a great option for students,” says David. “You can also work full-time when you are available. I started in the Reserves while in university, and I worked full-time in the summer and part-time throughout the school year. There is reimbursement money for doing post-secondary studies, and I was able to continue accessing that money to do my Masters.
“You could join the Reserves as a Financial Services Administrator and end up working for Canada Revenue Agency or a private business in a job that is complementary to your career path.
“When you join the Reserves, you have the option of joining the Regular Forces once you finish post-secondary. Also, people who have finished their career in the Regular Forces can join the Reserves.”
MS Jaime Donaldson started working with the Reserves while in university, and now is a Human Resource Administrator. “It is an office-type job which has allowed me to work at different Reserve units across the country.
“Reservists stay within their community, while those in the Regular Forces may be sent anywhere. The main role of the Primary Reserves is to support the Regular Force.”
The minimum time requirement as a Reservist is working during the academic year from September to May, every Wednesday evening and one Saturday per month. During the summer, students do most of their training and work full-time.
After basic training, Reservists can get up to $2,000 per year for up to four years in college or university. No skills are required to join, and there are eight to 10 occupations to choose from.
The Regular Forces
“We offer all kinds of programs through the Regular Forces. For example, if you want to become a doctor, we can offer a scholarship. We can pay tuition and a salary for someone wanting to earn a college diploma. We can offer skilled trades programs with a salary and all academic expenses paid and guarantee employment afterwards.”
“In the Reserves, you are not moved anywhere, you can stay with us for a week or for 30 years. Enrolling in the Regular Forces is a much bigger commitment – you sign a legal document committing to between three and 17 years.”
Members of the Canadian military receive a pension, dental, and the services of the Military Family Resource Centre, as well as discounts on certain clothing, and a paid hour a day for working out.
Rate of pay
Reserve members get a $2,000 bursary for every year they are in school. Paid education salary starts at $27K per year gross pay. Standard pay for trades starts $36K per year and there is a pay increase every year. By year four, members are typically at $60K and up.
Training and/or mentorship
CAF members receive training at the apprentice or journeyman levels or at the professional levels of occupations, depending on which path they travel. There is also a college subsidy program where members are paid a salary and go to college, with all academic expenses paid.
CAF also offers a university scholarship program where the member is paid a salary plus all academic expenses to get a degree at the Royal Military College or another Canadian university. They are guaranteed employment in the CAF for a minimum of nine years after graduation.
“In addition, we also subsidize certain Masters programs. For example, if you graduate with a BSc, you could be eligible to attend medical or dental school with full tuition paid, plus a salary,” says Matt.
All members are provided valuable leadership training and professional development on ethics throughout the course of their careers.
How to apply
No skills or experience is required. The CAF provides all required training.
The application process starts online, and has a number of steps, including an aptitude and personality test, medical assessment, interview, and security checks. They are done sequentially over a period of a few months.
Applicants must be at least 16 years of age with a minimum of Grade 10 and a Canadian citizen. Permanent Residents are also eligible to apply, but will have a longer background security check process. Those applying for the Regular Forces who do not pass the fitness test can take a 90-day training to meet the standards.