Author Topic: It’s 2017. The Military Still Requires Officers To Have College Degrees. Why?  (Read 11602 times)

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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Not to mention that other Professions such have been listed require university education that directly relates to the specific job.

How many jobs do the CAF have that are "any degree"

For example, the Infantry are like that. You can have a degree in basket weaving that in no way relates to the profession of being an Infantry officer.

This is actually changing, different MOS will require specific degree programs.

Offline FJAG

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I've done "mountains of staff work" reasonably well without a degree, and seen many degreed officers who suck at staff work.

The CF Staff School on Avenue Road in Toronto was an eight-week course. That's a lot less of a waste of time and money than a degree.

Truer words were never spoken.

When I finished high school and my OCTP training I was a fully qualified gunner but didn't start thinking beyond my own little world until I went to Staff School (which then was done at Avenue Rd and was more like three months I believe)

Staff School was the first time I was teamed up with Navy and Air Force and Purple personnel so gave me a rounded understanding of the Forces as a whole. Besides teaching staff duties it taught us how to organize our thought processes, taught us how to analyse situations (beyond basic operational appreciations of the situation)taught us how to study properly, taught us how to create and present persuasive arguments and deliver presentations.

Subsequently, as a Battery Captain I became the supervisor and mentor of a number of young subbies who were all graduates of RMC or civilian universities who, quite frankly were next to illiterate when it came to writing PERs or any type of staff paper. I was only a year or two older then them but by then my artillery training and experience had made me a far better gunner then them and my Staff School course a far better administrator. Their four years of university had provided them with very little of value to their units.

I think one has to keep in mind that other professions who require degrees (lawyers, doctors, engineers) have degree programs that are specifically aimed and tailored at teaching the knowledge and skills that the professions need. General university courses may teach things of interest but little of value. (I look back to my own two years of pre-law and can attest to the fact that I earned sixty credit hours of interesting stuff that has furthered me zero percent in either my military or law careers. I sometimes joke that the only thing that gives me an advantage is that a geography course I took taught me what "albedo" is and I doubt if 5% of the population does.)

I also am a great believer in higher education and believe that the professional faculties and the community college programs provide value for money for the individuals and for the country as a whole. On the other hand I also believe that the bulk of the courses offered at universities are the biggest con that we run on our students and taxpayers. Courses that warehouse young people for four years (or more) and provide them with no marketable skills are ridiculous and are being pushed on us by a system that's designed to perpetuate the system rather than benefit the students and country in general. 

I can't help but believe that if we were to develop our young officers ourselves over those four years we would probably get a much better product in half the time and they could use the other two years in gaining practical experience in their chosen fields :2c:

Incidentally, I also agree with the comment above about being more flexible about commissioning from the ranks. Our program right now is heavily weighted towards taking very senior and older NCO. The problem regarding taking younger MCpls and Sergeants is very much tied to the education requirements. If we had a better internal junior officer development process then taking younger NCOs who lack university education and even a year or two of high school would be simpler and lead to more success.

 :cheers:
« Last Edit: October 19, 2017, 19:19:09 by FJAG »
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Offline dapaterson

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This is actually changing, different MOS will require specific degree programs.

Which speaks to senior leadership confusing education and training, to my mind.  Unless there's a professional certification required - in the CAF, Doctors and Lawyers and Nurses and Pharmacists and Dentists are all I can think of - we should not be using the type of degree as a filter.  (I'm excluding Engineers from that list, since most CAF engineers do precious little engineering.  And most of the engineering could probably be done more effectively by civilians).

The most humorous part of some of those efforts is that they would disqualify the highest ranking Logistics officer in the CAF from being a Logistics officer.
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Offline daftandbarmy

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I was only a year or two older then them but by then my artillery training and experience had made me a far better gunner then them and my Staff School course a far better administrator. Their four years of university had provided them with very little of value to their units.

Except as a warning to others? :)
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Offline Bruce Monkhouse

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Staff work= glorified clerk.

Get over yourselves.
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Offline SeaKingTacco

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Staff work= glorified clerk.

Get over yourselves.

Sorry, Bruce, but properly done staff work is nothing of the sort. Properly done staff work is a decision making tool for Commanders. Improperly done staff work is all too common today and it just gums up the works of the CAF.

Clerks do administration. Which is also vital. But it is not staff work.

Offline Tango2Bravo

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Re: The Military Still Requires Officers To Have College Degrees. Why?
« Reply #31 on: October 20, 2017, 12:17:44 »
Reading through the original article, there is another way to look at the changes in educational attainment and officer programs. It is true that more people now have degrees than in 1940, but there are also many more people who have completed high school than in the 1940s. It may be that a degree is "worth less" comparatively than seventy years ago, but that does not make a degree less important as an officer program entrance requirement. A high school diploma also meant more in 1940 than it does in 2017 as a discriminator.

That degree on its own does not make somebody an officer, but it is a useful entrance requirement. They must go through CAF/branch education and training. One aspect of the greater percentage of folks with a degree is that some of the barriers from 1940 are gone or lessened.

We do have outstanding leaders in the CAF who do not require degrees - they are our great NCO corps. The  high school grad with leadership qualities will make a great MCpl/Sgt in a few years - they don't all have to go officer! We are blessed with both a professional officer corps and a professional NCO corps and we should be comfortable with that.

Cheers

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Online Good2Golf

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Staff work= glorified clerk.

Get over yourselves.

Not sure even the best of clerks could, for example, liaise with Treasury Board and the Finance Ministry to shape a $0.5B short-notice capital procurement for a 5th C-17.  Could even be a Sr. NCM, but such an individual (NCM v Offr) would also have one (or more in my experience) relevant degrees.

:2c:

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G2G

Offline Spectrum

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The CAF is a pretty diverse workplace. We have needs for leaders, administrators, and technical experts. Yet I see plenty in the CAF that can't fill any of those roles competently. And that's not just a shot at officers. We have plenty of sh*tty NCMs too.

I'd rather see young officers get qualified first before we put them through university. Let them lead and be exposed to basic administration. Once they are ready to be Capt, we can look at getting them a public admin/finance/engineering degree (please no art history majors) so they can go fight the bureaucratic battles for us. And if they really suck, we can boot them out before this threshold is reached.

And don't even get my started on the NCMs. I have no idea where they found some of my peers. Sure they are better than many from **** countries, but some are "professional" in terms of service only. We should be comparing ourselves to Americans, Brits, Aussies etc. And I personally know at least one officer or NCO from each of those countries that think we are a joke.

Offline Blackadder1916

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Though the article referenced in the OP is written from the perspective of the US military since the discussion here has veered more to the Canadian experience, I'll provide a link to a couple of ORA reports that may provide some background.

An Assessment of the University Degree Policy for Canadian Forces Officers  (Sept 1997)
http://cradpdf.drdc-rddc.gc.ca/PDFS/zbb62/p508505.pdf

Models of Canadian Forces Officer Occupations Most Affected by University Degree Requirement  (May 1998)
http://cradpdf.drdc-rddc.gc.ca/PDFS/zbb61/p508381.pdf

Like a number of other "old timers" (maybe not when the earth was cooling, but there was still one or two dinosaurs roaming the earth) on this means I saw no problem with officers without degrees.  I was one of them, OCTP(M) - the "M" meaning "Men", in the days when men were men, and women were women, and officers were neither (according to my changing I-card anyway).  One of the things to remember in this discussion, which is more than about the singular issue of degreed officers, is that the pro non-degreed side of the argument seems to focus very much on the benefit of in-service evaluation and commissioning.  Back in the old days, with the exception of CFRP and SRCP,  all the Regular Force in-service commissioning plans mirrored a plan for candidates from civvy world (or the Reserves).  The non-degree option, OCTP, was usually limited to classifications (occupations) that most would term "pointy end" - Inf, Armd, Arty, Pilot, Air Nav, AEC, MARS - all the rest needed degrees to get in the door, though once in the door there were the odd few who moved between classifications still lacking a degree.

While there was a high percentage of officers lacking a university degree, they were mostly in the MOCs above and in a couple of odd occupations that mostly generated officers in-service through CFR and by voluntary (usually) transfer from those non-degreed MOCs.  Even though one may assume that since those many non-degreed officers were generated through OCTP (and the similar pre-unification separate services commissioning programmes that preceded it), it was the primary source of officers, that would be incorrect.  My assumption (I don't have the data at hand, only memory of studies/reports from the 1980s when I was part of an occupational analysis) is that a higher percentage of OCTPs stayed following their initial engagements when those with degrees left following completion of compulsory service.  The OCTPs were only meant to be the short term measure to fill the gaps left when enough university graduates (or individuals willing to exchange a paid university education for a period of service) could not provide sufficient officers.  Well, the requirement changed with society.  Back 30, 40, 50 years ago getting that university degree was a significant event, now not so much.  While we may have lost some good potential officers through the cracks because of the education requirement in the years since the policy change, is the CF so short of potential officer applicants who either have a degree or is willing to go to school to get one.  The CF was always wanting officers to have education, just, like in a lot of things it did, it got lazy and accepted the easy fix of non-degreed officers that ended up being the norm.  For those who say that more opportunity for commissioning for deserving currently serving NCM should be provided, I ask, is the purpose of any commissioning plan to generate officers or to reward soldiers?

And to get back to the OP article and it's American focus, though the US military was always more education (credential) demanding than us, they also commissioned individuals with degrees during times when there was a shortfall in recruiting university graduates.  And not during the World Wars.  As an individual example (and one that proves nothing about correlation of education and officership - their shades of Somalia), quite a few non-degreed individuals were commissioned through Officer Candidate School during the Vietnam War.  They were selected often on the basis of aptitude test scores and many went there straight from basic training (other ranks basic as privates) or perhaps after completing initial trades training.  One of them, who had dropped out of community college after a few months but got through basis and training as a company clerk but had high test scores, was Lieutenant William Calley.
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Offline FJAG

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Re: The Military Still Requires Officers To Have College Degrees. Why?
« Reply #35 on: October 20, 2017, 15:07:15 »
Reading through the original article, there is another way to look at the changes in educational attainment and officer programs. It is true that more people now have degrees than in 1940, but there are also many more people who have completed high school than in the 1940s. It may be that a degree is "worth less" comparatively than seventy years ago, but that does not make a degree less important as an officer program entrance requirement. A high school diploma also meant more in 1940 than it does in 2017 as a discriminator.

That degree on its own does not make somebody an officer, but it is a useful entrance requirement. They must go through CAF/branch education and training. One aspect of the greater percentage of folks with a degree is that some of the barriers from 1940 are gone or lessened.

We do have outstanding leaders in the CAF who do not require degrees - they are our great NCO corps. The  high school grad with leadership qualities will make a great MCpl/Sgt in a few years - they don't all have to go officer! We are blessed with both a professional officer corps and a professional NCO corps and we should be comfortable with that.

Cheers

The real question though isn't whether more education may have some value. The question is can the military make better use of those years especially since they are some of those where we are at our most vigorous and most impressionable. Why should we let them be spent sitting on our butts in a classroom?  :pop:

 :cheers:
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Offline daftandbarmy

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And, for Gawd's sake, let's hope that no one starts a discussion about the merits of 'Sergeant Pilots'. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergeant_pilot

"They were not paid much, their opportunities for promotion were limited, and they were treated harshly in training, but that did not stop three generations of enlisted aviators from becoming pilots in the Army Air Corps."

https://archive.is/20120717164532/http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=31103853

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Offline FJAG

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And, for Gawd's sake, let's hope that no one starts a discussion about the merits of 'Sergeant Pilots'. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergeant_pilot

"They were not paid much, their opportunities for promotion were limited, and they were treated harshly in training, but that did not stop three generations of enlisted aviators from becoming pilots in the Army Air Corps."

https://archive.is/20120717164532/http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=31103853

Or like Warrant Officers in US Army Aviation? That's a US idea that I would support here (although, of course, their warrant officers are quite different from ours since under the Warrant Officer Flight Training Program the only educational requirement is grade 12 and there is no previous military experience required)

 :cheers:
« Last Edit: October 20, 2017, 18:43:41 by FJAG »
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Offline Navy_Pete

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Which speaks to senior leadership confusing education and training, to my mind.  Unless there's a professional certification required - in the CAF, Doctors and Lawyers and Nurses and Pharmacists and Dentists are all I can think of - we should not be using the type of degree as a filter.  (I'm excluding Engineers from that list, since most CAF engineers do precious little engineering.  And most of the engineering could probably be done more effectively by civilians).

The most humorous part of some of those efforts is that they would disqualify the highest ranking Logistics officer in the CAF from being a Logistics officer.

Wrt the engineers portion, I think it's important to note a lot of engineers don't do much 'pure engineering'. Design is only one portion of the types of work you can do, and a lot of it is project management, business development, contract management, etc where you take your technical background lets you understand the issue without going full slide rule to redesign everything. :geek:

Very little of the CAF engineering work is what you would learn about in schools, but our training relies on a lot of background knowledge, and within DND we are increasingly going towards aligning a lot of our stuff with commercial practices, so having a P.Eng is already desirable and may become mandatory for certain positions. Sure, you can have the same job done by a civilian, but having someone that has been in the field doing it gives them a good appreciation of all the stuff that you wouldn't know otherwise because it won't be written down on a performance requirement anywhere. A good example is helmets that met all the requirements but failed field testing miserably because they didn't account for people using them as seats. Also, from a SWE point of view, we are cheaper than civilians doing the same jobs on the salary, with no concerns about OT etc when things get busy, and with the DEO stream, you don't actually pay for the education or have any 'lost time' for the paid degree.

I've used the stuff I learned at school a few times to do a bunch of calculations and verify our plan worked and would be safe, but I use the general skill sets I picked up while getting my education that were improved during my training every day. I can say the CAF has been great for developing the soft skills needed to actually lead people, and overall makes me a lot more effective now than if I had done just 'pure engineering' as a civilian and been put in the jobs I'm in now.

Probably a lot of officer roles that don't strictly need degrees, but I'd say the engineering jobs aren't one of them. We could train that internally, but it would probably cost way more and not really save any time, so not necessarily any real savings or net benefit.

Offline dapaterson

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If the majority of a trade is employed in administrative functions in Ottawa, it is questionable whether that function should be military.

But that's another discussion entirely...
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Offline Dimsum

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We should be comparing ourselves to Americans, Brits, Aussies etc. And I personally know at least one officer or NCO from each of those countries that think we are a joke.

I've worked with Americans and I've worked with a lot of Aussies in all three services, and I don't believe we are worse than either of them.  We are generally more experienced at each rank level compared to the Americans (especially in the NCM world) and are on par with the Aussies.  I've worked with members of both militaries that I would follow, but only out of morbid curiosity. 

I'll admit that when I first started working with the Brits, their accents (perhaps b/c of the whole "to make yourself sound smarter, adopt Received Pronunciation) made me subconsciously think they knew what they were doing, but after a little while I noticed that they bumble around just as much (if not more in some cases) as we do. 

The "joke" goes both ways.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 07:26:54 by Dimsum »
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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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I've worked with Americans and I've worked with a lot of Aussies in all three services, and I don't believe we are worse than either of them.  We are generally more experienced at each rank level compared to the Americans (especially in the NCM world) and are on par with the Aussies.  I've worked with members of both militaries that I would follow, but only out of morbid curiosity. 

I'll admit that when I first started working with the Brits, their accents (perhaps b/c of the whole "to make yourself sound smarter, adopt Received Pronunciation) made me subconsciously think they knew what they were doing, but after a little while I noticed that they bumble around just as much (if not more in some cases) as we do. 

The "joke" goes both ways.

People are people, the "we're a joke" perception comes more from our lack of certain core combat capabilities and national political posturing.



Offline ArmyDoc

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Some of this comes down to philosophical concepts of education vs training.  Simplified, training improves performance of specific tasks; education develops reasoning and judgement.

Ideally, if we truly believe in Mission Command, we want an officer corps with those qualities (reasoning and judgement), so they are adaptable to changing situations.

http://keydifferences.com/difference-between-training-and-education.html#ixzz4W0ZEK5oD
I find it interesting that the advocates for a non-degree Officer corps generally are those without a degree, while those supporting degrees for officers typically have a degree (of some sort) themselves.

My preference would be to have all members - officers and NCM alike - obtain some sort of degree or professional certification during their career path. For some, cooks for example, this could their Red Seal certification. A degree is likely not required (or a realistic option for all recruits, recognizing that some will have a degree on entry) for your typical combat arms Pte/Cpl, but a degree or diploma would certainly be beneficial at the MWO/CWO rank when much of their work milieu involves working with (degrees) officers. For officers that enter with a Bachelor degree, perhaps progression to the General/Flag Officer ranks should require a Masters (beyond a RMC MDS) or PhD, similar to the US Military model. Everyone benefits from education in some form.

In terms of a university degree, the skills gained should include critical reasoning, the ability to synthesize large amounts of information, develop arguments for/against various positions, writing and communication skills, research competencies (beyond Google) and the ability to select the best ‘evidence’, and exposure to a broad variety of ideas.

So, I am in the camp that wholeheartedly disagrees with the sentiment that “there is no absolutely need for officers to have a degree”. Times have changed and that ship has sailed.

Offline Bruce Monkhouse

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. Everyone benefits from education in some form.


Except the taxpayers whom you serve.  What makes you so special over other employee's in this great country?
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The taxpayers don't necessarily lose by having people who return to civilian life with more education.  They're also going to get a better military as well with their being more educated.

Offline Old Sweat

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I can accept, with the number of educational opportunities available, that officers should have a degree these days. Waaay back when, the ROTP system was as much a means of providing Federal assistance to education, which was a Provincial responsibility, as it was "the" primary officer production system. An officer only had to serve three years commissioned time after university graduation, and many, perhaps even the majority, joined for the free education and then pursued civilian careers. Of the ROTP graduates of my vintage I served with in 1 RCHA in Gagetown 1961-1964 perhaps about ten made it a career, while the number of "short service" OCP officers who qualified for permanent commissions must have numbered close to forty. A few from both streams became GOs and Cols, while most of us retired as LCols and Majs, and some peaked at Capt for life.

So my experience was quite different than most of yours, and that coloured my attitude. Again, it was a different era, and degrees were far less common in Canadian society. The army admitted that there was no difference in ability and performance after the rank of captain, but the ROTP graduates who stuck around did have an edge on us.

Offline the 48th regulator

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Except the taxpayers whom you serve.  What makes you so special over other employee's in this great country?

That they are tax payers as well, that chose a vocation and an employer that provides that.  Just because other Canadians do not receive it should not be a reaon to feel guilt or that the individual must justify it.

You have issues, take it up with your own employer.

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Offline Bruce Monkhouse

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Under those conditions I guess you'll never complain about a Govt. official lining his/her's or thier friends pockets again?

I mean they're taxpayers working for an employer whom provided it.......
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Offline the 48th regulator

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Under those conditions I guess you'll never complain about a Govt. official lining his/her's or thier friends pockets again?

I mean they're taxpayers working for an employer whom provided it.......

Don't compare illegal activities with an employer offering employees an avenue to improve themselves.  That is just sour grapes, from someone who does not have it.

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Offline Bruce Monkhouse

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Didn't say illegally did I?
Cancelling the gas plants wasn't illegal but a lot of people made good money on it......and I'll bet they knew somebody.

If you actually paid attention you'd see that my original response  was to a scenario where ALL members should be offered degrees.........something that ISN'T presently offered.   Hard to have sour grapes over something that doesn't exist.

Now, back on subject matter perhaps?
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