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Info for Families

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An Exciting Career

There is no career more challenging or rewarding than serving in the Forces, where Canadians take part in defending their country and participate in world events that will change their lives and the lives of the people they are helping.

There are many reasons why your loved one may be considering a career in the Forces. Whether it is a son, daughter, brother, sister, parent, spouse or partner, you can support their decision by learning what the Forces has to offer and helping guide them to making a well-informed decision.

Choosing a career – or taking the jump into a second career – can be daunting.  Being able to understand and support the choices of a family member requires information and communication. Knowing you are supportive of your loved one’s decision to join the Forces will help them settle into their new career.

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The Forces Has Lots to Offer

The Forces offers a broad variety of career paths to suit the career goals and individual personalities of each member.  It also promotes many of the same values in its members that you cherish in your loved one – self-confidence, integrity, perseverance and hard work.

The training and development opportunities offered through the Forces will allow your loved one to expand his or her existing skills, and acquire the qualifications and leadership skills that will serve them well during their career in the military and beyond.

Here are some highlights of what the Forces has to offer your loved one:

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An Outstanding Education

The Forces offers outstanding education, training and professional development opportunities such as paid college or university tuition, second language training and financial support for continuing education. 

The Forces is committed to ensuring that its members have access to new technologies, trends and business practices.

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Guaranteed Employment

A debt-free education is just the beginning. A fully-trained member is guaranteed employment for at least three years following the completion of basic training and occupation training.

Many Forces members are offered contract renewals through to retirement.  Members who demonstrate ability and potential are rewarded with promotions and professional development opportunities.

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Ongoing Career Development

Learning valuable analytical, time-management and teamwork skills will enable your loved one to continuously advance his or her career and contribute to a fulfilling life both in and out of the military.  The Forces is one of the only militaries in the world that ensures women are able to work in whatever job they choose.

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Teamwork

A career with the Forces means teamwork no matter who members work with or where they are stationed.  The camaraderie and team spirit are considered by many members to be one of the main benefits of life in the military.

Imagine having an immediate connection to almost 68,000 people around the world.  The friends your loved one makes in the Forces will last them a lifetime.

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Travel

Your loved one will have the opportunity to travel the world, experience different cultures, meet new people, and use state-of-the-art equipment wherever they work.

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Competitive Salary & Benefits

The Forces offers salaries, pensions, and dental and health care benefits that are comparable to, and in some cases superior to, many private sector jobs. 

Your loved one’s pay in the Forces will be based on his or her occupation and rank. All service men and women, regardless of their relationship status, are paid on the same scale.

Maternity and parental benefits help members balance work with the responsibilities that come with the birth or adoption of a child. In addition to financial benefits, members can take time away from work to care for their children.

Members receive 20 vacation days per year which increases to 25 days per year after five years. Vacation can be requested anytime depending on training and operational requirements.

The Forces pension provides a retirement income when your loved one has completed his or her military career. It is one of the best and safest pension plans in Canada.

 
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Limitless Opportunities

Your loved one has a choice of over 100 full- and part-time occupations ranging from doctors and musicians to sonar technicians and engineers.  He or she is sure to find an occupation that suits their unique skills and interests.

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Finding the Right Job

Before enrolling in the Forces, your loved one will be invited to meet with a recruiter to discuss any questions he or she may have. They are available to help weigh the pros and cons, review qualifications and offer advice on careers available. 

Some career paths require specific skills and qualifications. The recruiter can offer advice on what courses are needed, what paid education programs are available, and what potential career growth there may be.

Encourage your loved one to talk to a recruiter – they’re here to help, but also to help the right person get the right job. The Forces wants people who have a desire and ability to be a member.

Before meeting with a recruiter, it may be helpful for your loved one to do some research using the Browse Jobs section of this website.  There they can get an overview of specific jobs, including education and training information, work environments and related civilian occupations.

If your loved one decides to apply to the Forces, a recruiter will guide them through the selection process, which includes a security screening, reference checks, an aptitude test to help determine best job-fit, a medical exam and a job interview. Their personal information is protected under the Government of Canada’s Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

When deciding which path to follow, your loved one has three key choices:

1. Work Full Time or Part Time

To work full time in the Forces, your loved one will most likely join the Regular Force.  Similar to full-time civilian careers, Regular Force members are educated and trained for specific jobs. 

When your loved one joins the Regular Force, he or she is expected to sign up for a few years. The length of time depends on the need for their skills and the length of time they spend in training.  The minimum is usually about three years. However, if they apply through a paid education program, they will be required to serve longer. 

If your loved one prefers to work close to home, then he or she may choose the Reserve Force. Most Reserve Force members are either full-time students or have full-time civilian jobs and choose to spend some of their spare time on military training.

The many advantages of joining the Reserve Force include working part time without long-term commitment, serving in the local community, and gaining valuable skills that will apply to alternate careers.

2. Join the Navy, Army or Air Force

The Forces is made up of three armed services – the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.  Each service plays an equally important role in protecting Canadian interests at home and abroad, and each offers many different careers.

Your loved one’s potential job can determine the service where they will work.  Some jobs are specific to one service – for example, pilots in the Air Force or boatswains in the Navy.  Others like supply technicians and nursing officers are offered in all three services. If your loved one chooses a career that is offered in more than one service, he or she will be directed to where they are needed the most.

3. Serve as an Officer or as a Non-Commissioned Member

A loved one with leadership goals and who enjoys analyzing, planning, making decisions and providing advice may be drawn to a career as an officer.  Considered “senior management” in the Forces, officers receive leadership training and require a university degree related to their chosen occupation.

A loved one who enjoys working with their hands, or is interested in becoming a technician, technologist or mechanic for example, may choose to become a Non-Commissioned Member (NCM).  NCMs are the backbone of the Forces and are usually responsible for operating and maintaining specialized technical equipment or performing administrative or health services tasks.

 

Education

A quality education is the foundation for your loved one’s future regardless of the career path they choose. 

If he or she joins through the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP) or the Non-Commissioned Member Subsidized Education Plan (NCM SEP), the Forces will pay for their college or university education.

In addition to paying for tuition, books and academic equipment, the Forces will provide them with a salary and health benefits while attending school and a job when they graduate.  In return, your loved one will work for the Forces for a period of time after graduation, approximately two months for every month they were in the program.

Here is an overview of the paid and subsidized education options available for your loved one:

Paid College

Some jobs in the Forces require a college diploma or special certification. The programs available for paid college are usually technician or technologist specialty training programs leading to a job as a non-commissioned member. 

Paid University

Most officer-level jobs in the Forces are available for paid university. Your loved one may attend university through the Canadian Military College system and graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) or they may go to another Canadian university in an approved program. 

The Forces also provides paid education for four specialized professions – Medical Officer, Dental Officer, Pilot and Social Work Officer.

Reserve Force

The Reserve Entry Training Plan (RETP) allows people to attend RMC and work for the Forces on a part-time basis. They are reimbursed up to $2000 per year to a maximum of $8,000 for their educational expenses with no obligation to serve after graduation. They may, however, continue to work with the Forces as an officer in the Reserve Force.

 
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Training

Whatever career path your loved one chooses, he or she will receive all the training needed to prepare them for working in the Forces. 

Basic Training

After accepting a job offer with the Forces, your loved one will be required to complete basic training which lasts about three months.  Officer cadets complete the Basic Military Officer Qualification course over 14 weeks, and non-commissioned members attend the Basic Military Qualification course over 12 weeks. 

These courses teach the core skills and necessary knowledge to succeed in a military environment. The training emphasizes basic military skills, weapons handling, first aid, leadership fundamentals and ethical values. Since physical fitness is an integral component of military service, a great deal of time is spent on fitness training as well as teamwork exercises that build self-discipline, self-reliance and determination.

Your loved one’s overall success in basic training will depend on their contribution to the team effort. If they are out of shape, they will not do well on the field exercises and will not be a strong team member. 

It is therefore important to be as fit as possible before basic training. Your loved one may want to start a regular physical fitness program, after talking with their doctor, before basic training. 

Failure to meet the minimum fitness standard test during basic training means your loved one will be released from the Forces. However, they will have several opportunities to try to pass.

Because basic training lasts for a long period of time, your loved one should prepare for the separation from family and friends and look after things like personal financial obligations beforehand. After the first five weeks of training, you may visit on weekends and holidays.    

Recruits receive a great deal of support and encouragement from their instructors but they also need your encouragement from the home front. 

Occupation Training

Occupation training follows basic training and introduces the basics of the job your loved one will perform. In most cases, on-the-job experience is also provided. 

Officer candidates either start second language training or go directly to the applicable school while Non-Commissioned Members attend occupation training specific to their trade. This can vary in duration (sometimes up to 24 months) and location depending on the job. Your loved one may be allowed to move their family, furniture and effects to where they will undergo training.

After occupation training, members are posted to a base in Canada to perform the job for which they have been trained. 

Because your loved one will be handling some of the world's most innovative technologies and sophisticated weaponry, the Canadian Armed Forces will keep providing them with plenty of opportunities for advanced training throughout their career.

Keeping Fit

From basic training and throughout their career, your loved one should be physically fit and healthy.  During basic training, they will be running, doing push-ups and crunches, and walking long distances while carrying a heavy backpack.  Afterwards, the Forces will make it easy for them to stay fit and adopt a healthy lifestyle by providing:

  • outstanding physical fitness and sports facilities;
  • physical fitness programs and qualified trainers;
  • participation in base, regional, national and international sports events and competitions;
  • physiotherapists and sports medicine specialists;
  • family sports and leisure activities that promote wellness;
  • smoking cessation and addictions-free living programs;
  • nutrition and weight management programs; and
  • stress management programs.

Forces members are required to maintain a minimum fitness level which is assessed every year.  Reservists must pass the fitness test as part of the application process. 

 
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Flexible Lifestyle

Most of the time life as a Forces member is no different than civilian life. When your loved one is posted to a base in Canada, they will generally work a 40-hour work week, own or rent their own house or apartment, and have plenty of time for leisure activities with family and friends. 

A typical work week is similar to other industry or service sectors with nights and weekends free for socializing with family and friends.  Regular Force members live on or near one of the many Forces bases throughout Canada.  Depending on their chosen occupation, the initial commitment to serve is usually three years.

All bases are equipped with facilities for a variety of sports and activities, including intramural and local league sports. Most bases have swimming pools, gyms and sports fields while some have skating rinks, golf courses and rod and gun clubs. There are also libraries and community centres that host a wide variety of personal interest clubs and activities.

When work requires your loved one to move, the Forces covers the costs. Other available financial assistance depends on their relationship status, where they are posted, and for how long.

 
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Missions and Risks

Part of the excitement of a career in the Forces is participating in military deployments.  Reassignment from regular duties to provide humanitarian aid or participate in a military mission is called a deployment, whether in Canada or abroad. 

Depending on the mission, deployments can last from a few weeks to over a year; most range from six to twelve months.

As noted, physical fitness is an essential part of military life.  Healthy and physically fit members are dependable, capable and physically ready to be deployed on short notice – the success of a mission depends on it.

As well, the Forces put the utmost time and effort into training and preparing its members to cope with and succeed in all military environments, including combat.  All members are provided with advanced equipment to ensure they are capable of overcoming the challenges of their mission.

Whatever the case, the Forces understands that deployments can be challenging for families and have the resources in place to help.  Your loved one will be part of a very unique community from which he or she can gain additional support.

 
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Respect for Diversity

As the makeup of the Canadian population has changed, so has the Forces.  By adopting non-exclusion policies and adapting uniform standards to accommodate various beliefs and practices, the Forces is committed to reflecting Canada’s unique diversity.

The Forces has taken great strides in safeguarding the equality of women.  By adopting a “no exclusion policy,” it has become one of the first militaries in the world to remove all barriers to full and equal service for its female members.  This means that women have the opportunity to work at any job in the Forces.

Regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity, the Forces invites Canadians to be a part of the team and to explore the opportunities.

Together with their family, your loved one becomes part of the larger Forces family the moment they enrol.

Military life provides many advantages for families, including the opportunity to travel, being part of the Forces community and sharing national pride.  However, it can also present unique challenges such as relocating to a different city or having one spouse away on deployment.

 
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Relocation

From time to time, military members are moved – or posted – to different locations to perform their jobs.  Spouses, children and dependants are usually moved with their loved one and the Forces pays all moving costs. 

Postings happen for a variety of reasons – for example, to help the member gain experience and training, following a promotion so they can take on higher-level responsibilities, or if their particular skill set is needed and more valuable to another area.

 
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Support

You and your loved one may be concerned about the impact that a career in the military will have on your family life. The Forces has created numerous programs to assist families during these and other challenging times. As well, every base has a Military Family Resource Centre to provide services like career counseling for spouses and daycare and recreation programs for children.

Additional services and benefits provided for families include:

  • community orientation;
  • low-cost access to outstanding sports and physical fitness facilities;
  • a diverse mix of leisure activities;
  • youth services and programs;
  • child care facilities and emergency child care;
  • employment assistance and second language training for spouses;
  • relocation benefits and services, and cost-of-living differential allowances;
  • a dependant education management program for families living abroad or moving to a different province;
  • domestic travel and family-care related benefits;
  • morale and psychological support, including a member assistance program, operational trauma and stress support centres, family separation and reunion counseling, and self-help groups;
  • retail stores on bases; and
  • financial services such as insurance, financial planning and income tax preparation.

If you have any other questions about family life in the Forces, talk to a recruiter – they are here to help. Many can speak from personal experiences as they have gone through the same process.

Helpful links:

Military Family Resource Centre
Personnel Support Programs