Operational officers in the armed forces (a.k.a. combat officers in the Army and warfare officers in the Royal Navy) are tasked with planning, implementing and managing combat operations and field exercises, using tactical weapons systems and by leading highly-trained units of soldiers.
Essentially, these officers work on the frontline during combat situations, providing troops with the direction and leadership that they need to succeed.
Each operational officer is responsible for the training, welfare, morale and vigilance of the soldiers and junior officers under their command.
They ensure that combat skills, operational readiness and peak levels of fitness are maintained by each operative. It’s all about taking charge and making sure that the right resources and tactics are used for each individual mission.
Operational officers are also responsible for planning and implementing troop deployment, weapon systems and communications in training, as well as in battle. Regular training exercises are carried out through combat simulations and practical exercises.
Salary & benefits
As a graduate officer cadet you’ll receive a starting salary of around £25,000. Once you’ve fully completed your training, your salary will increase to between £29,000 and £32,000.
You will also receive brilliant extra benefits, including private healthcare and a decent pension.
Understandably, working as an operational officer can be incredibly dangerous. This is certainly not your average nine-to-five office job.
You may be relocated to different conflict areas around the world, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or Libya. Consequently, flexibility and a desire to travel are absolutely necessary.
Women are not usually placed in direct combat roles, but, for the most part, female officers will be given the same responsibility as male officers.
The minimum entry requirements for officer training include: a good degree in any discipline, a minimum of 180 UCAS points at A-level (not including general studies) and GCSEs in mathematics and English language.
You do not need any work experience before applying, but it may help your chances if you have previously expressed an interest in the armed forces by joining a squadron of cadets or the Territorial Army (TA) at school or university.
You will also need high standards of fitness, since part of the assessment process involves physical tests.
Training & progression
Initial officer training is provided by the academies of the respective armed forces at Sandhurst (Military), Cranwell (RAF) and Dartmouth (Navy).
Initial office training is completed over a period of 11 months. Following this, you will undertake specialist technical and professional training, depending on the specific branch of the armed forces that you wish to join.
In the Army and the Navy, trained graduate officers will initially take charge of a platoon, which will usually be comprised of around 30 troops, plus their equipment.
RAF officers with flying duties, however, will focus on equipment maintenance rather than troop management.
Certain officers, based on performance and adequate experience, are selected for senior command and staff positions after completing specialist training at the Joint Services Command and Staff College.