Officer or NCO?

I have recently aged out and have found myself at a stage of having to chose a uniform and would like to know the advantages and disadvantages of both, my CO would like me to come back as an officer and the sqn WO wants me to come back as an SNCO. I know that i would like to become uniformed Staff.

Only you can make that decision, not your Sqn WO or CO.

Think about the pros and cons for each and weigh them up.

Personally, I did the SNCO route first and then transferred over to Officer. In my opinion, it was the best thing I ever did. It gave me an opportunity to grow up, learn how to be a member of Staff, learn all the different roles and become a DI. Now as OC - I’m so happy and glad I did the SNCO route first as I believe I have learnt so much more than being chucked into a position of command at such a young age.

I’m not saying it’s what you should do, but if you are extremely undecided you need to think what is best for you.

Good luck in whatever you do! I’m sure both members of Staff will be proud of you whichever route you take.


There is a saying “you’re a long time dead” and this IMO applies to anyone applying for a commission straight from cadet service. There is only so much you can do and how high you can go.

SK is correct that you can find yourself in a command very early on and if you are not mentally ready for it (which applies to everyone) then it will not be a happy experience. I have seen more younger commissioned officers pushed into a command say ta ta than people taking it on when they are a bit older. There will be people who will say if you good enough you’re old enough and other clichés, which is all BS, but unfortunately senior officers take advantage of young officers in a way that is despicable. I’ve seen a lot of promising youngsters who take on roles they are not ready for and have left.

The route suggested by SK does give you a broad experience and increased knowledge and time to decide that can only benefit you. It may be something of a cliché but there is little you can do as a CI or SNCO that you can’t as an officer. Spending time as a CI especially at your age gives you time to assess the roles from a detached perspective. But there are a number of young CIs who have turned their back on uniform as they don’t want the aggro have annoyed Wing as when they went from cadet service they said they would go into uniform and WSOs etc want uniformed bums on seats for the sake of having bums on seats.

Speaking as an ACF officer, I would recommend SNCO first, unless there is a terminal shortage of officers in your area and it would make more of a difference to become an officer quicker. The reason for this is you get a good working knowledge of what an SNCO does day to day, so when you do become an officer you know what you are asking your people to do. Those who go straight into a commission sometimes see the adult SNCOs as being like the cadets and treating them as such. Those who come “from the ranks” don’t generally do that and everyone works together much better.

The only person who knows which way to go is you.
However I would suggest that do not have sufficient experience to make a considered decision. As you say the Sqn WO says one thing and CO something else, both have a vested self-interest and have put you in a quandary.
Some questions and self analysis
Are you at uni or similar what are your thoughts on completion?
Are you working?
Is it local or do you have a commute of more than 1 hour?
If so is it a short term job or something you see staying in?
If it is short term job how will changing affect your commitment to the ATC?
If you are staying in the job, are there opportunities to do training, travel etc that will affect your commitment to the ATC?
Are you in a relationship or playing the field?
If the former does it look like becoming more serious and does your other half fully understand the implications of you being a member of staff in the Corps?

These may seem like personal questions but they are things you IMO need to ask yourself / consider before taking a uniformed role. Not to do so has the potential to put you in a situation of not really being able to fulfil the role ‘properly’.

There are two young CIs I know who were cadets and shunned the uniform path, much to the annoyance of their CO and WSO. But neither really knew what their future looked like and as it one has gone to uni a bit later in life and the other has a job that takes her away for 2-3 weeks at a time. If they’d gone for a uniform there would potentially be questions asked, but as they are they are able to tailor their cadet commitment to suit them.