Second Lt. Richard Johnson wears a camouflaged uniform, a black beret and combat boots to work.
Unlike a number of graduates from the Class of 2012, Johnson has a job. He majored in criminal justice with a minor in military science at Florida A&M, graduated this year and is already making an estimated $48,000 annually.
In April, Johnson joined the U.S. Army.
“Not everybody is cut out for this,” Johnson said. “I’m willing to shed blood, sweat and tears for our nation.”
In a weakened economy where employers continue to hire graduates in the fields of engineering, business, and computer sciences more than others, the U.S. Department of Labor suggests military careers are good prospects and offer a sense of financial security.
Graduates who join the military out of college are guaranteed benefits and face little prospect of layoffs as the military tries to keep up with recruitment. But Johnson’s choice comes with risks that other fields also don’t have including possible deployment to warzones such as Afghanistan.
“I know what I signed up for,” said Johnson, a field artillery officer.
Since Johnson graduated this spring, he said he was able to go straight into Officer Candidate School and was making as much as a sergeant first class, which usually takes eight or nine years.
“I’ve dreamed about being a soldier since I was a little boy,” Johnson said.
While most people shy away from joining the service, Johnson took advantage of his opportunities and made some sacrifices along the way.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the urgent need for active-duty personnel is expected to remain roughly constant through 2020. However, about 165,000 persons must be recruited each year to replace those who complete their assignments or retire.
Many military personnel retire with a pension after 20 years of service while they still are young enough to start a new career, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Johnson pointed out that because the economic opportunities are decreasing, military recruitment is going up because jobs aren’t as available as they had been. But he warned job seekers looking for financial security that they might not make it very far without dedication to the life of a serviceperson. Some college graduates are choosing to enter the military as an alternative to civilian life.
After graduation, Johnson spent his summer preparing future ROTC cadets for basic training.
Before beginning his first day in Ft. Sill, Okla., Johnson said he was “overwhelmed,” but “ready to go,” and could not wait to complete his first operation as an officer in the U.S. Army.
“I have a guaranteed job for the next six years,” said Johnson. “All because I stayed true to my craft.”