So, when is it a good time to switch Army Officer branches? This is a common question that my website visitors ask me. So, I’ll do my best to answer the question. Please keep in mind this advice is only for ARNG and USAR Officers, not Active Duty Officers.
Let me start by telling you that I personally believe it’s very important to have two or more branches if you want to make a career in the ARNG or USAR. And I think it’s best to have a combat arms branch AND an additional branch in the combat service support or combat support fields. Doing so gives you more opportunities for career advancement.
Questions to Think About
When it comes to getting a second Army Officer branch (or not), there are some questions you should ask yourself first.
- How much do I enjoy my current branch? I think this is very important because you should like your branch, especially if you are thinking of making a career out of the Army. If you hate what you do, I’d suggest changing branches immediately. If you like what you do (or love what you do), there’s probably no reason to get a second branch yet.
- How proficient am I in my current branch? If you’ve been an officer for any period of time, you’ve invested a lot of time and energy building up your proficiency in your specific branch. Many of the skills you learned are generic (like leadership, training, communication, etc.), but you’ve also developed some branch specific expertise. If you’re willing to start over again, that’s fine. Just remember that when you start over in a new branch, you really are starting all over again, working on building up your technical and tactical knowledge and expertise. In some branches, this is very difficult to do. For example, spending five years as a Finance Officer and then switching to an Infantry Officer would put you at a huge disadvantage over Infantry Officers that have spent their entire career in the Infantry. I say that because you wouldn’t have had the experience as an Infantry Platoon Leader, XO, and probably Company Commander in an Infantry unit.
- What job opportunities are available for my current branch? You should look at the job options you have at your current rank and future ranks to see if there are jobs that match your strengths, wants, needs and goals. For example, if you want leadership (command) positions, but your branch doesn’t offer many (or any) positions like that, you might want to change branches.
- How much upward mobility is there in my current branch? This is the second most important question on this list (other than how much do you enjoy your branch). In many states, there is very limited upward mobility for certain branches. I encourage you to sit down with your S1 and see how many positions are available in your state by branch and by rank. For example, if there aren’t many positions after Major for your branch, you should probably get an additional branch before you become a Major.
- Is there any kind of penalty for switching branches? While this won’t apply to most officers, if you received some type of bonus to stay in your current branch, you could end up having to repay that money if you switch branches before the contract expires.
- Would it be better to simply get a new career field or ASI? Sometimes getting a new branch isn’t the answer. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to get a new career field within your current branch. Examples might include operations, Information Operations, recruiting, trainer, etc.
These are the questions you should ask BEFORE you decide to get a new Officer branch or switch branches. Once you make the decision to get a second branch or to switch branches, this is what you need to know. There is no best time to get a second branch. Some folks will tell you it’s better to do it before Company Command and others will tell you it’s better to do it after Company Command. The truth is either of those choices will work.
However, if you are miserable doing what you are doing right now, but want to stay in the Army, the best time to change branches is NOW. If you are limited in upward mobility, change your branch now. Or, if your schedule permits go ahead and do it sooner than later. I’ve found that most folks do it when they go to the Captain’s Career Course. That is what I did and it worked well for me.
My final piece of advice is to do it before you NEED to. It’s better to have two branches and not need one of them, than to only have one branch but need an additional one. Don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t get promoted or can’t get the job you want because there are no other jobs available in your branch.
What are your thoughts about getting a second branch and when to do it? Leave a comment to let us know. I look forward to hearing from you.