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Post No. 17370189
I'm a SMART scholarship selectee. Sweet deal. Tuition is paid. $25k a year, cash. Guaranteed employment after I graduate for a # of years = the length of the scholarship (two years, for me). Includes a summer internship. Pay is low at first, but steps up drastically on a fixed schedule over two years (how the government makes some of its money back for paying for my education). Work isn't very exciting (troubleshooting jet engines for the Air Force), but not awful. Pretty cool.
I *also* got accepted into the NSA co-op program. Yeah, that NSA. It'll extend my graduation by a year, but pay starts high, comes with a TS/SCI security clearance, and is a world class organization doing work that matters. Will have to be there for 52 weeks over three semesters to complete the program. Pays while I work, but not other times, and doesn't pay tuition so money in the short term is inferior to SMART.
These are mutually exclusive. I have until August 1st to decide.
Complications/details: Married with three kids: 2, 4, and 9. When I'm gone, wife (who works) will be alone with them, plus help from grandma.
Worked in intelligence in the military, been my dream to make a full career of it since I was 18. I'm 33. This shot at NSA is probably my last chance, ever, before I'm too old.
There is a chance that if I go to work at NSA, I can be stationed in my home state, where cost of living is lower than Ft. Meade and wife can still work, be near friends and family, etc. But this isn't for sure.
SMART installation is outside my home state, but not far and still low cost of living.
My current discipline is electrical engineering, but I also have background in intelligence (like I mentioned), Arabic and the Middle East, and law.
So... safer, more lucrative SMART and give up my dream, but be able to practice patent law later? Or take my last chance, harder on my family, for a permanent and fulfilling career that pays less?