I am currently finishing up my degree at a civilian university for Naval Combat Systems Engineering. Somebody else asked a similar question for MARS officers and I was curious about my trade as well. What is a typical day like for a junior NCSEO? How do these duties differ at sea and at shore?
I was also interested in serving on a submarine if possible. What kind of qualifications are required to do so?
What kind of career opportunities are available to senior NCSEOs? I am particularly interested in finding out if there are opportunities to get involved in research and development.
Well, you'll do your Naval Engineering Indoctrination course, which will give you a basic overview of how engineering departments work, and high level-knowledge of both CS and MS systems. This includes a short period of time at sea on a frigate, getting to know the gear and the crew. After that, it's on to your Applications course, which is almost an 8 month crash course in electrical engineering. It's all classroom work at the CF Naval Engineering School in Halifax.
After that, it's time for your tour as a phase VI, your first posting to a ship. Your primary duty there will be to get trade qualified! That starts by getting qualified to stand as the Officer of the Day, the dude who's in charge of the safety and operations of the ship and her company for 24 hours. It's a whole lot of learning about how to respond to emergencies, with a focus on a fire, but also other stuff like a HazMat spill or someone getting injured, with some additional administrative and ceremonial duties on top of that.
Once you're OOD qualified, you'll need to focus on your Phase VI package, where you'll be expected to develop a rather thorough understanding of every single major - medium scale piece of CSE kit aboard the ship. To do this, you'll stand a number of watches with the operators of the kit, tag along with the maintainers as they do routine and corrective maintenance, and of course, study like you've never studied before. This will culminate in you proving your knowledge during a board, where you spend 3 or so hours proving you know your stuff by giving technical presentations on systems (You'll be told which ones about half an hour before the board - to give you enough time to draw your diagrams), while the folks on the other side of the table do their best to probe the depths of your knowledge.
One of the keys to getting prepared for this board is good use of your sea time, as there are a number of signatures in your REQ package that can only be signed off at sea, and it's also your only opportunity to see how people actually use the stuff, which is rather vital if you wish to develop an understanding of the system. Expect to be busy any time you're at sea.
At the same time, you'll probably be given a number of secondary duties. You will likely be given divisional responsibilities for a small section of technicians. It will be your job to look after both their well-being in relation to the CF, and the CF's well-being in relation to them. This encompasses many things, from signing leave passes, to assisting them with applications for occupation transfers, to administering administrative action if their job performance or conduct is unsatisfactory. You'll probably also be given some other responsibility aboard the ship; I was, for example, the unit's EXPRES test co-ordinator as a phase VI, and was responsible to the XO for ensuring that the entire ship's company was up to date on their annual physical fitness testing. And CSE Phase VIs are almost always the MoviesO while at sea. Try to pick something the XO will like.
Alongside as a Phase VI, it's much of the same as at sea, but you'll probably have a bit more time to stick your nose in the books.
Anyhow, once you're Phase VI qualified, you're eligible for promotion to Lt(N) (assuming that you have sufficient time in rank as well. Often the ROTP kids end up waiting till the following May). The next major milestone is your AHOD tour.
You'll be the assistant to the head of the department. Like the Phase VI, you have a training package to complete. Unlike the phase VI, you also have an actual job to do on top of that. While the exact breakdown of your duties will vary from ship to ship (based upon what your HOD wants), you can expect to be the DivO for a lot more people, to be the ship's General Safety Officer, to be responsible for ensuring the smooth flow of any paperwork that needs to go in or out of the department (especially message traffic such as notifications to various shore establishments when there's something broken that poses an operational deficiency), to be involved in planning and co-ordination of any departmental activities (to ensuring the don't conflict with other ship's activities) such as training, maintenance, etc. The job is mostly the same alongside or at sea, just longer hours / more stuff happening that you need to respond to while at sea.
For the HOD qualification board, you're still expected to do system presentations, but it's a bit higher level. The focus will be on correctly assessing what impact any particular fault will have on the ship's combat capability, what can be done to mitigate that impact, and the proper steps to go about getting that fixed. You'll go through a scenario where you're acting as the HOD during action stations, where the shit will hit the fan. You will need to be able to provide correct advice to command on the impact of faults that pop up, damage repair priorities, whether or not to take down electrical circuits (Is it more important to keep a radar up and running, or to allow people to safely fight a fire?), as well as directing your department's repair efforts. You should, of course, have had time to practice this during your year as an AHOD. And there'll be other topics like how to prep the ship for a refit, or what to do after a refit, or even what to do with suicidal personnel. All examples of course, they'll pick and choose what to ask from a list.
As for shore postings, that'll vary greatly depending on where you're posted and what billet you're posted to. You could be a project manager for Base Information Services, you could be worjking in Ottawa as the guy in charge of the life cycle for various pieces of equipment, you could be a training officer, etc etc.
Snr CSEOs likewise have a broad range of possible career opportunities. Project management for big stuff like purchasing a new class of ships, being in charge of equipment life cycle management for entire types of equipment (weapons, sensors, etc), career management, defence attache at an embassy, etc etc (at varying rank / qualification levels).
But, not all that much in the way of R&D positions. We as a department don't do all that much of our own R&D, and the majority of that is done by civilian employees (I would presume for continunity's sake).