Atuda, or Academic Atuda (Hebrew: עתודה אקדמית, literally: Academic Reserve), is a program of the Israeli Defense Forces which enables high school graduates to defer the draft, and instead allows them to attend university prior to their military service. After they complete their studies, they join the army and serve in a position that fits the professional knowledge they gained during their studies.
Israelis typically are drafted at 18 years old with at most a high school education. In many fields, the army needs soldiers with a much broader education, and with an academic background, such as engineers, physicians, economists and lawyers. That is the purpose the Atuda program serves.
An Israeli soldier who participates in the Atuda program is called an Atudai (Hebrew: עתודאי), or an Atudait (Hebrew: עתודאית) for a female academic soldier. After finishing his or her studies, the Atudai serves two years and eight months of obligatory service in the army, like any other male soldier, or two years, like any other female soldier, and then serves an additional three years of regular service. The difference between obligatory service and regular service is, among other things, reflected in the salary they earn. Usually, the Atudai attends officer training after completing their studies, but before starting obligatory service.
In addition to the Academic Atuda program, the IDF also operates the Technologic Atuda (Hebrew: עתודה טכנולוגית) program, which serves the same purpose as the Academic Atuda, by training future soldiers in technologic fields of study. But, in this program, the training is usually shorter (one or two years, instead of three or four), usually takes place in technological colleges instead of universities, and at the end of training, the future soldiers get a technician or a practical engineer diploma.
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