Air Force Careers

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the U.S. Air Force. Read on to learn more about career options along with education requirements and salary information. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Careers Are Available in the Air Force?

A career in the U.S. Air Force can provide you with the opportunity to serve your country while working in military operations, technology, science, or healthcare. There are a variety of career paths to choose within the Air Force, including enlisted member, officer, and commissioned officer healthcare professional. Enlisted airmen are military officers who train for and participate in technical activities and real military operations for the air force. Second lieutenants are officers who lead other military personnel during combat and activities such as training, as well as operate vehicles. Commissioned officers provide medical care during combat and on base to military and their families, typically having some specialty.

The table below outlines the general requirements for these career options.

Enlisted Member (Airman Basic) Officer (Second Lieutenant) Commissioned Officer (Second Lieutenant Healthcare Professional)
Education Required High school diploma or GED Bachelor's degree Degree required for healthcare specialty
Key Responsibilities Participate in military operations, operate and maintain equipment, take part in support and technical activities Lead troops and military activities, manage enlisted members, operate military vehicles, ships, and aircraft Provide medical care to military personnel and families, may provide emergency medical treatment in combat, offer other medical services based on specialty
Training Required Basic training Officer training Military training if not already enlisted
Job Growth (2014-2024) Little to no change in employment* Little to no change in employment* Little to no change in employment*
Average Salary (2017) $18,802** $35,668** $35,668**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Airforce.com

What Kind of Jobs Can I Get in the Air Force?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. military trained over 2.3 million active personnel and reservists that serve in the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy, in a variety of specialties in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The diversity of training options available to both enlisted members and officers include administrative support, healthcare, electronic and electrical specialties, construction work, combat specialty operations, and flight. Pilot, physician, or legal jobs fall exclusively to officers and commissioned officers, while enlisted members can work on ground crews, assist hospital staff, and learn several technical disciplines (www.airforce.com).

How Do I Prepare?

If you're interested in a career in the military, start gathering information by talking to friends and family who have served. You can enlist in the Air Force between your 17th and 28th birthday and usually only need a high school diploma or GED. If you want to become an officer, you'll need to be under 35 years old and hold a bachelor's degree. The Air Force has certain physical and mental qualifications you'll need to meet before joining, and officer training requires that you pass a qualifying test before beginning the program.

If you are interested in joining right out of high school, contact a local recruiter to find out about available career options. You'll usually need to take an aptitude test and complete other assessments to enlist and find the right job. You'll have to complete basic and job-related training before receiving your work and location assignment. Many colleges partner with the Air Force to offer career training to enlisted personnel on and off-base.

If you're already in a healthcare, legal, or clerical profession, you could join the Air Force as a commissioned officer. You'll need to complete a 5-week training program designed to transition you into your military career. To join as an officer, you'll participate in a 12-week leadership program through the Air Force's Officer Training School. If you plan to pursue a bachelor's degree or are already enrolled in a bachelor's degree program, your school might have a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program that prepares you for officer training upon graduation.

How Much Can I Earn?

Your salary depends on whether you're enlisted or an officer, your grade or rank and your years in the military. According to the Air Force website, a second lieutenant, the lowest officer rank, with less than two years of service made $35,668 in 2017. As an enlisted member, an E-1 or Airman Basic rank earned $18,802 in the first two years of service during the same year. Pay raises accompany promotions, which are typically dependent on satisfactory work and time served. The Air Force also offers paid leave, healthcare and life insurance, educational assistance, and retirement benefits.

What Are Related Civilian Careers?

Doctors and physicians perform many of the same tasks as commissioned healthcare officers, providing lifesaving medical care to their patients and helping prevent disease and injury through routine physicals. They will need a doctorate in order to find work. General and operations managers oversee the work done by employees in many different specialized departments, similar to commanding officers in the military giving orders and directing enlisted members. These professionals most commonly have a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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