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After Graduation FAQ

Will I have an opportunity to become a pilot or Combat Systems Officer (CSO)?

Yes. While at the Academy, cadets obtain a solid background in all phases of aviation. All cadets who meet the physical and medical qualifications are considered for flying training and may be selected to fill available openings. Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (conducted after graduation at several U.S. bases) prepares qualified graduates for flying careers in airlift, bomber, fighter, multi-role, special operations or transport aircraft.

Do graduates have a chance to obtain an advanced degree?

A few graduates will receive scholarships to attend military or civilian graduate schools immediately after graduation. Additionally, many graduates are funded for postgraduate programs if they meet two important criteria: they must perform well as officers and the Air Force must need people from the degree program they wish to pursue. These graduates are generally eligible for attendance after three years on active duty. In addition, many Academy graduates attend one or more of the armed forces Developmental Education courses during their careers. For more information on postgraduate education and scholarship opportunities, please visit the Academic Success Center page at USAFA.EDU. 

Can graduates enter medical school?

The U.S. Air Force Academy may send up to 10 percent of each graduating class directly to medical school upon graduation. Additionally, up to one-half percent of each graduating class may be selected to attend dental school, with another one-half percent being selected to attend nursing school. This, in effect, brings the total percentage that might be selected to attend health professions postgraduate education to 11 percent. These graduates complete their training through the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Programs or the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. These same two programs are available to all active-duty officers. Selection for these programs is on a competitive basis, and the number of students will be based on the needs of the Air Force.

Can graduates enter law school?

Beginning in 2012, the Academy has the authority to select one U.S. Air Force Academy graduate a year to send to law school immediately following graduation in an excess leave status. Eligible candidates include legal studies majors or mock trial team members with competitive grade point averages. If selected, candidates must apply and be accepted into law school. While in law school, participants will be in an unpaid excess leave status and will not receive government funding for law school. Upon successful completion of law school and passage of a state bar, that U.S. Air Force Academy graduate will become a member of the USAF JAG Corps.

What are some of the benefits of an Air Force career?

The pay and allowances of a new officer compare favorably with starting salaries in comparable civilian positions. An officer advances in rank according to the needs of the Air Force and professional performance. The Air Force puts a high premium on leaders with vision, dedication and ability. It offers a stimulating challenge and an interesting future in a wide spectrum of fields. There are opportunities for advanced education, and all officers are eligible to apply for further education at civilian colleges and universities. Some programs even allow selected officers to attend on a full-time basis, receive pay and allowances, have their tuition and fixed fees paid, and receive some reimbursement for books and thesis expenses. During each move, reimbursement for certain transportation costs, an extra allowance for incidental expenses of moving and free shipment of household goods are provided. Additional benefits include medical and hospital expenses, commissary and base exchange privileges, club privileges, VA and FHA mortgage loan insurance, group life insurance and 30 days of vacation with pay each year. The current law enables an officer to retire after completing 20 years of active service.

What is the salary of a second lieutenant after graduation?

The typical base pay per month is more than $3,100. Your salary is based on not only your rank, but also your time in the Air Force. In addition to base pay, military members also receive two allowances: Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Basic Allowance for Sustenance (BAS). Military members who are authorized to reside off base at government expense are entitled to receive a monthly tax-free housing allowance, known as BAH. The amount of the allowance is based on the member’s rank, duty, location and whether or not they have dependents (family members residing with them). BAS is simply a monthly monetary food allowance for members of the military. Members who attend flight training will also receive flight pay. For more information, please visit the United States Air Force website.

Can you explain the rank structure at the Academy or in the Air Force?

The military is organized into an officer corps and an enlisted corps. Commissioned officers outrank all enlisted personnel. Enlisted personnel are required to salute all commissioned officers, and commissioned officers are required to salute superior commissioned officers. Responsibility and accountability increase commensurate with rank. The Air Force rank insignia system is broken down into two major categories: officer ranks and enlisted ranks. The enlisted ranks are further divided into Airmen and NCO (noncommissioned officer) ranks. There are four Airman ranks and five NCO ranks. Additionally, there is one special NCO rank (Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force). Officers progress from second lieutenant to first lieutenant, then captain, major, lieutenant colonel, colonel and finally, four general officer ranks. As a commissioned officer in the Air Force, immediately upon graduation, you will enter the Air Force as an O-1, which is a second lieutenant. You will work your way up as O-2, O-3, etc. Each rank has a pay grade that begins with a letter “O” for officers and “E” for enlisted. For more information, please visit the United States Air Force website.