CAREERS IN THE AIR FORCE
SALARY AND BENEFITS
When considering your pay, it is important to consider the big picture. As an Officer in the Air Force, many extra financial burdens are simply taken care of. Take insurance costs, for example—in the Air Force, you and your family will receive free or low-cost medical and dental care. You’ll also receive a variety of allowances for food and travel. Add that to the low costs of living on base and an attractive retirement package, and you can see the big-picture benefits of life as an Officer in the Air Force.
As a lieutenant straight out of college, you will make about $34,000 a year in basic pay. As an officer, your pay depends on your rank and time in service. If you’re a doctor or pilot, there are some special pay considerations and bonuses. In four years, you can be making $47,000–$55,000 as a captain.
Here’s a breakdown of your total compensation package:
- Living Expenses—Nontaxable Allowances
- Housing Pay—Housing allowances (which are nontaxable) range from $800–$2,600, depending on your assignment location. You can look up rates for your location here.
- Subsistence Pay—All officers, regardless of rank, receive a nontaxable food allowance of $246 a month.
- Additional Allowances—
- Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA)—additional allowance to offset costs from overseas rental
- Cost of Living Allowance (COLA)—additional allowance to offset high-price living locations (to include many overseas locations)
- Hazardous Fire Pay (HFP)—monthly allowance for at least one day’s duty in a designated hazardous area
- Dislocation Allowance—additional allowance to defray moving expenses (currently 2.5 times your Basic Allowance for Housing)
- Flight Pay—available to those with a job requiring flight status (pilots, combat systems officers, flight specialists)
- Family Separation Allowance—allowance for those whose jobs require an extended separation from their family
The Air Force offers a superb 50 percent military retirement plan based on the average of each service member’s highest 36 months of basic pay multiplied by 2.5 percent of the retiree’s years of service.
You accumulate 2.5 days of leave per month (30 days of total vacation with pay each year), which can be carried forward (maximum of 60 days) into the next fiscal year.
When trying to decide what career or job you want after college, you should consider many factors, such as job satisfaction, pay, career progression and the total benefits package.
Here are some suggestions of questions to consider:
- What types of jobs/careers does the company offer?
- What are the career progression or advancement opportunities?
- What type of medical and dental coverage is available for my family and me?
- What is the vacation plan?
- Is there a limit to how much vacation time I can have?
- Do I have to work on the job for a certain time before I am eligible for vacation time?
Air Force Officers are Offered the Following:
- The Air Force offers a benefits package that exceeds most FORTUNE 500 companies.
- Pay: highly competitive salary and allowance package
- Vacation: 30 days of vacation with pay each year
- Sick leave: unlimited; full pay continues
- Medical care: furnished at no cost
- Dental care: furnished at no cost
- Life insurance: $400,000 of low-cost term life insurance
- Social life: officers clubs, swimming, golfing, bowling, tennis and more
- Education: opportunity for higher education with tuition assistance or full scholarship
- Retirement: opportunity to retire after 20 years with 50 percent of your base pay
- Promotions: Make first lieutenant after two years. Make captain after four years.
- Shopping: Save as much as 25 percent in on-base stores.
- Living quarters: contracted, on-base housing available or off-base housing; you do not have to live on base and are not restricted to the base
- Tax-free housing and food allowances
- Travel: outstanding opportunities for worldwide travel
- Good starting salary with regular pay raises
- Take advantage of sports facilities, recreational facilities, intramural sports opportunities and golf courses on Air Force bases around the world.
- 100 percent of your postgraduate tuition costs covered via tuition assistance
- Space-available travel outside the United States for a nominal fee
- Base Legal Assistance Office
- Possible eligibility for Veterans’ Administration Home Loans
OTHER BENEFITS INCLUDE
Career-Broadening Opportunities—Special-duty assignments, retraining, overseas duty, contingency temporary duties, assignments in the Pentagon, teaching Air Force ROTC at a university, working with other services, etc.
Family-Support Centers—Support agencies offer family services such as assistance with transitions and moving as well classes and support groups to help out with many family challenges.
Child Development Centers (CDC)—CDCs are certified by the Department of Defense and accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs. Fees are based on total family income. After-school programs are available at some CDCs or youth centers.
Other Entitlements Include:
- Transportation for dependents on duty changes.
- Shipment of household goods overseas and in the United States.
- Schooling for dependents overseas and at some bases in the continental United States.
- Station housing and cost-of-living allowances at many locations.
- Travel allowance for privately owned vehicle (POV) pickup/delivery at port.
- Storage of POV when reassigned to POV-restricted area.
Programs for Documented Personal Difficulties:
- Emergency leave with priority on military aircraft
- Humanitarian reassignment
- Permissive reassignment
- Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP)
- Air Force Aid Society
After graduation, in exchange for getting their college education paid for, a contracted cadet accepts a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. Most cadets make a four-year, active duty service commitment.
Find everything you need to know about ROTC requirements and what it takes to succeed in Air Force ROTC.
What if you didn’t have to worry about paying for college? ROTC offers a variety of scholarships that will help relieve the financial burden of your college education.
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