The Air Force is committed to education, and you’ll have the opportunity to take your training as far as you’d like — on or off base. If you enlist straight out of high school, the Air Force offers exclusive programs and hands-on experience to help you succeed. Plus you won’t have to pay for it on your own. The Air Force offers a number of financial assistance programs to help our Airmen at all levels.
When you join the United States Air Force, you’re automatically enrolled in the Community College of the Air Force. It’s not only America’s largest community college, but it’s also the only degree-granting institution in the world dedicated entirely to Air Force personnel. The Community College of the Air Force is also a unique combination of on-duty and voluntary off-duty courses with classes and times that are flexible to meet your needs.
You'll work toward your associate’s degree in applied science in one of five career areas — aircraft and missile maintenance, electronics and telecommunications, allied health, logistics and resources or public and support services. You’ll be earning college credit just for doing your job while gaining invaluable experience to help your career take off.
To learn more, visit the Community College of the Air Force website.
The Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program (ASCP) offers active-duty enlisted personnel the opportunity to earn a commission while completing their bachelor’s degree as an Air Force ROTC cadet. Those selected separate from the active duty Air Force join ROTC at a participating college and become a full-time student.
Participants receive a tuition and fees scholarship for up to $15,000 per year, as well as a textbook allowance of $600 per year. They are awarded in a variety of fields, including technical (engineering, meteorology, architecture, etc.), nontechnical, nursing, prehealth and foreign language areas, including graduate studies. Airmen with some or no college credit may apply for the program. If selected, Airmen may use Montgomery GI Bill benefits and also receive a tax-free monthly stipend of $250 to $400 depending on what year of school they are in. Graduates are commissioned as second lieutenants and will then be returned to active duty (typically within 60 days of commissioning) for at least four years.
Leaders Encouraging Airman Development (LEAD) Program allows commanders to seek out outstanding and deserving qualified Airmen for appointments to the Air Force Academy and AFROTC scholarship programs. Learn more in the Air Force Academy section.
Professional Officer Course — Early Release Program (POC-ERP) offers active-duty Airmen (who can complete all bachelor’s degree and commissioning requirements within two years) an opportunity for an early release from the active-duty Air Force to enter the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). This program is open to students in all majors. If selected, you would separate from the active-duty Air Force, join ROTC at a participating college and become a full-time student. You must pursue a bachelor’s degree and will be commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation and completion of the two-year program. You will then be returned to active duty (typically within 60 days of commissioning) for at least four years. If selected for POC-ERP, you will no longer collect military pay and benefits.
The Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program (NECP) offers active-duty Airmen the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an in-demand career in the Air Force. NECP students will complete their degree at a college or university that participates in ROTC. Students will commission after passing the National Council Licensure Examination and then attend Commissioned Officer Training and the Nurse Transition Program.
NECP allows Airmen to remain on active duty and continue to receive an income while going to school full time. Airmen selected for NECP receive a tuition and scholarship fees for up to $15,000 per year, as well as a textbook allowance of $600 per year. Those selected may participate for up to three years, depending on their degree programs and previous academics.
The Physician Assistant Training Program offers qualified individuals the advanced training they need to provide expert medical care to military personnel and their families. Only active-duty Airmen are eligible to apply for this program. Download the Physician’s Assistant PDF for more information.
If you’re interested in pursuing a college degree, the Air Force ROTC program gives Airmen scholarships to attend school and train to become an Air Force Officer at the same time. The program is available at nearly 1000 colleges and universities across the country and offers scholarships to high school and college students with outstanding academic and leadership qualities.
Air Force ROTC offers one- to four-year scholarships on a competitive basis to both high school and college students. Scholarship recipients will receive partial or full tuition, as well as a nontaxable monthly stipend. Many colleges also offer an additional subsidy for tuition, fees and books to ROTC cadets.
ROTC programs are frequently changing. To get the most up-to-date information on how the Air Force can help with your college education, contact an adviser or visit the official Air Force ROTC website.
The prestigious Air Force Academy gives students a high-quality, cost-free education in exchange for their commitment to serve in the Air Force. There is one specific program for enlisted Airmen to enroll in the Academy:
The LEAD Program is an ongoing effort to give our best and brightest Airmen the opportunity to excel by offering them appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy and Academy Prep School (a 10-month program designed to prepare you for the Academy). The program asks Unit and Wing Commanders to nominate highly-qualified Airmen with officer potential. Every year there are slots reserved for Airmen at the United States Air Force Academy. There are 85 slots reserved for Direct Appointment and 50 slots reserved for the Academy Preparatory School.
For more information about Air Force Academy prior enlisted cadets, visit www.usafapeca.com.
The Air Force Tuition Assistance (TA) program is designed to help active-duty personnel pursue voluntary, off-duty educational opportunities. Currently, the program pays 100% (up to $250 per semester hour or equivalent) of the cost of college tuition with a limit of $4500 per fiscal year. Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on base, off base or by correspondence.
Scholarships for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC (SOAR) are offered to enlisted Airmen who would like to attend college. SOAR nominates up to 50 people for ROTC scholarships, which pay most tuition and all fees. You will separate from the Air Force while earning a degree. SOARs are awarded for two to four years, depending on how many years you have remaining in your bachelor’s degree program. Airmen with some or no college credit may apply for the program. Scholarships are awarded in a variety of fields, including technical (engineering, meteorology, architecture, etc.), nontechnical, nursing, prehealth and foreign language areas.
The Post-9/11 Bill is an educational assistance program that provides eligible Airmen with up to 36 months of benefits for education and training opportunities outside of the Air Force while they are on active duty. These benefits may be used for undergraduate and graduate degree programs, vocational and technical training, tutorial assistance, books, supplies and monthly housing. Generally, benefits are payable for 15 years following release from active duty and may be transferred to spouses or dependent children.
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is an assistance program that provides eligible Airmen with up to 36 months of benefits for education and training opportunities outside of the Air Force. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses. Generally, benefits are payable for 10 years following release from active duty.
The College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) is for all non-prior-service persons considering enlistment in the Air Force. If you have taken some college courses and have accumulated debt, this program may be for you. Participants must sign up for this program when signing the enlistment contract. Under CLRP the repayment maximum is $10,000 per recruit.
To learn more about any of these educational opportunities, chat with an Air Force adviser.