What are the Air Force's Highest Paying Careers?

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Do you think fighter pilots make the best money? How about military air traffic controllers? Although the Air Force is home to many high tech careers, its unique method of determining salary and benefits might surprise you. If you want to know which Air Force jobs pay the most, you must first understand how one enters the air force, how their various qualifications determine their salaries and benefits, and how the airmen and airwomen of the armed forces ascend throughout the course of their military careers.


Air Force Careers - Differences in Pay for Enlisted Men and Officers:

When you sign up to join the air force, there are two major paths open to you. Those who have earned a high school diploma, but have not attended or completed college, are eligible to join the air force as enlisted level recruits.

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Enlisted opportunities span an entire employment spectrum ranging from mechanical, administrative and electrical jobs including general positions such as ground equipment apprentices or airfield management apprentices. People enlisting for mechanical jobs might be trained as air force mechanics or re-fuelers, while those enlisting for electrical positions might end up as missile systems maintenance technicians or aerial gunners, depending upon their qualifications, achievements and success in training.

Alternatively, those who have completed college degrees may join the air force as Officers in training. This is the route that leads to some of the air force's most coveted and iconic jobs, such as fighter pilot. Although only 4% of those in the air force are actually pilots, there are several other demanding and high profile jobs open only to cadets who successfully complete their officer training requirements.

These include: bomber and stealth pilots, in-flight refueling pilots, transport pilots, civil engineers, weather officers, judge advocate officers, aircraft maintenance officers, logistics officers and even public affairs officers.


How Do Air Force Career Pay Scales Work? Which are the Highest Paying Jobs?

Actually, the air force uses two separate pay scales for enlisted servicemen and officers, both of which are calculated via a matrix that takes into account rank and time served. Enlisted men, who are beginning their military careers without any prior service record can expect to be placed in the first pay rung, known as E-1.

E-1 status servicemen with 2 or less years of service under their belts will receive $1447.20 per month. However, a new servicemen who enlisted at pay grade E-9 would receive $2601 per month with the same amount of time served. Pay grade is partially determined by the skillsets, training programs and vocational track of any given airman or airwoman. This pay scale continues to reward increases in rank and time served, capping out at $7096.50 per month for an E-9 grade serviceman who has served for over 40 years.

Officers, on the other hand, generally enjoy better pay from the outset. New and inexperienced officers start out at pay grade O-1, which nets them $2745.60 per month at the beginning of their military careers. An officer of pay grade O-10 can expect to pull in $9399 flat per month with the same time served. Officers' pay caps out at O-10 pay grade airmen having served for over 40 years, who can expect to see $18675.30 per month! Great money, but very well earned, too.

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You can find the full payscales at the air force's official website.


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Finding an Air Force Job - Using a Recruiter

If you are interested in a career in the air force, you might seek out an air force recruiter who can answer your questions about service in the military, the lifestyle and expectations and the typical schedules, salaries and benefits. You will likely find a local air force recruiter on your local college campus. You can also do a google search for “local air force recruiter” and find a recruiter’s office near you.

Airforce Jobs Are Not Only About the Money

Of course, a job or career in the air force is not entirely about the monetary compensation. Both officers and enlisted men and women who join the air force enjoy a number of special benefits such as comprehensive medical and dental care, as well as housing, food and special privileges for riding air force or military air craft to or from a scheduled and approved vacation. Most military bases include a number of amenities, such as food courts, gyms, sports fields, bike paths and swimming pools which help to improve the overall quality of life for the servicemen and servicewomen living there.