The initial enlistment paygrade in the U.S. Air Force is E-1 (Airman Basic). However, certain categories of applicants can enlist in the U.S. Air Force and receive advanced pay grade status of E-2 or E-3.
These programs generally require the applicant to already be in the Tier 1 education category (in other words, no double-qualifying; if the applicant is using their college credits to qualify for Tier 1, those same credits cannot be used to also qualify for advanced paygrade).
An applicant needs to meet only one of the qualifications listed for advanced paygrade, not all of them. Meeting more than one qualification does not make the applicant eligible for additional advancement.
Advanced Paygrade of E-2 (Airman)
Here's who is eligible for this advanced pay grade:
- An applicant with two or more years of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) or college Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) can get promoted (the applicant also has to have a certificate or statement on official letterhead from a JROTC unit commander at the high school attended or from the professor of aerospace science (PAS) at the college attended, stating satisfactory completion)
- An applicant who was awarded the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Award or Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Gold Award and presents the respective award certificate
- An applicant who was credited with over 90 days of active duty service and was last separated (left the military) in a pay grade of E-2 or higher
- An applicant who is a former service academy cadet with over 90 days as cadet corps members
- An applicant who has achieved a total number of college credits of 30 quarter hours or 20 semester hours from an accredited, degree-granting institution listed in the applicable Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education (AIPE) directory for last year attended
Advanced Paygrade of E-3 (Airman First Class)
For this advanced pay grade, the following applicants are authorized:
- Those credited with more than 12 months of active duty service and last separated in a pay grade of E-3 or higher
- Those who have a letter from Civil Air Patrol (CAP) / USAF / Director of Personnel, CAP National Headquarters, Maxwell AFB, that certifies successful completion of award requirements
- Those with three or more years of JROTC can get promoted (the applicant also needs a certificate or statement on official letterhead from a JROTC unit commander stating satisfactory completion)
- Those who have achieved a total number of college credits of 67 quarter hours or 45 semester hours from an accredited, degree-granting institution listed in the applicable AIPE directory for last year attended.
- Air Reserve Component (ARC) members who qualify and enlist for six years
Documents for these programs must be presented as a part of the enlistment program.
Other Advanced Rank Programs
In addition to the above, recruits who are enlisting for a period of six years are promoted from Airman Basic (AB) or Airman (Amn) to Airman First Class (A1C) upon completion of one of two technical training programs: the indoctrination course and Pararescue, or 20 weeks of technical training, whichever occurs first.
The Date of Rank (DOR) for A1C is then adjusted to the date completed Basic Military Training (BMT), but without back pay and allowances.