Emergency Services and Military
RAF officers command, motivate and lead teams of men and women. They work in a variety of specialist branches. After initial training, officers train in one of 20 specialisms, for example, as pilots, navigators or administrative officers.
The RAF is made up of different trades and branches.
Aircrew have flight duties.
- Weapons Systems Officer and
- Pilots - fly multi-engine aircraft, fast-jets or helicopters. Duties range from humanitarian aid to ferrying troops and equipment
Engineering and Technical
- Engineering Officers manage engineering resources and maintain technical systems. They work in aerosystems, working on aircraft, weapons and air-to-ground communication systems and as
- Engineer Officers (Communications Electronics) maintain all forms of communication links
- RAF Regiment officers manage the ground and short-range air defence forces that protect RAF bases anywhere in the world. From September 2017 women will be able to apply for this role.
- RAF Police officers usually work in RAF stations, commanding a team of RAF police. They co-ordinate security and protect RAF personnel, property, equipment and information. They could manage a team investigating criminal and security offences.
Medical and medical support
- Dental officers and Medical officers treat RAF personnel and their families and are based in RAF dental and medical centres or attached to operational units.
- Nursing officers help look after the health and fitness of everyone in the RAF. There are opportunities to specialise in areas such as paediatrics or burns.
- Personnel officers work in a variety of areas, such as accountancy, office organisation, public relations, personnel management and welfare.
- Physical education officers mainly have a managerial role, and are responsible for sports coaching, fitness training and outdoor pursuits. They also give specialist instruction in areas like parachute jumping and survival training.
- Legal officers are barristers and solicitors who carry out prosecutions in the UK and abroad. They also give legal advice to other RAF personnel and the Ministry of Defence.
Air operations support
- Air traffic control officer use a variety of radar and communications equipment to monitor and control the safe movement of aircraft. They guide aircraft taking off, landing, and moving through airspace.
- Aerospace battle managers use radar and other communications equipment to monitor and control the defence of UK airspace. They operate air defence and missile warning systems, as well as guiding fighter aircraft. They are ground-based or have flying duties.
Communications and intelligence
- Intelligence officers work in reconnaissance. Some interpret photographs and other images, providing information for defence. Others prepare threat assessments and provide intelligence support that inform aircrews before their missions.
- Logistics officers organise the supply and storage of RAF equipment, the use of complex IT management systems and the distribution of equipment and by air, land and sea on a global scale. They also organise catering and hospitality facilities.
The areas of responsibility are split into squadrons, and RAF officers manage a squadron with other officers.
Hours of work for RAF officers very depending on operational requirements, but may include shifts, weekend work or working on public holidays. As an RAF officer, you may need to work at short notice, and you should expect to work longer hours during military exercises or on operational missions.
RAF personnel are based at military bases throughout the UK and abroad.
They can expect to be deployed anywhere in the world, sometimes at short notice. They will sometimes have to work in difficult, dangerous (and sometimes life-threatening) conditions, especially if working as aircrew.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for RAF officers
- Excellent communication skills
- Leadership skills and the ability to inspire and motivate others
- Good organisation skills
- The ability to operate advanced technical equipment
- Good physical fitness
- Teamworking skills
- Self-discipline and confidence
Each trade has specific requirements in terms of personal qualities and skills. For some trades, your colour vision and/or hearing will be tested.
You may serve under combat conditions and will need to demonstrate skills of weapon handling and fieldcraft.
Pay And Opportunities
The rate of pay for most officers is between £26,000-£105,000 a year. Pay rates vary, depending on specialism and length of service. After training, an RAF pilot earns around £34,700 a year. Most other officers earn around £29,600 after training, while those joining as a graduate or with professional qualifications earn more. Pay increases with promotion. If your job involves flying, you are entitled to flying pay as well as a basic salary.
If you live in RAF accommodation, the rent will be taken from your salary. All RAF staff receive private health and dental care as part of their salary package.
See the RAF careers website for the latest recruitment information.
Qualifications and training required
Age requirements vary depending on which role you choose. The youngest age for applying is 17.5 years for an RAF officer and the oldest is 55 years for a Medical officer. You will need consent from a parent or guardian if you are under 18. You also need to meet RAF nationality and residency rules.
Entry requirements vary according to specialisms. For example, graduates are preferred in some branches; and professional qualifications may be acceptable, preferred or required.
The minimum requirements are:
- At least 5 GCSEs or equivalent at grades 9 to 4 or 5 National 5s (or equivalent) including English and Maths.
- 2 A levels or 3 Highers (or equivalent)
- A degree or professional qualification for some roles.
You will need to:
- Pass a series of background checks
- Pass tests covering aptitude and practical assessment
- Be interviewed and have a medical assessment
These take place over three/four days at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.
If you apply under the age of 17, you will be able to gain some experience by joining the Air Cadets.
Scholarships and bursaries
If you are still at school or preparing to go to university, you can enter via
- An RAF sixth-form scholarship
- A medical, dental or engineering scholarship
- Joining bonus of £10,000 available to engineering students in the final year of study applying for the Initial Officer Training
You may be able to get into the RAF through the apprenticeship route. There are apprenticeships available in aviation operations, engineering, IT and hospitality and catering.
For details on qualifications and training for individual roles see the RAF website, (https://raf.mod.uk/recruitment)
You join the RAF for a minimum length of service. This varies, according to your specialism, but for an aircrew officer it is 12 years. You can also join as a Short Service Commission (SSC) and this can vary between 3-12 years.
All successful applicants have 30 weeks of Initial Officer Training. When You've finished this, you will have further training in your chosen specialism.
There is a clear route of progression and promotion available to RAF officers. If you are a graduate, you may be able to get a faster promotion through the ranks.