As of 2014, to become an Air Force pilot, the potential pilot should earn a bachelor's degree. Besides this degree, the pilot needs specific qualifications and intense physical and mental training.
- Earn a bachelor's degree
Although the Air Force does not require a specific degree, certain areas of study are more useful. Aviation, aerospace engineering, physics, computer science and other science degrees are common bachelor's degrees held by Air Force pilots. Aspiring pilots can also apply to the Air Force Academy,a prestigious school with strict requirements that only accepts 1,400 cadets each year. There are 1,100 colleges/universities where students can take Air Force ROTC classes in addition to their normal class schedule in order to create a more direct route to becoming an Air Force pilot.
- Meet officer qualifications
U.S. citizens aged 18-34 must meet specific physical and intelligence requirements. Pilots must meet specific height and weight requirements and have excellent vision. A pilot in training must earn specific scores on the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. The AFOQT consists of 12 subtests, including general science, arithmetic reasoning, verbal analogies, instrument comprehension and math. Some individuals may also need to pass physicals or background checks.
- Attend officer training school
Aspiring pilots who did not participate in AFROTC or graduate from the Air Force Academy must attend the Officer Training School. The two-month training program includes physical fitness tests as well as classroom lessons on topics such as problem-solving, military and Air Force customs and standards, and terrorism and military history. Field exercises in first aid, land navigation, self-defense and more are also completed
- Pass Initial Flight Screening and the Officer Qualifying Test
Initial Flight Screening, IFT, includes 50 hours of flight time and allows instructors to assess a candidate's ability and desire to learn aviation skills. The Air Force Officer Qualifying Test is a standardized test similar to the SAT and ACT that measures aptitudes and is used to select applicants for future training programs.
- Complete pilot training
There are only about 1,400 pilot trainee slots available through the Air Education and Training Command based at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. If you are selected to become a pilot, you need to complete two phases of education. Phase one includes introductory flight training and academic classes in areas such as aerospace physiology, mission and navigation planning, basic instruments class, and more. Phase two includes about 90 hours of flight training and lasts 22 weeks. At the end of phase two, students choose which advanced track they would like to fly.