Armed forces

RAF officer

RAF officers lead and manage teams of airmen and airwomen. They also carry out flying duties or work in specialist ground duties.

Annual Salary

£26,000 to £105,250

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

Variable

What's it all about?

You could work in one of 20 specialist areas, like:

  • air operations — as a pilot and weapons systems officer, where you’ll take part in flying sorties, reconnaissance, and search and rescue duties
  • operations support — as an air traffic and aerospace battle manager or flight operations officer, where you’ll provide target information, coordinate refuelling, digitally map terrain and plan missions
  • engineering and logistics — as an aircraft and communications engineer, where you’ll commission new aircraft, service fleets and manage resources and supplies
  • support services — as a catering, security or training officer, where you’ll provide day-to-day services for staff at RAF bases and in the field during operations
  • professions — as a medical, dental or nursing officer, where you’ll manage specialist teams working in support of the service

The areas of responsibility are split into squadrons, and you’ll manage a squadron with other officers who have also earned their rank or 'commission'.

To apply to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an officer, you’ll usually need to:

  • be at least 17.5 years old (there is a maximum age limit for some roles)
  • meet RAF nationality and residency rules
  • have good levels of fitness and good health
  • have at least 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English language and maths
  • have 2 A levels (or equivalent) totalling 64 UCAS points

You’ll also need a degree or professional qualification for some roles. You may also be able to get into the RAF through an apprenticeship.

If you’re still at school or preparing to go to university, you could get:

  • an RAF sixth-form scholarship
  • a medical, dental or engineering sponsorship

You may find it useful to join the Air Cadets if you’re under 17.

You’ll also need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and a security check.

Once you've applied, you'll need to pass tests on your fitness, aptitude and initiative. You'll also have a medical examination and an interview.

The RAF has more information about how to become an RAF officer.

£26,000 to £105,250

Starter salary: £26,000

Experienced salary: £31,000 to £34,000 (Flying Officer)

If your job involves flying, you're entitled to flying pay as well as a basic salary.

All RAF staff receive private health and dental care as part of their salary package.

These figures are a guide.

Variable

Your hours will depend on your role. In some jobs you’ll work 9am to 5pm over a 5-day week, although you may need to be on-call at all times. For other roles you’ll work shifts, weekends, and public holidays.

If you’re on exercises or involved in operations, your working hours will be longer and more irregular.

You may be posted to RAF bases anywhere in the UK or overseas.

You’ll need to be prepared to go into combat zones at any time, where you’ll be working in difficult, dangerous and sometimes life-threatening situations.

You could move from Pilot Officer to Flying Officer, then Flight Lieutenant. You'll need to compete for promotion beyond the role of Flight Lieutenant. If you’re a graduate, you may be able to get a faster promotion through the ranks.

You could move into a wide range of careers once you leave the RAF. Your career choices will depend on your skills, training and qualifications.

Quest and The Career Transition Partnership (CTP) have information on careers outside the armed forces.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

 You’ll need:

  • the ability to lead, inspire and motivate others
  • self-discipline and confidence
  • teamworking skills
  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to operate advanced technical equipment
  • good organisational skills
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