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RAF airman or airwoman

Royal Air Force (RAF) airmen and airwomen use specialist skills for mostly ground support roles in defence and peacekeeping missions.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £15,000 to £49,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need to:

The qualifications you’ll need will depend on the role you want to apply for, but you may need a minimum of:

  • GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 3 to 1 (D to G) in English and maths

When you apply you’ll need to:

  • pass a series of background checks
  • pass tests covering aptitude and practical initiative
  • be interviewed and have a medical assessment

If you’re under 17, you can gain some experience to help your application by joining the Air Cadets.

You may be able to get an RAF 6th form scholarship if you’re still at school. If you’re preparing for university, you may be able to get a medical, dental or engineering sponsorship.

You could also get into this job through an apprenticeship.

The RAF has more information on this career.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • practical skills
  • the ability to understand and follow instructions
  • courage and the ability to stay calm under pressure
  • teamworking and communication skills
  • organisational skills

3. What you'll do

You’ll provide specialist support in one of the following areas:

  • aircrew, including non-commissioned aircrew and weapon systems operators
  • engineering and technical roles like aircraft technician
  • catering and hospitality jobs like catering officer
  • security and defence in areas like firefighting and the RAF police
  • medical and medical support work in dental, nursing, medical and laboratory roles
  • personnel support, including administration and training
  • air operations support, like air traffic controllers
  • communications and intelligence roles like photographer and intelligence analyst
  • logistics and equipment, including driver and supply officer roles

Your exact role will depend on your specialist skill or trade.

You’ll also carry out military tasks like guard duties, and take part in military exercises and training.

4. Salary

Starter: £15,000 to £18,500

Experienced: £25,000 (Senior Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman (SAC))

Highly Experienced: £49,000 (Warrant Officer)

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.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 9am to 5pm, over a 5-day week. You’re likely to be on-call at all times.

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.

6. Career path and progression

As an airman or airwoman you can move up the ranks to a more senior position like Corporal or Sergeant. You could also apply to become a commissioned officer. 

You could move into a wide range of careers once you leave the RAF, depending on your skills, training and qualifications.

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

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Last updated: 06 June 2017