Air Force Advanced Pay Grade (Rank) Programs

Ground crew signalling to pilot of a Military Airplane
••• Frank Rossoto Stocktrek / Getty Images

The initial enlistment paygrade in the United States Air Force is E1 (Airman Basic). However, certain categories of applicants can enlist in the United States Air Force and receive advanced pay grade status of E2 or E3. 

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 , not all of them; meeting more than one qualification does not make the applicant eligible for an additional advancement.

Advanced Paygrade of E-2 (Airman)

Here's who is eligible for this advanced pay grade:

  • An applicant who has completed two or more years of (JROTC) or college (ROTC) and has 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 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
  • Applicants who are former service academy cadets with over 90 days as cadet corps members
  • Applicants who have satisfactorily completed 20 semester hours or 30 quarter hours of credit 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 who have completed at least a 3-year JROTC program and have a certificate or statement on official letterhead from a unit commander stating satisfactory completion
  • Those who have satisfactorily completed 45 semester hours or 67 quarter hours of credit 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.