Air Force Jobs in Demand: When Careers Are on the 'Stressed' List

Quarterly list can provide hints of what the Air Force needs in recruits

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Every three months, the Air Force examines all of its enlisted and commissioned officer jobs to determine which jobs are the most in demand and most understaffed. All jobs are given what's called a "stress rating," and those with the highest ratings are placed on the "stressed list."

Stress, as defined here, is driven by three main factors: manpower, manning, and deployments. Drivers of stress are different for each career field, but when a career field is considered "stressed," that means the Air Force doesn't have enough personnel in that particular career field to adequately carry out the assigned mission.

Assigning stress levels to jobs provides Air Force leadership with an objective, single measure to determine relative stress between different Air Force Specialty Codes, which are used to designate each job.

How Air Force Stress Codes Work

The results of the annual stress audit serve as an indicator of potential and actual problems, and also allows Air Force leadership to measure progress. According to the system:

  • A stress level of 1.0 for a career field means that there is no (deployment or home station) shortfall
  • A stress level greater than 1.0 means that there is a shortfall. The shortfall is expressed as a percentage of assigned personnel (for example, a stress-level rating of 1.2 means that each person at home station is doing the work of 1.2 people)
  • A stress level less than 1.0 means that there is a surplus for that particular career field. The surplus is expressed as a percentage of assigned personnel (for example, a stress-level rating of 0.8 means that each person at home station, on average, is doing the work of .8 people)

    The Air Force has a goal of trying to achieve a "stress level" of 1.2 or less for each Air Force Specialty Code.

    Air Force Jobs in Demand, or Not?

    Even if a job has a high-stress code, meaning it's considered undermanned, that does not necessarily mean the job has openings for new recruits (although a job's presence on the list also could indicate a need for new recruits).

    For example, the job may be adequately manned in the first-termer (new recruit) ranks, but considered "stressed" because of a shortage in the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) ranks. In that event, the Air Force would try and correct the shortage through the NCO Re-Training Program.

    Even if the "stress" is caused (or partially caused) by a shortage of personnel in the first-termer ranks, available training seats can come into play. For example, Air Force technical schools can train only a limited number of students at any given time, and all the projected "training slots" may already be filled by people already in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP), or already in the Air Force, but awaiting a training slot.

    Increasing the number of training slots available is generally not a viable option. Adding more slots means adding more resources. More instructors must be added (thereby removing experienced NCOs from the "field"), dormitory space would need to be added, more support personnel (finance, administration, and personnel), would need to be increased, and dining halls expanded.