Air Force Enlistment Bonuses for Serving in High Needs Areas

How to make a profit from an Air Force career

New Yorkers Head to Armed Forces Recruitment Center in Times Square
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As the United States continues to recover from the Great Recession, many working Americans no longer receive pay raises, but a career in the Air Force may be different, since the military branch provides a variety of enlistment bonuses. 

Like the other military branches, the Air Force offers financial incentives for non-prior service applicants who enlist in designated shortage Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) jobs.

This means that whether or not you've served in the Air Force previously, signing up may come with a monetary perk.

As of fiscal year 2016, newcomers who enlist in the Air Force could earn up to $15,000 in bonuses. If a bonus is given, the amount disbursed ultimately depends on an individual's career field.

Moreover, to qualify for an enlistment bonus, candidates must be Air Force Qualification Test (AFQT) category I, II, or III. They must also earn an AFQT score of 31 or higher on ASVAB and enlist and serve in an Initial Enlistment Bonus (IEB) specialty area.

Enlistment bonuses are subject to change without notice, based on the current needs of the Air Force. So, for the latest information contact your local Air Force recruiter. The information that follows refers to the Air Force's 2016 needs.

Which Career Fields Come With Bonuses?

The Air Force Personnel Center provided a bonus chart to the Air Force Times indicating that new enlistees could receive bonuses for signing up for 14 career fields for at least six years.

Want the chance to get the top bonus of $15,000? Then, sign up to be a 1C2X1 combat controller or a 1T2X1 pararescueman, as these fields could earn you up to that much. Other career fields with potential bonuses include 1C4X1 Tactical Air Control Party ($14,000); 1T0X1 Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE; 1W0X2 special operations weather; and 3E8X1 explosive ordnance disposal ($13,000); 1A8X1 airborne linguists and 1N3XX crypto linguists ($11,000); 4H0X1 cardiopulmonary ($8,000); and 1N431 fusion analyst ($7,000).

If those fields don't interest you, consider four others: 3D0X2 cyber systems operations, 3D0X3 cyber surety, 3D1X1 client systems and 3D1X2 cyber transport systems. However, these careers mandate that enlistees have certification approved by the Defense Department to get a bonus. Depending on the rank of certification, bonuses vary from $4,000 to $6,000.

In addition, the 3D1X1 client systems career field offers enlistees the chance for a bonus. But if you planned to pursue the 3D1X3 RF transmission systems career field, beware, it no longer qualifies enlistees for bonuses.

How Bonuses Are Paid Out

The Air Force usually pays enlistment bonuses in a single lump sum, after completion of technical training and arrival at the first duty station (usually within 90 days of arrival). Enlistment bonuses are subject to federal and state taxes. So, don't get too attached to your bonus and what you'll spend it on, since you will have to hand over a portion to Uncle Sam.  

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