You can join the Air Force right after leaving high school. You can also go to college instead, or find a job first and take six months to a year to figure out what you want to do in life. There are advantages to all of these options. What works for you depends on where you want to be. Speak with recruiters and college counselors and do your research to make the right choice.
Air Force Education
Everyone who enlists in the Air Force is automatically enrolled in the Community College of the Air Force. The Air Force is committed to its servicemembers earning an education while defending their country. In fact, according to the U.S. Air Force website, you can earn college credits just for doing your job. Combine these with classes that fit into your work schedule and you can earn an associate's degree in applied science during your tour. In addition, you may be able to attend the prestigious Air Force Academy.
Montgomery G.I. Bill
There's another significant factor to entering the Air Force straight out of high school: educational benefits. The Montgomery G.I. Bill is an educational fund that pays you every month for up to three years while you're in a degree or certificate program after you've separated from the Air Force, according to the U.S. Air Force website. It can also compensate you if you're in an apprenticeship program or are taking correspondence courses. These benefits are ready for you to use for up to ten years after you've left the service.
Become an Officer
Let's say you decide to go to college first, then enter the Air Force. There's a benefit here as well. College graduates who hold at least a bachelor's degree can enter the Air Force as officers. Not only does this mean you get to leap-frog into a position with greater respect and responsibility, but that you will also earn more money than an enlistee. According to the 2013 military pay chart, enlistees earn $1516 a month when they first join the Air Force, while officers earn $2876 a month. That's a significant hike in pay.
Civilian vs. Military
While graduates who hold a bachelor's degree can earn $2876 a month when they join the Air Force, those who enter the civilian world earn an average starting salary of $45,000, according to Forbes. That equals to $3750 a month. However, you'll have additional expenses that a military member won't, such as housing and health insurance costs.
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