What is the Air Force ROTC?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 16 January 2019
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The Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) is a program that prepares cadets for commissioning as officers in the Air Force. While in ROTC, cadets work toward a college degree, usually in a field that will be relevant to their service in the Air Force. People can apply into ROTC from high school or as transfer students at colleges and universities. Officers for the Air Force are also trained at the Air Force Academy and the Officer Training School.

Origins of the ROTC system used to prepare officers for the United States Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force lie in the 1800s, when the government offered grants to colleges that were conditional on agreements to provide military education. This gradually grew into the ROTC program. While enrolled in the Air Force ROTC and other ROTC programs, people attend classes at colleges and universities and also receive military training.

In some cases, Air Force ROTC courses are offered on a college campus. Students must complete a series of courses and they also participate in physical education and other training that prepares them for a commission. They can also take classes with civilians on campus to meet degree requirements and explore areas of interest. Some ROTC programs partner with a university or college, offering ROTC training in one location and having an enrollment agreement so students can take civilian classes.


The Air Force ROTC is the largest supplier of commissioned officers to the Air Force. It offers two and four year training programs, along with scholarships at different levels. Scholarships at the highest level pay for all educational costs and provide a stipend to students. Lower level scholarships provide some money, but do not fully fund tuition. The advantage to Air Force ROTC members is that they graduate without debt and have a guaranteed career as officers immediately after graduation.

In exchange for the investment it makes in Air Force ROTC students, the Air Force expects officers to complete a minimum number of years of service after graduation unless they acquire disabilities and are unable to complete the service requirement. Service requirements vary; for pilots, for example, the minimum is six years of service. Once this minimum is completed, people can determine whether they would like to continue serving and become career officers, or separate from the Air Force and pursue civilian careers. Ex-Air Force officers have a number of job opportunities available to them, as military training is highly valued for some careers.



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