Cover: Air Force Officer Accession Planning

Air Force Officer Accession Planning

Addressing Key Gaps in Meeting Career Field Academic Degree Requirements for Nonrated Officers

Published Jun 9, 2016

by Lisa M. Harrington, Tara L. Terry


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Research Questions

  1. Are there any gaps in this accession and classification process, and if so, what can the Air Force to do improve the process?
  2. How does the Air Force integrate academic degree requirements into its accession process and are process stakeholders synchronized at various levels?

The Air Force commissions thousands of line officers each year from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, and Officer Training School. Some of these become rated officers (pilots, combat systems officers, and air battle managers), while others will serve in nonrated career fields (space, logistics, security, etc.). Before being classified into any of these nonrated fields, new officers must have appropriate education and skills. But how does the Air Force determine what skills are required for a given job, and which officers best fit? This report summarizes an analysis of the Air Force's programs and processes for matching nonrated officers with career field assignments. Among other things, the authors found that it is not always clear which academic requirements for a career field are truly required, as opposed to desirable, or what percentages of new entrants to a career field need to meet which requirements.

Key Findings

There Is No Agreement Across the Service on the Role of Academic Degrees in Qualifying an Individual for an Air Force Specialty.

  • We found disagreements on the resources that should be expended to fulfill career field educational needs and desires.
  • A clear statement of Air Force philosophy on education requirements should be communicated across the Air Force to those who are responsible for setting education requirements and to organizations supplying officer accessions.

No Evidence-Based Methodologies Exist for Establishing Education Requirements for Entry into an Air Force Specialty.

  • Career field managers lacked the tools to tie key abilities officers require to the degrees that best provide the capabilities.
  • Validating and revalidating education requirements periodically would help militate against expending unnecessary resources in recruiting and accessing officers with academic degrees that are not needed but that are difficult to recruit.

Documentation Formats for Stating Education Requirements for Air Force Specialties Are Vague.

  • A new framework for documentation could better meet career field needs and ensure requirements are communicated; the report describes and demonstrates such a framework.

There Is No Feedback Mechanism for Determining Whether Education, Quality, and Preference Goals Are Being Met for Individual Career Fields.

  • The authors developed an approach for scoring classification effectiveness and applied it to the fiscal year 2014 classification results.


  • The Air Force should clearly state its corporate philosophy on establishing education requirements for officers and communicate this philosophy to the career field managers who set education requirements and to organizations that supply officer accessions.
  • The Air Force should annually assess whether career field degree requirements are being met and highlight those that are not being met to adjust the supply coming from sources of commissioning.
  • AF/A1 should encourage career fields to establish evidence-based methods for setting academic degree requirements (including surveying their current officer populations).
  • AF/A1 should establish a process for validating education requirements to avoid expending unnecessary resources in recruiting and accessing officers with academic degrees that are not needed but that are difficult to recruit.
  • AF/A1 should mandate a framework for stating and communicating nonrated career field education requirements. This framework can then be used to annually establish targets by academic degree type.
  • AFROTC and AF/A1 should gather sufficient data and metrics to assess the effect of scholarship dollars and the value of scholarships in obtaining accessions with needed degrees.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was sponsored by SAF/AQX Acquisition Integration and AF/A1P Force Management Policy and conducted within the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Programof RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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