The Air Force provides signing bonuses to individuals who enlist as a way to gain talented individuals in areas in which they need them the most.
Bonuses can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over $30,000 in an individual year.
They may be offered during initial enlistment or during re-enlistment.
Bonuses change frequently based on the needs of the Air Force.
To get an idea of what bonuses are currently available in the Air Force, OMK spoke directly with an Air Force recruiter.
Current bonus options include:
- Retention Bonus
- Airborne/Land Based Linguist & EOD
- In-Demand Career Bonus
- Tuition Assistance Bonus
- Aviation Bonus
Continue reading for more information on each bonus listed above.
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1. Retention Bonus
The Air Force has announced their Retention Bonus program for the fiscal year 2021.
Their Selective Retention Bonus is offered to over 35 different Air Force specialties this year.
This decision was made to retain individuals in areas that are considered undermanned.
The hope is to keep individuals in those positions who have experience, versus bringing in new recruits.
The Air Force is set to spend over $55 million (source) on this program in 2020.
Individuals who qualify will receive a monetary incentive to stay as active-duty.
Airman must re-enlist into the specialty they are currently in and must serve in that specialty for the duration of that enlistment period.
Reenlistment must be done at their home station and can be conducted by any Officer.
The amounts of the bonus verify based on the type of AFSC.
It is based on a calculation of one month salary multiplied by the number of years of reenlistment times a multiplier for the career/years of service.
The maximum amount authorized is $100,000.00 per a zone.
A complete list of AFSC positions and zones can be found here.
2. Airborne/Land Based Linguist & EOD
Airborne/Land Based Linguist and EOD specialties are in high demand.
These career fields require intensive training and have high-risk job functions.
To obtain highly qualified individuals in these specialties, the Air Force has offered bonuses for the Airborne Linguist, Crypto Linguist and Explosive Ordnance Disposal positions in 2021.
The bonus amounts vary between position and situation.
You can find the exact amount available by talking with your recruiter.
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3. In-Demand Career Bonus
The below career fields may currently offer bonuses, but check with your recruiter as the needs for the Air Force can change.
Bonuses will be offered for those who enlist into the in-demand positions.
The list below includes career specific bonuses that may be available.
- Combat Controller
- TACP- Tactical Air Control Party
- PJ- Pararescue
- Special Reconnaissance
- SERE- Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE)
- EOD- Explosive Ordnance Disposal
- Airborne Linguist
- Crypto Linguist
- Cyber Systems Operations
- Cyber Surety
- Client Systems
- Cyber Transport Systems
These bonuses are subject to change as in-demand needs are met.
Bonus amounts vary between career fields based on Air Force needs.
4. Student Loan Repayment Bonus
If you join the Air Force there are Student Loan Repayment options including the Montgomery GI Bill (reserved and Active Duty) and Enlisted Incentive Program.
These programs assist with tuition after a certain amount of time as an enlisted or reserve Air Force member.
The opportunities mentioned above are programs offered after enlistment, not bonuses that encourage enlisting.
The Student Load Repayment Program is a bonus that individuals take advantage of upon enlisting and receive the benefits upon each successful year completed.
5. Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)
This Air Force Reserve Repayment Program will assist with student loan repayment for every year that an individual joins the Air Force Reserves.
Individuals must join the Air Force Reserve component into one of the Air Force Reserve Enlisted Master Incentive Listing with Critical Shortage.
You are required to enlist for a minimum of six years in one of the critical AFSC’s and complete all required training.
For each year of service the Air Force will send a one-time payment directly to the institution in which your loan is arranged with.
The amount of the payment is 15% of the outstanding balance or $500 per each qualifying loan, whichever is greater, up to $3,500 a year.
The maximum amount that any individual can receive over the lifetime of the program is $20,000.
This benefit is available to any new or prior service members who have a Federal guaranteed loan.
The payment is given on the anniversary date upon completion of a successful year.
This program can only be combined with one other tuition assistance program out of the three, (Enlisted Incentive Program, MGIB-SR and SLRP).
Related Article: Air Force Reserve Benefits
6. Aviation Bonus
The information below includes the 2021 FY Bonuses.
Retaining talented aviation experts is an issue that all branches of service have.
Aviation bonuses are offered to experienced aviators on a tier-basis.
They are required to sign contracts that range from three to 12 years of service.
The annual maximum is $200,000 for aviation bonuses depending on the aircraft.
The following aviators are qualified for a bonus:
- Bomber/fighter pilots (11B); Mobility pilots (11M), Special Operations pilots (11S), and CSAR fixed wing pilots (11H): For contracts between three to seven years there’s an option of selecting annual payments of $25,000 or a one time upfront payment of $100,000. Longer contracts between eight and twelve years receive annual payments of $35,000 or an optional one time payment of $200,000.
- Remotely piloted aircraft pilots (11U and 18X): For contracts between five to seven years can choose to receive annual payments of $25,000. Contracts between eight and twelve years can choose to receive annual payments of $35,000. All contracts for this category can choose an optional one time payment of $100,000.
The Air Force provides bonus opportunities for various reasons.
Bonuses are provided as a means of not only gaining talent, but retaining talent.
It is no secret that keeping someone in a high-demand area such as Linguist, EOD, or Pilot is not an easy task.
Providing bonuses and tuition assistance opportunities helps the Air Force ensure they have all of their positions full when they need it the most.
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