RAF Airman or Airwoman
Job profile RAF Airman, Royal Air Force (RAF) airmen and airwomen make up the largest number of RAF personnel
They use specialist skills in a wide range of mostly ground support roles.
As an RAF airman or airwoman, you would provide specialist support in one of the following categories:
- aircrew – which includes non-commissioned aircrew and weapon systems operators
- engineering and technical – including roles like aircraft technician
- catering and hospitality – which includes roles such as catering officer
- security and defence – with jobs in firefighting and the RAF police
- medical and medical support – dental, nursing, medical and laboratory roles
- personnel support – including administration, bands, and training
- air operations support – for example air traffic controllers
- communications and intelligence – such as photographers and intelligence analysts
- logistics and equipment – which includes drivers and supply officers.
While your exact role would vary according to your specialist skill or trade, you would also carry out military tasks like guard duties, and take part in military exercises and training.
You can contact your local Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO) through the RAF Careers website for a full list of the trades available.
You would be posted to RAF bases in the UK or overseas. You may also go on detachments and exercises anywhere in the world.
As an airman or airwoman, you would usually work 9am to 5pm, over a five-day week, although you are likely to be on-call at all times.
When you are on exercises or involved in operations, your hours may be longer and more irregular. When on detachment, you could be away from your family for several months at a time.
- Pay during training is around £13,400 a year, rising to £16,700 after training.
- Senior airmen/airwomen earn up to £28,400 a year.
- Corporals and sergeants can earn between around £25,000 and £36,200 a year.
Salaries are independently reviewed each year – check the latest rates with your local AFCO. If you are living in RAF accommodation, a charge for rent is automatically taken from your salary.
Before you apply or make contact with the RAF, you should check the RAF Careers website which includes advice on exploring your options in the force.
If you decide to join the RAF as an airman or airwoman, you must be:
- at least aged 16 (upper age limits vary according to the job – check with your local AFCO and the RAF Careers website)
- a citizen of the UK, Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth, or have dual nationality with Britain and another country.
You will also need to pass a series of tests, covering:
- practical initiative
- health and fitness.
You would then be interviewed and have a medical assessment.
Tests usually take place at an AFCO. For some of the trades you will need GCSEs and BTEC or City & Guilds qualifications.
Most trades are open to men and women. However, women are not able to join the RAF Regiment, which involves combat.
For more details on all requirements, check the RAF Careers website.
Training and development
For many jobs within the RAF your training would begin with a nine-week course at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire.
The training would include:
general RAF service knowledge
- physical fitness
- weapons handling
- survival techniques.
Specific training in your chosen trade takes place between three weeks and 18 months, depending on the skills needed.
Increasingly, training in the trades involves working towards nationally recognised qualifications such as NVQs, BTEC awards or City & Guilds. You would be encouraged to take advanced work-based qualifications as your career progresses.
When you join the RAF, you would be asked to commit to a minimum length of service (how long this is, would depend on your job; the average commitment is between six and twelve years).
Skills, interests and qualities
- strong teamworking skills
- an interest in specialising in one of the trades
- the ability to follow orders
- initiative to make decisions
- the ability to stay calm under pressure
- good organisational skills
- attention to detail
- physical fitness.
There are more than 40,000 non-commissioned personnel in the RAF.
When you complete your specialist training, you will be promoted to leading airman/airwoman, and then to senior airman/airwoman. This is usually after one year’s service. Promotion above the rank of senior airman or airwoman is by competitive selection and based on merit.
As an airman or airwoman you can apply at any time to become a commissioned officer.
You could move into a wide range of careers once you leave the RAF. The type of work you might do would depend on the skills, training and qualifications you gained whilst serving.