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Air Force ROTC: Everything You Need to Know

What is Air Force ROTC?

The Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps program, also referred to as AFROTC, is a leadership development program designed to commission high-quality leaders for the U.S. Air Force. Participants in the program are referred to as Cadets and complete the AFROTC program while enrolled in a college or university. 

The inception of the Air Force ROTC program came with the passing of the National Defense Act in 1916. After the end of World War II, in 1947, the Air Force was officially established as a United States Military branch. This carved a path for the establishment of the AFROTC program.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower signed General Order No. 124, establishing the AFROTC program at 78 colleges and universities across the country. In 1973, the AFROTC Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program was established, leading to the AFROTC program as we know it today. 

Since its inception, the program has continued shaping future Air Force leaders. Notable graduates of the AFROTC program include Major General Joseph McNeil, General Richard B. Myers, and Colonel Eileen M. Collins. 

What are the eligibility requirements for the Air Force ROTC program? 

First and foremost, the AFROTC program seeks participants who can embody its values of “integrity first,” “service before self,” and “excellence in all we do.” Beyond value modeling, the program's eligibility requirements include academic excellence, performance on the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT), medical eligibility, and physical fitness. 

Academics & the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT)

The Air Force ROTC Program requires cadets to meet academic standards throughout the entire program. Cadets on scholarship must maintain a 2.5 grade point average, and non-scholarship cadets must maintain a 2.0 grade point average.

An important component of academic eligibility for the AFROTC is the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT), which is a critical measure of a cadet's aptitude that qualifies them for Officer Training School and the positions of Pilot, Combat Systems Officer, and Air Battle Manager.

The AFOQT is taken during a cadet’s sophomore year and may only be taken twice. It can be compared to the SAT or ACT as it measures verbal and mathematical aptitudes but measures additional aptitudes that are relevant to career fields within the Air Force 

After taking the test, cadets will receive results in the areas of: Pilot, Combat Systems Officer, Air Battle Manager, verbal, quantitative, and academic aptitude. 

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness is an important and constant requirement for an Air Force ROTC cadet. The Physical Fitness test (PFT) is taken in the fall and spring semesters each year to ensure that cadets continue to meet the Air Force fitness requirements. 

The PFT consists of an abdominal measurement, a minute of push-ups, a minute of sit-ups, and a 1.5 mile run. While there is a rest period of up to five minutes between events, cadets must earn 75 points overall and meet minimum requirements in each category. 

Medical Eligibility 

Another component of eligibility for the Air Force ROTC program is meeting the medical standards laid out by the Air Force. Cadets must undergo a medical examination conducted by a military doctor or a designated civilian contractor. The examination is scheduled and reviewed by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB).

It is possible to obtain a waiver for the medical component of the AFROTC. For students who apply for AFROTC through the High School Scholarship program, a waiver request will automatically be forwarded from DoDMERB to the Air Education and Training Command Surgeon General (AETC/SG) for consideration.

College students or cadets who are submitting a waiver request must do so through the Air Force ROTC Detachment Commander at your school to Air Education and Training Command Surgeon General (AETC/SG) for consideration. Should the waiver request be denied, there are certain extenuating circumstances that justify further consideration of the instructions in the DoDMERB notification letter about rebuttals.

Participating ROTC Schools

Over 1,100 schools in the United States participate in the Air Force ROTC program. They include Harvard University, Howard University, University of Miami, Purdue University, and Cornell University.

Beyond the schools listed here, a wide range of secondary-education institutions participate in the program, which enables students from all backgrounds to access the AFROTC program should it align with their career goals. 

Students interested in the Air Force ROTC can discover more military friendly colleges on CollegeRecon that participate in the program by using the CollegeRecon School Finder. 


Air Force ROTC Curriculum 

The Air Force ROTC has a robust curriculum to prepare college-aged students to enter the Air Force as Commissioned Officers. Note that cadets must participate in three years of AFROTC programming to meet graduation requirements. 

The AFROTC academic program is divided into four focus areas: profession of arms, communication skills, leadership studies, and military/international security studies. To begin, cadets must take the Foundations of the Air Force course which provides an overview of the Air Force and defense topics, and introduces students to specific communication skills and training. 

Along with the foundational course, cadets will begin their leadership laboratory courses, focusing on Air Force customs and courtesies, health and physical fitness, drills, and ceremonies.

After advancing past the initial courses, students will participate in the Professional Officer Course, which is taken during the program's later years. This component combines leadership and national security studies and continues the leadership laboratory courses.

This multidisciplinary curriculum is intended to prepare cadets for active duty with theoretical coursework and practical experience with an emphasis on developing robust leadership skills. 

ROTC Scholarship Opportunities 

The Air Force ROTC program offers various scholarship opportunities for cadets. Scholarships include those for high school students, current college students, and enlisted individuals. For current college students, there are three types of scholarships: type 1, type 2, and the General Charles McGee Leadership Award (CMLA)

The type 1 scholarship is the Commanders’ In-College Scholarships (CICS), offered to cadets pursuing a technical major. This scholarship covers full tuition and fees at a college or university with an AFROTC detachment, a stipend for monthly living expenses, and an annual book stipend. 

The type 2 scholarship is the In-College Scholarship Program (ICSP) and is available to all eligible cadets regardless of their major. This scholarship pays up to $18,000 per year at any college or university with an AFROTC detachment and provides the recipient with a monthly living expense stipend. There is also a book stipend. 

The General Charles McGee Leadership Award (CMLA) scholarship is awarded to all eligible individuals not already on a scholarship who receive an enrollment allocation into the AFROTC program. 

This scholarship pays $18,000 for two years and allows the awardee to convert their award to a $10,000 per year housing scholarship for on-campus housing. 

It is important to note that before a cadet can be considered eligible for a scholarship, they are required to meet Air Force ROTC weight and fitness standards. 

The scholarship offer could be withdrawn if the cadet fails to meet fitness standards. For non-scholarship cadets, if they do not meet the weight and fitness standards, they can still participate in the program as non-scholarship cadets but are expected to work towards meeting the standards, 

Discover more about Air Force ROTC scholarship opportunities and participating universities on CollegeRecon. 

What are the benefits of entering into Air Force ROTC? 

The Air Force ROTC program offers participants many benefits, particularly in skills and professional development. Some of the benefits of the Air Force ROTC program are as follows:

Become a Commissioned Officer in the Air Force

Upon completing the AFROTC program, cadets have the opportunity to become Commissioned Officers in the Air Force. 

Under the Air Force ROTC program, cadets do not have to attend Basic Combat training but do receive a form of this training as a part of the ROTC program. 

Skill Development 

Skill development, particularly leadership skills, are a beneficial aspect of participating in the Air Force ROTC program. As discussed above, the AFROTC program instructs on high-quality leadership skills that are taught through theoretical instruction, field-work, and leadership laboratories and how these skills can be applied to military environments. 

Other skills participants learn through their courses and other programmatic requirements include military related skills, adventure training, team building, communication, aerospace knowledge, discipline, accountability, and problem-solving. 


A top benefit of participating of the Air Force ROTC program is the opportunity to receive a scholarship that can alleviate the costly financial burden of higher education. The scholarships are based on merit and meeting the physical fitness requirements of the AFROTC program.

Career Development 

Participating in the Air Force ROTC program opens the door to many career opportunities within the United States Air Force. It allows participants to gain perspective on which functional area of the Air Force they are well-suited for and could find success in.

Functional areas that AFROTC program graduates may enter include intelligence, operations, cyber operations, aircraft maintenance, engineering, and more. 

How do I join Air Force ROTC?

The first step in getting involved with the Air Force ROTC program is to confirm the school you are applying to or currently attend offers the program. 

Prospective cadets should connect with the AFROTC program at the school they will be applying to or are currently attending to obtain information about how that specific institution handles the Air Force ROTC application. 

All colleges and universities that offer AFROTC programs will have a specific page and contact information on their website to answer questions and provide support. 

Additionally, prospective cadets can connect with a recruiter who can answer any questions, determine eligibility, and help guide them through the application process if they don’t have a school in mind.