What is an Air Force ROTC Degree?

The Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program combines a university undergraduate or graduate degree curriculum with the Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) curriculum. It is offered at more than 1,100 accredited colleges and universities throughout the US. Cadets who pursue and receive an AFROTC scholarship must fulfill the requirements of both their selected degree program and the aerospace studies and leadership labs administered by the Air Force.

To be eligible for an Air Force ROTC scholarship, applicants must be US citizens between the ages of 17 and 27, must start their studies in their freshman year, must demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and leadership qualities, and must agree to serve at least four years of active duty as an air force officer in the Air Force following college graduation.

Program Options

The standard part of the Air Force ROTC training program – the part that does not vary from cadet to cadet – is the aerospace studies and leadership labs component. These classes are taught by military faculty and qualified guest speakers. The AFROTC curriculum is divided into four major areas:

Profession of Arms

  • Military officership
  • Military law
  • Law of armed conflict
  • Military customs and courtesies

Communication Skills

  • Oral and written communication skills that are critical to military leadership

Leadership Studies

  • Leadership and management skills that are critical in military leadership roles

Military Studies / International Security Studies

  • Nature of conflict
  • How US military forces, especially aerospace forces, are developed, organized, and employed

Here are some of the specific courses that are taught within the sections described above:

Foundations of the Air Force

  • Structure and missions of Air Force organizations
  • Officership and professionalism
  • Overview of Air Force and defense tropics
  • Introduction to communication skills training

Leadership Laboratory I

  • Air Force customs and courtesies
  • Health and physical fitness
  • Drills and ceremonies

The Evolution of Aerospace Studies

  • The beginnings of manned flight
  • The development of aerospace power in the United States – the use of airpower in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War
  • The peaceful use of US airpower in civic actions, space exploration support, and scientific missions

Leadership Laboratory II

  • Opportunities to demonstrate fundamental management skills
  • Preparation for field training

Leadership Studies

  • The anatomy and importance of quality leadership and management
  • The role of discipline in leadership situations
  • Variables that affect leadership
  • Case studies in Air Force leadership and management
  • Individual student projects

Leadership Laboratory III

  • Opportunities to develop management skills through planning and conducting cadet activities

National Security Studies and Preparation for Active Duty

  • Preparing cadets for their careers as Air Force officers
  • The role of a professional military leader in a democratic society
  • Societal attitudes toward the armed forces
  • Maintaining adequate national defense structure
  • The impact of technological and international developments on strategic preparedness, military law, and the overall policy-making process

Leadership Laboratory IV

  • Using leadership skills to plan and conduct cadet activities
  • Preparing to be commissioned into the active duty Air Force

As noted, in addition to completing the above Air Force components of the AFROTC program, cadets must earn a college degree. While there are no restrictions as to the major in which cadets can apply for a scholarship, the Air Force has identified ‘highly desired majors.’ Students who pursue a technical or foreign language degree may be given priority in the selection process.

Bachelor’s Degree in a Technical Major or Foreign Language – Four Year Duration

Master’s Degree in a Technical Major or Foreign Language – Two Year Duration (for most majors)
The Air Force ROTC program is commonly structured around a bachelor’s degree. However, individuals interested in completing the curriculum with a master’s degree can request an ‘educational delay.’ To have graduate school education paid by the Air Force, it is necessary to choose a program offered by the Air Force Institute of Technology. Otherwise, master’s students must assume all financial obligations.

Highly Desired Technical Majors

  • Aeronautical Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Astronautical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Meteorology/Atmospheric Sciences
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Operations Research
  • Physics

Highly Desired Foreign Language Majors
The Air Force has endorsed ‘Language Flagship’ programs offered at 21 institutions of higher education across the US. The objective of these programs is to ‘graduate students who will take their place among the next generation of global professionals, commanding a superior level of proficiency in one of ten languages critical to US national security and economic competitiveness.’ The following is a list of languages that are particularly needed in US military roles:

  • Baluchi
  • Chinese, Amoy
  • Chinese, Cantonese
  • Chinese, Mandarin
  • Chinese, Wu
  • Indonesian
  • Japanese
  • Javanese
  • Korean
  • Pashto-Afghan
  • Persian-Afghan
  • Persian-Iranian
  • Punjabi
  • Russian
  • Somali
  • Swahili
  • Turkish
  • Turkmen

Pre-Med, Nursing, and Other Medical-Related Majors
Individuals who apply to study one of these majors compete for a ‘nontechnical’ scholarship.

Degrees Similar to Air Force ROTC

Because of their distinct nature, only other ROTC programs, such as Army ROTC and Navy or Marine ROTC, are truly similar to the Air Force ROTC degree/curriculum. The information below, however, summarizes some of the majors that the Air Force considers to be desirable choices for their ROTC cadets:

Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering degree programs teach the analytical, computational, and engineering and design skills needed to work in the aerospace industry. Students learn how to apply this knowledge to the manufacturing, testing, and monitoring of civil or commercial aircraft, military aircraft, missiles, rockets, spacecraft, lunar vehicles, and space stations.

A degree in architecture will appeal to individuals who have an interest in and appreciation for both the sciences and the arts. This is because architecture is itself the art and science of designing and engineering structures and buildings. It is a field with a foundation in creativity, technology, and social and cultural trends.

Chemistry is the science that deals with identifying the substances that make up matter. Degree programs in chemistry focus on investigating these substances: their properties; how they interact, combine, and change; and how scientists can use chemical processes to form new substances.

Civil Engineering
This degree field is focused on the processes of design and planning of civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. In their work, civil engineers are concerned with such things as how much weight a structure can support and the environmental issues presented by construction. The emphasis of civil engineering degree programs is math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, building codes, and statistical analysis.

Electrical Engineering
Students of electrical engineering learn how to use physics, electronics, and electromagnetism to design devices that are powered by or produce electricity. Most degree programs in the field start with foundational classes in calculus, physics, and chemistry.

Environmental Engineering
This branch of engineering is concerned with finding solutions to environmental problems. Degree programs in the field prepare students to work as environmental engineers, who develop plans to prevent and control air and water pollution, improve recycling and waste disposal, and advance public health.

Foreign Languages and Literatures
Foreign languages and literatures degree programs teach students how to speak, read, and write foreign languages. Some programs focus on the linguistic structure of the studied language and others on its major written literary works. Many programs cover both of these components.

Degree programs in mathematics typically teach both the theory and abstract of pure mathematics and its practical application to the world, known as applied mathematics. In other words, math majors study algebra, geometry, calculus, and statistics; but most pair this mathematics concentration with classes that reveal how math concepts are used in business management, computer science, economics, finance, music, philosophy, physics, and sports science.

Mechanical Engineering
Students of mechanical engineering learn how to research, design, develop, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, sensors, engines, and machines. These devices serve many industries, including the aerospace, medical, energy, and manufacturing sectors. In addition to coursework in engineering and design, degree programs in the field include classes in mathematics, life sciences, and physical sciences.

Meteorology degree programs teach students how to predict weather conditions. The typical curriculum examines atmospheric movement, climate trends, and ozone levels. With an understanding of these concepts, students learn about various meteorological phenomena. They learn how to use statistical analysis to forecast weather events from sun, clouds, and rain to heat waves, droughts, thunderstorms, tropical storms, tornados, and hurricanes.

Physics is a field that keeps changing as discoveries are made. This means that the field asks at least as many questions as it answers. Students of physics degree programs study matter and energy. They learn about the relationships between the measurable quantities in the universe, which include velocity, electric field, and kinetic energy.

This degree program is designed to give students the knowledge and experience for safe, compassionate, evidence-based, competent, and ethical nursing practice.

Pre-medicine (Pre-med)
Pre-med programs, designed to prepare students for medical school, include courses in general biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and physics.

Skills You’ll Learn

Experience in the military leaves ROTC grads with an impressive set of transferable skills:

  • Leadership
  • Budgeting / financial management / resource allocation
  • A sense of responsibility
  • Communication
  • Honor / trustworthiness / dependability
  • Technology skills
  • Teamwork
  • Capacity to perform under stressful circumstances
  • Ability to adapt and shift priorities
  • Ability to think quickly and solve problems
  • Physical fitness

What Can You Do with an Air Force ROTC Degree?

The answer to this question depends on the degree earned within the Air Force ROTC education program. Also, potential roles and jobs available outside the military, in civilian life, will likely be somewhat or significantly different from related positions inside the military. Based on the majors desired by the Air Force, here are some of the occupational categories in that may be open to ROTC graduates during and/or after their service in the Air Force:

  • Aircraft and Flight
  • Allied Health
  • Arts and Humanity
  • Computers and Computer Science
  • Dentistry
  • Electronics and Electrical
  • Emergency Management and Response
  • Engineering and Applied Science
  • Facilities
  • Future Technologies
  • Ground Vehicles
  • Health and Medicine
  • Health Administration
  • Health Technicians and Specialists
  • Intelligence
  • Law and Enforcement
  • Logistics and Transportation
  • Maintenance and Repair
  • Mental Health
  • Missile and Space
  • Natural Science
  • Nursing
  • Operations and Administration
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Special Warfare
  • Weaponry and Military Materials & Equipment


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