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How To Get the Enlisted Air Force Speciality Code (Career Field) Of Your Choice

Updated on January 15, 2011

United States Air Force 300,000 Strong

The United States Air Force is comprised of over 300,000 active duty personnel. Every month people are retiring, separating or in some cases being kicked out. In order to continue to function effectively the Air Force has to have a continual influx of new troops to replace the ones leaving. In a typical year the Air Force will add 30-40,000 new troops. This number fluctuates as the Air Force adjusts its manning levels to meet the levels authorized by Congress. Of these 30,000+ enlistees ONLY 40% of them know what Air Force Specialty Code or career field they will train for after entering the Air Force. After reading this article everyone will have the knowledge to ensure they enlist in the career field of their choice.

The Air Force Recruitment Process

In its simplest terms the recruitment process is basic. Media advertisements are placed (radio, TV, print) to get potential recruits to contact the Air Force Recruitment Service. Once this is accomplished the local recruiter is provided the recruits contact information and the recruiting process takes off. Following the initial contact the recruiter provides the recruit with the positives of joining the Air Force all the while gathering information to determine if the recruit meets the standards of the Air Force. Information on things such as height and weight, education level and any law violations are obtained to see if the recruit is a viable applicant for the Air Force.

If the recruit is deemed likely to meet the Air Force entrance standards then the recruiter will arrange for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) entrance exam to be taken. Often this may have been taken in high school and it’s good for two years. The ASVAB score is a major determinant of which career field a recruit may enter as each one has a minimum score that must be achieved.

Following the ASVAB score results the recruiter will arrange for the recruit to undergo a physical at the area’s Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to determine if all medical standards are met. This physical is similar to a sports physical in my opinion. If your medical history includes specific conditions such as surgery on a limb then the doctor will request that you demonstrate proper use of the limb. In my case I had suffered an electrical saw accident when I was 10 to my hand. During my physical the doctor asked to see my hand, had me make a fist, squeeze his hand and demonstrate I could utilize my individual fingers. This took all of 30 seconds.

Once the medical standards have been met then the recruit is taken into a room and presented the job openings that the Air Force has available at that time. At this point the recruit is told they can enlist in one of the jobs listed or enlist in one of the 4 general areas (mechanical, administrative, general, electronics) in an “open” status. The open status means that the recruit will be placed in one of the jobs in that category while in basic. I would say very often the job or jobs the recruit was interested in will not be on the job opening list. This leaves the recruit feeling that their only option is to enlist in the open category where at least they control the broad field such as mechanical or electronics. NOTE: The minimum ASVAB score of a particular career field must be met in order to enlist in that field.

How To Enlist In The Career Field Of Your Choice

Up until the last paragraph it seemed like the recruit was controlling what career field they would join. After all the recruiter probably gave the recruit a list of all the career fields in the Air Force during their first meeting, but remember the Air Force has to bring in roughly 3,000 new recruits each month and they have to be in the career fields that need replacements. If 50 jet engine mechanics, 20 food service handlers and 200 security force troops are required then that is what the Air Force has to bring in to keep functioning effectively. A variance too far from that number creates problems. The recruitment system is fully automated and it’s continuously updated. The recruiter has no say in who gets assigned to what career field.

Alright the question that has to be pinging in your head now is how can a recruit possibly control the career field that they enlist in if the system is strictly automated and not even the recruit's best Air Force buddy, their recruiter, can change it. I mean it is after all a computer and simply lists the jobs that have openings coming up. So how can somoen influence a computer to allow them to get the career field desired? My next paragraph gives the answer. I used it in 1985 to get the job I wanted and it is still an option today.

The inside secret with the recruiting system is that it allows for potential recruits to be placed on a “waiting” list for specific career fields as long as they meet the minimum ASVAB score for that field. When an opening becomes available for a career field the computer will assigned that opening to the person listed number one on the waiting list. A recruit may be placed on the waiting list in as many or few career fields as they desire. Expect the recruiter to ask for a list of at least three career fields. However if there are not three career fields the recruit wants then they should only list the one or two they desire. Remember they are called career fields for a reason, that reason is simpley, it's the area of training the recruit will working in, it's their career. In my case I listed three career fields and in three days my recruiter called and informed me that I had my number one choice.  You must be willing to wait until an opening becomes available in that career field but it will come.

Additional Advice

I would be negligent in this article if I did not provide additional information on what you need to be prepared for mentally when going to the MEPS for your physical examination and career field selection. Up to the point when you are offered career fields to sign up for everything at the MEPS has been a hurdle that you had to clear in order to enlist in the Air Force. You need to realize that mentally you have already chosen the Air Force as your career and have more then likely told your parents and friends that you are going to the MEPS to enlist in the Air Force. You may have even made life altering decisions such as planning to get married before you leave. The key is that mentally you have joined the Air Force and you feel you will be viewed as a failure if you leave without enlisting. The MEPS trip is just a formality for the process, simply crossing the “T”s and dotting the “I”s.

What you will find out quickly at the MEPS is that the environment establishes a mental picture in your mind that for most likely the first time you realize that you may not be allowed to enlist. You will view each hurdle as a major obstacle to your life plans and will feel totally relieved when you clear the hurdle. This continues for several hours until you reach the point of being told that you have scaled the hurdles and now are Air Force “approved”. What the last several hours have done to you is mentally create a situation where you feel elated and lucky that you can enlist. This mental feeling will result in you being willing to jump at any job opening to include an open category. Remember 60% of recruits enlist as open candidates. Additionally I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that a significant percentage of those 40% chose the career field because it was open and a guaranteed job not because that was the job they wanted when they went to the MEPS.

As an example I saw two individuals at the MEPS when I enlisted that were joining the Marines. A different service but one that uses the same enlistment process because it works to create a positive effect on enlistment sign ups. These two individuals were friends and joining together and were all excited as they planned on enlisting in the Marines communications branch and were bragging about what training they would receive. After everyone had completed the job selection or in my case the waiting list selection, I overheard one of them talking on the phone and telling his parents that they signed up for infantry because there were no openings in the communications division. It was obvious from his tone that whoever he was talking to was not happy about the infantry decision. Later as we were waiting for our recruiters to take us back to the recruiting station I overheard one of them ask the other if he thought they had done the right thing.

I have always wondered if either of those two gentlemen would have even agreed to go to the MEPS if they knew that infantry was their only option. I highly doubt it but like I said the MEPS environment creates a mental atmosphere that favors the military services. It is nothing illegal about this but rather I’m just stating what I saw when I went through the process. I pass this along to hopefully make you better prepared when you go to join the Air Force.


Valid for two years

May be retaken every 30 days

Each Air Force Specialty Code or career field has a minimum ASVAB score.

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      So if you have a specific job you want do you put yourself on the waiting list before you goto MEPS or after? I was under the impression that you pick your job at MEPS.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This information is not completely true. Yes a recruiter can sign you on for a job you will keep through out BMT, but DEP 'airman' get the last and slim picking. The roster goes First term airman cross training, the rest of the air force cross training, BMT trainees and than finally DEP 'airman'

    • hrymel profile image


      9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Wonderful hub, as a young person who recently joined the Air Force, I wish I would have seen this sooner. However, I received the job that I wanted, so I guess I can't complain too much.

    • AF CHIEF profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks Chuck, I'm hoping it does help demystify the recruiting process for new recruits and they can use the information to get the career field they want which is a win-win for both them and the Air Force.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 

      10 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Welcome to HubPages and great first Hub.

      As a former air navigator in the Air Force, I can say that your information and advice is excellent and will be of great use to any young person considering joining the military.

      Again, great Hub and welcome.


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