Air Force Fighter Pilot: Duties, Requirements and Salary

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an Air Force fighter pilot. Get a quick look at the requirements, as well as details about training, job duties, and security clearances, to find out if this is the career for you. View article »

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  • 00:01 Job Description & Duties
  • 0:48 Education & Training
  • 2:02 Salary Information

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Video Transcript

Air Force Fighter Pilots

Air Force fighter pilots must prepare for their missions by reviewing their goals, obtaining weather information, and understanding existing intelligence. Before taking off, fighter pilots must file a flight plan and participate in a crew briefing. To ensure an aircraft is ready for flight, pilots must also inspect, load, and fuel it. In addition to flying, Air Force fighter pilots work with commanders to develop plans and implement policies. While in the air, fighter pilots communicate with other pilots and air traffic control professionals. They perform navigation, surveillance reconnaissance, and rescue missions. To become an Air Force fighter pilot, candidates must be 18 to 28 years old and fulfill the branch's education and training requirements.

Required Education Bachelor's degree; complete Officer Training School
Other Requirements complete the Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) for security clearance
Annual Salary (May 2016) Starts at $35,668 for Second Lieutenants*

Source: *U.S. Air Force Officer Pay

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Education and Training

Many aspiring pilots receive their undergraduate education at military universities. College majors that can help to prepare undergraduates for careers as fighter pilots include mathematics, physical science, or management. Air Force fighter pilots must also have a strong knowledge of air navigation, aircraft operating procedures, flight theory, and meteorology.

Air Force fighter pilots must complete the Air Force Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) program. They earn additional awards and gain experience on progressively more complex aircraft. Unit commanders can also issue awards based on performance and experience. Air Force fighter pilots must be familiar with the F-16 fighter jet. They attend classroom training, use simulators, and perform test flights. They then progress to air combat and in-flight refueling. Air Force fighter pilots must possess up-to-date aeronautical ratings and licensing.


Pay for Air Force fighter pilots varies according to their experience. New Air Force officers are ranked as second lieutenants. As of May 2016, they earned $35,668 a year. According to PayScale.com, in May 2016, the median annual pay military pilots in general was approximately $90,000. More than half of all military pilots had over ten years of experience in the field.

To become an Air Force fighter pilot, candidates must have a bachelor's degree, complete the Air Force Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) program, and Officer Training School, and undergo the Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI). New officers enter the ranks as second lieutenants and earn $35, 668 a year.

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