Become an Air Force Nurse: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 08, 2020

Like other nurses, USAF nurses are healthcare professionals who treat the sick and injured. Find out how to become an Air Force nurse, how Air Force nurse requirements differ from those of other nurses, and more by reading on.

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  • 0:03 Become an Air Force Nurse
  • 0:50 Career Requirements
  • 1:44 Steps to Be an Air Force Nurse

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How to Become an Air Force Nurse

An Air Force nurse is simply a nurse who happens to work for the United States Air Force (USAF) and, as such, primarily treats members of the military and their families. Like many other types of medical professionals who choose to join the Air Force, nurses are given the rank of an officer upon accepting their commission and can work in certain specialties, such as critical care nurse or nurse midwife.

The necessary prerequisite education to be a nurse in the Air Force is the same as for civilian Registered Nurses. However, the USAF offers many programs that can help aspiring nurses obtain the education they need in exchange for time spent serving as an officer. Once a nurse's time in the Air Force comes to an end, their skills can easily transition to a job as a civilian nurse.

Complete Air Force Nurse Education Requirements

To become a Registered Nurse for the USAF, it is necessary to earn a bachelor's degree, typically a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). A BSN degree can typically be earned in 4 years at nursing colleges all across the US. Some accelerated BSN programs exist that can be completed faster and are open to students with a nursing associate's degree or bachelor's degree in another field of study. A BSN program's curriculum typically covers topics like:

  • Nursing care of adults
  • Clinical nursing skills
  • Public health nursing
  • Pathophysiology and pharmacology

For individuals who wish to become nurses but can't afford college, the USAF does have a Health Professions Scholarship Program, which offers 2- to 3-year scholarships to nursing students, covering all expenses from classes to textbooks to living costs. Students spend 45 days on active duty while receiving the scholarship and must then serve in the USAF for one year for each year of scholarship received, for a minimum of three years.

Fulfill Air Force Nurse Licensure Requirements

Like other Registered Nurses, nurses working for the Air Force must be licensed to practice in their home state. This involves passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which can only be taken after completion of an accredited nursing program. While the exact requirements to receive a nursing license will vary from state to state, some common requirements include criminal background checks and licensing fees. Nursing licenses must be maintained, which typically requires the completion of a certain amount of continuing education on a regular basis. Air Force nurses have access to continuing graduate medical education and may be able to use these continuing education courses to pursue a specialty.

Meet General Air Force Nurse Requirements

Additionally, Air Force nurses have certain other requirements they must meet. To work as a nurse in the USAF, an individual must be over 18 years old but under 48 years old (with some exceptions for rare specialties), and be a US citizen. Air Force nurses will still have to meet all physical requirements expected of other members of the USAF.

Air Force Nurse Salary and Career Info

As part of the United States Armed Forces, a USAF nurse will receive pay in direct relation to their current rank. Since all nurses serve as officers, that means the minimum pay that a USAF nurse can receive is the Second Lieutenant's O-1 pay grade, which is $3,188.40 per month for an officer with under 2 years of experience, or $38,260.80 per year at minimum as of 2019. This base pay, however, can be supplemented in various ways, such as with hazard pay, cost of living adjustments or incentive pay for certain areas. Air Force nurses are also likely to live on an Air Force base, or just outside of one, and will have their housing expenses covered as a result. While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not record data for positions within the US military, there is often a strong demand for healthcare personnel in general.

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