Hands-On Jobs in the Air Force

Jul 24, 2018

In the Air Force, these are some jobs that involve more hands-on activities than others to perform the tasks required. We will explore jobs such as HVAC specialists, dental assistants, and even astronauts.

Working with your hands is a skill that is required by many Air Force jobs. We will explore hands-on jobs that range from pararescuers to helicopter maintenance technicians and discuss the duties associated with each job.

Career Comparison

Job Title Annual Base Pay (2018)* Applicable Military Skills
Dental Assistant $18,176.40 (E-1) Manual Dexterity, Hand-Eye Coordination
Helicopter/Tiltrotor Maintenance Technician $18,176.40 (E-1) Manual Dexterity, Familiarity with Tools
Pararescuer $18,176.40 (E-1) Readiness to Face Danger, Deploy Planning
Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Specialist $18,176.40 (E-1) Ability to Read Drawings/ Schematics, Troubleshooting
Astronaut $37,292.40 (O-1) Willingness to Learn, Handles Complex Concepts

Source: *Defense Finance & Accounting Service

Hands-On Jobs in the Air Force

The Air Force has jobs for servicemembers who like working with their hands, ranging from dental assistants to astronauts. We will discuss each job and describe the hands-on duties each requires.

Dental Assistant

The Air Force dental assistant (4Y031) is an enlisted position that is mainly responsible for assisting the dentist during the patient's visit. A dental assistant in the Air Force cleans and sterilizes dental instruments. They perform periodontal scaling using ultrasonic scalers. They prepare anesthesia syringes, polish restorations, and make teeth molds.

Helicopter/Tiltrotor Maintenance Technician

The Air Force helicopter/tiltrotor maintenance technician (2A532) performs a majority of their duties with their hands. They inspect and repair helicopters, tiltrotors, and their associated equipment. Other hands-on duties the helicopter/tiltrotor maintenance technician performs include calibrating aircraft, balancing rotor systems, and repairing fuel leaks. In addition, they disassemble and reassemble helicopters for shipping.


The enlisted Air Force pararescuer's (1T231) hands stay busy as they embark on survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) missions. Emergency trauma, medical care, and security are some of the tasks they perform that require extensive use of their hands. When recovery to aircraft is not possible, the pararescuer moves troops to friendly and safe areas. They infiltrate hostile areas in all terrains to rescue aircrews.

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Specialist

As a hands-on job, the enlisted Air Force heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration (R) specialist (54530) operates and installs HVAC and R systems. In the Air Force, the HVAC and R specialist also tests and troubleshoots HVAC and R systems, equipment and its components in addition to piping, controls, and tubing. They customize systems to perform specific tasks or to make them more efficient. The technician examines drawing and schematics to learn how a particular system is constructed in order to resolve maintenance problems.


To pilot a space shuttle and control its flight, the Air Force astronaut officer (13A1) must make substantial use of their hands. The Air Force Astronaut controls shuttles through all phases of flight including ascent, reentry, and landing. During the phases, the astronaut operates orbiter systems and reconfigures them. The astronaut develops equipment used for training and simulation. In addition, the astronaut operates and monitors payloads brought onto the shuttle.

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