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How do I Become an Air Force Intelligence Officer?

By S. Ashraf
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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It takes several steps to become an Air Force intelligence officer. Initially, you need the appropriate level of education to become an air force officer, and you must apply and meet the requirements to join the Air Force. Upon reviewing your application, the Air Force might or might not select you for duty in the intelligence field, depending on staffing needs. Prior to going on active duty, you must receive an officer’s commission, be granted a security clearance and successfully complete intelligence technical school training. If you live outside the United States, it is a good idea to visit a military recruiter in your country who will be familiar with the requirements to become an intelligence officer in your country.

A bachelor’s degree is required to become an Air Force intelligence officer in the United States. You might earn your degree in three ways: independently, as part of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program available at many institutions of higher education, or by attending the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). The intelligence career field draws officers from diverse academic backgrounds, with the majority having non-technical undergraduate degrees in one of the social sciences, the arts, education or the humanities.

There is an application process to join the U.S. Air Force. You must be a United States citizen to apply. As part of the process, you must pass a physical, satisfy age and weight requirements, and take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. The applications of individuals who did not obtain a commission through ROTC or the USAFA are evaluated by a selection board for Officer Training School (OTS).

If selected for OTS, you will attend a rigorous, 12-week program called “Basic Officer Training.” At the end of this program, you will be commissioned a second lieutenant. While at OTS, those selected for intelligence training will have been the subject of a special background investigation to determine whether they can obtain a security clearance. The ability to get a security clearance will be the final determining factor in your eligibility to become an Air Force intelligence officer.

You must then attend and pass a demanding, seven-month entry level course. At this technical school, you will gain competence in four major areas: targeting; battle planning for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; battle space analysis; and unit/Air Operations Center. After you have completed this course, you can begin active duty as an Air Force intelligence officer.

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Discussion Comments
By anon359789 — On Dec 20, 2013

Another way to consider would be to join an Air National Guard unit. When joining the Guard you get to be the person deciding where you are going instead of the "needs of the Air Force." You can choose an Intel unit and join it (as long as you are willing to travel to it for drill weekends and they hire you). The guard will send you through all of the same training as Active Duty Intel personnel.

Once completing your commitment and using the GI Bill for college you can put in to become an Officer and join active duty. Since you have already been trained as an Intel Analyst on the enlisted side and have a security clearance, you have a much better chance of getting picked up.

By indemnifyme — On Jun 28, 2012

I found out something interesting about enlisting in the United States military. It's a lot easier to enlist during good economic times! When the economy is bad, a lot of people are out of work, so they try to talk to an Air Force recruiter and join the Air Force or join the Army.

So during tough economic times, the military can afford to be pickier and turn people away. So if you want to be an Air Force Intelligence officer, you would probably have a better chance when the economy is on an upswing, rather than during a recession or something.

By starrynight — On Jun 27, 2012

@strawCake - That's very true. Also, not everyone who goes through Air Force recruiting even gets to be an officer. You have to either attend college and graduate as an officer, or be selected for the officer training after you enlist.

Anyway, I'm a little bit surprised that a degree in arts or humanities qualifies someone to work as an intelligence officer. It would make sense to me for a social sciences degree to qualify you for work in intelligence. I bet a psych degree would really come in handy! But I don't see how majoring in something like English would be helpful.

By strawCake — On Jun 26, 2012

I have a few family members who are in the military, so I know a few things about how these processes work. As the article said, you have to be selected to do certain things. You can't just join the Air Force and says, "I want to do intelligence" and then do it! You have to qualify and be selected first.

Also, it does depend on what they need when you're being recruited. A friend of mine wanted to join a certain specialty in the Army, and when he first spoke to a recruiter, they weren't recruiting for that specialty. He waited another month, and then went back and got what he wanted.

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