AFROTC Tech Majors

Jul 13, 2017
DS will be HS senior this year and will be applying to Western Michigan University soon. He wants to be a pilot and plans on majoring in Aviation Flight Science (will be a Bachelor of Science degree) at WMU's College of Aviation. He also loves the military and wants to be an officer so he's planning on joining their AFROTC detachment.

For the AFROTC scholarship, is an Aviation Flight Science major considered a tech major?
Air force is probably the hardest/ most competitive branch to get aviation, because everyone wants to be a pilot. Theres a list online what AFROTC considers to be a tech major, that last time I checked does not count as a tech major but aerospace engineering would. Not that tech majors really matter, what really matters is the AFOQT score. Also, If he wants to be a pilot sure air force is an option, but competitive, everyone joins the air force to be a pilot. But the Marine Corps PLC program does guaranteed flight contracts, and most people join the marines to not be pilots, so statistically he'll have a way better chance with the marines since pilots are in greater demand.
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I would say for him to major in what he enjoys. I believe that is not considered a tech major. If he wants to be a pilot and the school offers flight hours to the point he will have a PPL by his AS300 yr than that will help him a great deal in getting a pilot slot, but it still will not guarantee it because they look at a myriad of factors including his cgpa. Non-techs typically need a 3.3/3.4 avg. Plus it will include his Commander's ranking, Summer Field training ranking and his PFA. So just because he has a PPL, it will not guarantee a pilot slot unless all of the other things are also up to high standards.

Yes, I have heard that it is easy to get a pilot slot with the Marines, but than also remember the Marine mission and life is very different than the AF. Thus, I would say he should investigate everything about it.

For example, the AF will require 10 yrs of his life if he wings. What do the Marines require? Although people will jokingly call the AF, the Chair Force, it's mission is flying. You will not fly your entire career, but typically the 1st time you step out of the plane and into a desk is when you are an O4. The reason why is O4 has PME requirements, and the goal for many is to do PME in residence. It is a 1 yr. school, after that some will go back flying and some will take a 3 yr desk tour. In the 21 years that my DH served he flew 15 out of the 21 (PME and a 3 yr Pentagon tour, plus a 2 yr JUMP ALO ---in essence if he took a non-flying tour, it was followed on with a flying tour)
~ My DS will be up for PCSing next spring. He will have 5 yrs in flying. He will stay flying for at least 9 yrs. when you include that move.
~ Family lifestyle is also way different between branches. The AF does not believe in the creed of IF we wanted you to have a family we would have issued you one. That is also why they have the nickname of the Banker branch. Basically, if you are not flying that day you will be home by 4:30 and will report at 8 a.m. PT for the AF is a squadron golf tourney where they carry their clubs. They do not do O'dark thirty PT.
~~ The AF calls their pilots the Million $ Man/Woman because it costs them that much to train them. They are an asset. I get he is only 17 and yet to think of marriage, but what about when he is 27 and still owes 5 more yrs? My DS is 27, married with an 8 month old baby and 2 dogs, plus owns a home. The AF gets that if the spouse isn't happy he might hand in his paperwork at 10 yrs and jump to the airlines. The way to keep him is the adage every husband in the world says...a happy wife is a happy life. Thus, they believe in the Banker/Corporation hours when they can.

These are things to think about, and that is before you also look at the type of airframes every branch flies. AF has the most planes, but the least in helos. AF has a lot of heavies, and about 75% of pilots that wing will go heavies. I don't know what the ratio is for other branches. The AF will wing @1100 pilots per year. Thus, yes a lot do request, but look at the stats/percentages that request and get a pilot slot.

The other aspect is that he will be required to rank out ALL 4 rated options. He could get CSO or RPA and not Pilot. Will he regret going AF over another branch if he doesn't get pilot?
Air force is probably the hardest/ most competitive branch to get aviation, because everyone wants to be a pilot. Theres a list online what AFROTC considers to be a tech major, that last time I checked does not count as a tech major but aerospace engineering would. Not that tech majors really matter, what really matters is the AFOQT score. Also, If he wants to be a pilot sure air force is an option, but competitive, everyone joins the air force to be a pilot. But the Marine Corps PLC program does guaranteed flight contracts, and most people join the marines to not be pilots, so statistically he'll have a way better chance with the marines since pilots are in greater demand.
Also the marines only force an 8 year commitment unlike the air force which is 10, but its his decision. And not everyone can get into the Marines its a harder application process, but it is still possible if hes dedicated
Pima and CCake, thanks for your responses. I agree with Pima's statement that he should major in what he enjoys doing. And my DS is passionate about flying. He's wanted to be a pilot for a couple of years now, but he really caught the bug when he took his introductory flight when touring WMU's campus last Spring. As sure as a 17 year old can be about his future, he's positive that flying planes is what he wants to do for the next 20 - 40 years.

He'd much rather do that in the military but in the case he doesn't get a pilot rating, he would still have his Aviation Flight Science degree and would still be able to pursue a civilian pilot career after serving 4 years in AF after commissioning. I'll say it again, he loves the military and would be proud to serve regardless of getting a pilot rating or not, but make no mistake, he'd rather be in the air!

For the longest time, DS wanted to be a Marine officer. But WMU doesn't have an NROTC program, and WMU is highly regarded as having one of the best aviation programs in the country and he absolutely loved his tour there. Besides, it's an in-state university so tuition will be reduced, so if he doesn't get an AFROTC scholarship, its more financially palatable to me as a parent and him. But still will be extremely pricey with flight fees.

He wants to have his PPL midway through his freshman/AS100 year, and build on that with Instrument & Commercial Multi-Engine Ratings in subsequent years following WMU's curriculum. Also he wants to get his CFI so he can increase his flight hours so by the time he graduates, he'll have over 200 hours. He hopes that the flight time will help get him AF rated.

So basically, DS has set a course for himself; he's 100% sure on his Aviation Flight Science major regardless if it's not a "tech" major. If it puts him at a disadvantage for getting a AFROTC scholarship, he can live with it because he'll be doing something he's passionate about and will also set him up to live his dream of flying whether it is in the military or not. And he'll still go AFROTC, which will also hopefully fulfill his dream of serving his country.

In light of this, any further suggestions that will help in improving his small chances of a scholarship and/or being successful in AFROTC would be greatly appreciated!
My son goes to Purdue with the same major and no it doesnt count as a tech major. On the other hand, it looks like (at least this year) that having a private pilot license along with a hundred or so of flight time is beneficial in getting a flight spot. You are out of luck for ROTC scholarships however.

As for the majoring in Flight, I will tell you something that lots of pilots have written in other websites. I dont know if I agree and my son ignored it anyway. The advice given is that you shouldnt get a degree in aviation. One reason is that it could be cheaper getting all of your licenses at a local flight school. Two, the airlines dont care what degree you have as long as you have one. So if you have a degree in dancing and have all of your licenses, you are no better or no worse than the person getting a degree in flight. Third and the biggest reason is that they recommend have a a degree you can fall back on in case it doesnt work out in aviation. This mostly comes out of the fact that the aviation industry has had way more pilots than jobs and many of the jobs pay very little. Starting pilot wages for a regional can be 24000. There has been many unemployed pilots for many years and has been tough going for pilots. Along with that, you can easily been benched if you have medical issues. They figure if you get a pilots license and a degree in accounting, you can be an accountant when are you layed off or there is no work available. That being said, there is a huge worldwide pilot shortage. There are plenty of openings now but of course that doesnt mean the shortage wont end in a year. Secondly, if you were a pilot for 5-10 and then couldnt fly anymore for whatever reason, no one is going to give you a job in accounting (assuming you have an accounting degree) as you have no experience in the field. For my son, assuming he doesnt break his leg during his senior year and passes UPT (air force flight school) after he commissions in the Air Force, it will have been all worth it.

The one advantage about studying flight in college over a local flight school in terms of need hours to fly commercial airlines, is that the kids only need 1000 hours vs 1500. That is at least true for Purdue. No idea if Western Michigan University has been approved for this, but I would surprised if they werent.
I couldn't agree more with Humey.
1. Bullet flew for 21 yrs with the AF, many of his friends went commercial. Believe it or not that world is a networking world, and I mean huge! In a way it is who you know if you don't want to go regionals. We saw friends get references from pilots that use to be in the squadron and flying with that airline. It than was easy peasey for them to be hired on.
~ One WSO (back seater) got his commercial, hired on as a regional and left the AF as an O4 believing that he would jump up quickly. Well, after a few years of low pay, he went back to the AF and asked them to take him back. They did because he was still in the IRR portion. What actually hurt him was not only the pay loss, but bc he came back 4 yrs later, he was still an O4, whereas, my DH never left and was now an O5. His clock had to restart and it would be years before he would be up for O5. He retired 5 yrs after DH as an O5. We on the other hand had moved onto Bullet's 2nd career, getting retirement pay and his new career pay.
~ Another friend left the AF as an O4 in Mar 2001. He went to the airlines, used past AF connections to get hired on. He did not go regionals because --- A. Airlines love military trained pilots. B. Military pilots have lots of hours.. However, airlines are line number oriented, iows, you got hired 3/1 than you are going to go left seat before the person that got hired 3/2. Now notice I said 2001. 9/11 occurred. Airlines took the hit and had to start furloughing pilots. They dropped him from right seater (747) to a smaller plane, still right seater, than to regionals. He too came back to the AF after being out for 6 years. They again brought him back as an O4, but this time instead of flying fighters, they said we need you to go RPA. He retired this past year. He was a CC, but only an O5. He was 1 yr before Bullet's yr group, but Bullet retired 8 yrs before him. He is now flying again with the commercial airline that furloughed him.

2. The thing about going that route is the AF has their own way of training their pilots. It is hard to change habits after you have hundreds of hours, but the AF is going to expect you to do it their way.
~ If you ever fly, the next time you land watch how the landing goes. Bullet and I joke everytime when the plane lands. Navy pilots have a habit of dropping you down on the runway as soon as they see it. AF pilots have a habit of using up all the runway. Why? because 20 yrs of landing on the size of a football field that has moved while you were gone and is moving now is different than landing on a runway that did not move ever!

UPT IPs will not give a fig how many hours he has or doesn't have, everyone walks in with a clean slate. Every student will be berated at some point by an IP, as if it is the right of passage. Every student will study and eat while chair flying for a yr+.

I am not saying don't go down this path. I am just saying that really think about it long and hard when it comes to this major. Nobody saw 9/11 coming, but it did and many of my friends were furloughed for a very long time. Now everybody is talking about the airlines hiring at an enormous pace and the AF is short on pilots. Broken record here, but your child is 17, the earliest, be it AF or Marines he can walk will be 2032?. The airlines have stated that by 2022 they should be back up to status quo. This is incredibly important to understand. The airlines by law must force pilots to step down at 62 (?, they may have increased it to 65 due to the shortage). Because of 9/11 they did not hire for about 10 yrs. Many of their pilots were retired military, making the young ones @ 52 in 2011, and now @58, if it is still 62 they are losing pilots like flies in the summer. Hence, they have to hire at an insane pace, which means the AF is losing them at insane pace. However, they are not bringing on more planes, they are just replacing pilots. In the end what that means is in a few short years AF pilots will not be giving up that 6 figure bonus to stay because the airlines will slow their hiring rate down. In turn, that means the AF will need less pilots in the pipeline.

It is cyclical. Flieger will probably agree with me. In the 90s after Gulf I (@93), the AF basically cut the spigot off for the pilot pipeline. If you were number 1 you got heavies. Mid 90s (@96) the airlines started hiring at an insane pace, and the spigot was open to full force ---granted age waivers, vision waivers, etc. 9/11 occurred and the AF had enough pilots bc airlines were not hiring that waivers were hard to get.
~ Nobody here knows what that spigot will look like in 2021 when he is an AS300 up for the rated boards.
~~ I would say that the airlines will be a driving force on how that spigot will go regarding the amount the AF will need.

You will come to learn really quick that timing in the flying world is everything which is why I agree 1000% with Humey about the degree. Our DS is lucky on the timing thing and the network connections (we have several friends that will still be flying for the airlines and are left seaters). When DS winged, 1 friend even said " I will be your left seater on your 1st flight with SWA. DS laughed and he replied, I am not kidding!
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A lot of good thoughts to chew on by both Humey and Pima. I think for DS it boils down to the fact that he has a couple of significant goals for his future: flying and the military. If he can do both for a good chunk of his career, he'll be ecstatic. If both don't line up long term(ie, he doesn't get an AF pilot rating), well then he'll have a decision to make whether or not to stay in or leave after 4 years. His current thought process is kind of hedging his bets toward flying. If he doesn't get a pilot rating, well then he can serve his country with pride for 4 years and then continue his flying career in the civilian world.

As far as predicting the future, we can make educated guesses as to where the needs may be for the Air Force and the airlines in 5, 10 or 15 years (I do think he is getting in at a advantageous time) and how that affects career decision making. But the bottom line is if you believe in yourself and your qualities, if you set goals and work hard, there's a decent chance you'll be successful, no matter the external forces. And following your passion will allow you to maximize your efforts!

As far as the Aviation Flight Science major, college is all about learning. And learning is a whole heck of a lot easier when it's something you enjoy. The more he can learn about what he's passionate about, the more it will benefit him in the long run - even if there are substantial differences between the civilian and military air world. He's got a good head on his shoulders, and knows that even after 4 years of college with an aviation degree and a couple hundred hours of flight time, there is a ton more to learn, especially when he'll have zero experience with military airframes. He also knows to keep his mouth shut, listen to others, work hard and work well with others. I taught him that much. :)

I look forward to reading your valuable insights and advice in the coming months and years!
Like Pima said, timing is everything. We had the same dilemma, my son had to gamble that he would get a pilot spot if he joined the Air Force. If not, he would have to serve four years in the Air Force and lose four years of flying. He had no problem serving those four years and even said that if he didnt get t a spot during ROTC, he would try again during active duty. However his goal it to be flyer, either commercially or preferably n the military and it would have been a shame if he lost four years. He has has his flight spot, but there is no guarantee in life, so there could always be something that prevents him from going or passing UPT. Your arent a Air Force pilot until you get your wings and nothing is guaranteed. As for his Aviation Flight major, it is something that he has greatly enjoyed, made great friends with many of those in that major and in many ways has led to him going to AF Rotc. At this point, it has been great and couldnt be happier that he chose that major. I wanted him to play College Baseball and he broke my heart when he decided he was done after high school as he wanted to concentrate on ROTC