10-Year Member
Aug 19, 2008
I was talking with one of my ROTC friends in college about my applying to the Academy and he had asked me why don't I just graduate with the one and a half years I have left and go to officer training school. I actually thought about this for a while and was extremely hesitant in maybe just doing that instead of going to the Academy. He said basically the only difference between the two is that you get a ring from the Academy...My question is, what IS the main difference between the two? I know I do not want to go into the private sector and would like to make the air force a career with the possibility going into the CIA or FBI. Should I just maybe finish off my education and go to OTS or if accepted into the academy drop out and go there? What are the main benefits? My main concern is that I could get kicked out of the Academy for failing something down the road and then I'd really be screwed.
There's probably a list of OFFICIAL benefits for transferring to the academy when you're almost ready to graduate. I even know; not personally; of individuals who have actually applied and got accepted to the academy who had already FINISHED their bachelor's degree from a civilian school. But I'm not going to tell you any official benefits. That's something you have to decide.

But as for unofficial benefits; here are some. These are indeed unofficial. Some may only seem to be a perception. But truth is 90% perception. Consider that.

1) If an officer wants to make the military a 20+ year career; an academy graduate has a better chance of promotion than an ROTC/OTS officer. Not that you can't get promoted; you can. Just that the degree from the academy means a lot, and they invested a lot of money into you. They'd like to keep you.

2) If you want to fly; an academy graduate has a better chance than an ROTC/OTS officer. Not that you can't fly in you aren't an academy grad, just that it's easier.

3) If you want to continue on to graduate school; assuming you have the grades and are accepted; it's easier as an academy grad. Especially if wanting to go immediately after undergraduate. Not that you can't go to graduate school if undergraduate was via ROTC or on your own via OTS. Just that the academy grad is easier.

4) Among most other officers and enlisted personnel, an academy officer's persona is a step above an ROTC/OTS officer. Not that there isn't respect for ROTC/OTS officers. There is plenty. Just that everyone knows how difficult it is to get accepted to the academy. There's a high level of respect for that. Many, if not MOST, generals and command staff officers are academy grads.

5) Academy grads seem to get the better assignments.

But I have to be totally honest here. If I was your friends and advising you, and you only had 3 more semesters left for your undergraduate degree; I'd probably recommend the same thing. Finish up and go OTS. The military will definitely want you. So getting in isn't a problem. Being you don't want to be a pilot, doctor, etc... those are areas you don't really need the academy for. If you really like the idea of the CIA/FBI/etc... then my suggestion is; finish your undergraduate. If it's in criminal justice or anything similar; great. If not, think about taking some classes that can get you into the world of intel, justice, etc.... Then join the air force after graduation. Then; once you are in; you can attend grad school in your off duty time. Military is great at paying for furthering your education. Get your masters in law, criminology, or any of the areas that you are interested that my coincide with the CIA, FBI, OSI, etc.... Hopefully also, try and get a job in the OSI or Intel. Best of luck..... mike.....
Well...on this one Christcorp and I will agree to disagree, a TINY bit.

First...regarding general officers...I had to look this one up because from my experience, I have found more NON "grads" as G.O.'s than grads. SO I did a little digging...this is regarding 4-stars in AF History:
There have been 189 four-star generals in the history of the U.S. Air Force. Generals entered the Air Force via several paths: 60 were commissioned via the U.S. Military Academy (USMA), 49 via the aviation cadet program, 30 via Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) at a civilian university, 26 via the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), 9 via AFROTC at a senior military college, 6 via Air Force Officer Training School (OTS), 4 via the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), 2 via direct commission, one via Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at a civilian university, one via the Army National Guard (ARNG), and one via the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
"Yes Steve, but the academy has only been commissioning since 1959, what about since then...?"

Answer: Okay...USAFA grad's have led the pack to 4 stars...but it's close, very close...

With commissions from 1959 to present there have been 57 4-star's promoted. Of them, if I break them down correctly:

USAFA - 26
OTS - 5
Texas A&M - 5
VMI - 1

So....32 4-star generals from OTHER than USAFA, and 26 from. I'm very curious what the breakdown would be for "lesser grades" of general: 1 - 3 stars. I'm "guessing" it might be more skewed to the NON USAFA grad...just from my experiences, but that's a total WAG.

FYI, in my AF career so far, that's about par for what I've seen; most of the generals I've worked with/for were NOT from USAFA.

I think...again, MY OPINION, once you graduate...you're a "butter bar" and you begin to make your own career. Your commission source won't matter (IMHO) until you are a Colonel. THEN...it "might" or "might not" depending upon the job you're after, the person hiring for that job, etc...etc...

But...and let's be honest..."grads" do tend to like to "congregate" with other "grads" and that can have an impact when assignments are parceled out...especially for a senior officer and I would think that THEN is when that "grad" title might be of benefit.

Just MHO...
flieger83; I definitely stand corrected. As I mentioned, a lot of it is perception. MOST; not all of my career was spent one way or another around rated officers. (Pilots, Navs, etc...) As such, most came from the academy. And many of the general officers I knew also came from "That world".

But as I said, it is most perception anyway. The TRUTH is; academy, ROTC, and OTS officers are all honorable commissioned positions. I know a lot of OTC/ROTC officers. They are fantastic. One of my CO's was OTS. Made it to Full Bird (Colonel) without any problem. My son's ALO was an OTS officer. Made it to LtCol no problem. Could have stayed in longer but WANTED to retire.

So definitely my bad. We all have our perceptions of the world around us. Mine was mostly with pilots and such. But I'm sure there are plenty of great general staff officers that were OTS or ROTC. Just like there are plenty of officers that I worked for, who were academy grads, who were total penises; yet made it up the ranks to general and even on to JCS. Thanks for getting me numbers Steve. I do better with facts. Point is for the OP; you've got a tough decision to make. Me personally; I say get your degree in 3 semesters. If you STILL want the academy; apply. You'll still be young enough probably. If you get accepted; great. If not; go to OTS. later... mike....
Well....hold off the accolades...:confused:

I told "CinC House" about the post and my response...her "reaction" was akin to a Nudet! (Nuclear Detonation for you NON SAC folks :biggrin: )
"What do you mean? USAFA folks ALWAYS had the advantage! They learned more about the AF in their 4 year incarceration than ANY of us in ROTC/OTS did in our first 4 years of commissioned service! And futhermore... ( I HATE IT when the "and futhermore" weapon is deployed )

My first assignment was at Wright Patterson; 32 generals there. How many do you think were ROTC/OTS???? NONE or very very few. The AFA folks were held up as the "high and mighty and the best of the best." They were the ones chosen first for SOS in residence, Company Grade Officer of the Quarter/Year, for ASTRA, for general's aides, etc...etc...

This went on for about 20 minutes...I was at least smart enough to not say a thing!
Gee...can you tell my better half is an OTS graduate?

So while my "stats" might show a "statistically insignificant" view...from the "NON AFA" officer, there is a definite disagreement!

Not saying that I'm glad that the "Department of Defense" (Your Wife) and my "Perceptions" are similar; but that is much of what I also saw. The AFA grad was held up a bit higher. Made rank a bit quicker. Got assignments a little nicer. etc... But that is NOT to say that OTS/ROTC got dumped on. I don't think so. 2 of my assignments had almost NO pilots or similarly rated officers. 1 was at Kirtland AFB. The entire base revolves around Research and Development. A lot of government agencies. DOE, DNA, Sandia Labs, etc... Definitely more NON-Academy officers than academy. Lot of scientists, engineers, etc.. My last base prior to retiring was F.E. Warren. ICBM Missile Base. VERY FEW academy officers. Some were missile officers. But I would say the base was probably a normal mix of Academy, ROTC, and OTS officers.

but as I said; my world was mostly around the rated officers. But maybe your wife's world was similar. Wright Pat is definitely a good indicator of high ranking officers. Either way; there's nothing wrong with being an OTS officer. Especially when you only have 3 semesters left to get your degree. later... mike...
thanks a lot for you responses. I'll probably just wait to see first if I get accepted into the Academy sometime in the next few months. if i don't...well then it's definitely OTS for me.
Just to tag onto Flieger and CC, in my 20+ years I can honestly say I always observed the preference falling to Academy Grads. I know Bullet & PIMA will jump in here somewhere, and they will have vaild input too, falling on the ROTC side I am sure.

My career did not have commisioned officers, but I can tell you the Squadron Commanders that were USAFA Grads were a cut above. They always lead the way. I cannot say that for the ROTC/OTS Commanders I had. This was perception, but as an Old Chief once told me Perception is Reality.
My impression from sources is this:

As a fresh butterbar, you will be two years ahead of your ROTC and OTS compadres as far as living the military life and being acclimated. After that, there about the same. However, if you choose to use that advantage from the beginning to rise above and take more leadership, then you will stay above. When the promotion boards meet for 1st LT and Captain, you are more likely to be favored for promotion by a couple months as an USAFA grad, especially if you were ranked higher at the Academy.

My understanding was basically, use your advantage to help those that aren't used to the military yet and get yourself established quickly. All hear-say, but its sounds reasonable!