Air Force Officer
Āpiha Ope Tauā
Air force officers train Air Force troops, manage field exercises and lead troops in combat, peacekeeping missions and disaster relief.
Air force officer cadets usually earn
$35K-$39K per year
Depending on rank, graduate air force officers usually earn
$55K-$152K per year
Source: NZ Defence Force, 2017
Pay for air force officers varies depending on specialist trade, experience and rank.
- Air force officer cadets usually earn between $35,000 and $39,000 a year.
- Pilot officers can earn between $55,000 and $67,000.
- Flying officers can earn between $66,000 and $81,000.
- Flight lieutenants can earn between $87,000 and $126,000.
- Squadron leaders can earn between $101,000 and $152,000.
Air force officers may also get food and accommodation allowances and free medical and dental care.
Source: New Zealand Defence Force, 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Air force officers may do some or all of the following:
- organise and conduct training
- instruct and lead troops during training exercises and on deployment
- budget, and manage resources assigned to them
- operate and maintain Air Force equipment
- help in search and rescue operations, and disaster relief efforts in New Zealand and overseas
- train troops in fitness, first aid and combat.
Air force officers also have duties related to their area of specialisation. For example, air force pilots carry out tasks related to that role, such as preparing flight plans and flying aircraft.
Skills and knowledge
Air force officers need to have:
- leadership, management and budgeting skills
- knowledge of Air Force regulations, tactics and protocol, including health and safety, ethics, and conduct
- knowledge of drills and parade requirements
- knowledge of how to operate and maintain weapons and radio equipment
- problem solving skills
- first aid and rescue skills.
Air Force officers also need to have skills and knowledge related to their field of specialisation or trade. For example, air force intelligence officers need knowledge of mission planning and electronic warfare capability.
Air force officers:
- usually work regular business hours but may be expected to work long or irregular hours on training exercises or when on deployment
- work and train at Air Force bases in New Zealand and overseas
- work in all weather conditions and may have to work in combat situations
- may spend long periods away from home on overseas assignments.
What's the job really like?
Find out what it takes to be an officer in the Royal NZ Air Force - 1.16 mins. (Video courtesy of the Royal NZ Air Force)
The pilot and the warfare officer will both get together and it's up to them to do the pre-flight planning for the trip – that involves checking the route, seeing what the weather's going to be like, seeing that we have enough fuel and gas to make the route and seeing how much payload we can actually take.
Once we get into the plane, we'll do a quick pre-flight, turn on all the instruments and nav aids and jump in the seat, ready to start turning the engines.
So far I've been up to Rarotonga, Noumea, over to Australia, travelling down to Antarctica in support of the scientists – taking various equipment down there.
What I'm looking forward to most is getting my trips up to Afghanistan. We take troops on their rotation and also cargo, and because of the threat level on the ground we have to fly tactically low level.
The thing which makes the Air Force special is that it's pretty much like a massive family. You've got heaps of cool mates, you get to do heaps of cool sports, and what I'm looking forward to is going down to Wanaka, doing an air show display with the 730 Hercules and having my family and friends on the ground watching me.
To be eligible for air force officer basic training you need to:
- be at least 17 years old
- have no criminal convictions
- have a minimum of NCEA Level 2 with 18 credits in English, mathematics and science
- hold a current and clean driver's licence
- be medically and physically fit
- be a New Zealand citizen, or a New Zealand residence class visa holder.
If you meet the above requirements, you will also need to:
- pass aptitude and fitness tests
- attend a formal interview for your selected trade (area of specialisation).
Some trades differ in their age requirements, and may require you to have NCEA credits in specific subjects or a tertiary degree.
New airforce officer cadets are posted to RNZAF Woodbourne base to complete a seven-week Joint Officer Induction Course (JOIC).
After the JOIC, cadets remain at RNZAF Woodbourne base for 22 weeks to complete the Initial Officer Training Course.
- Defence Careers website - how to apply for the Air Force
- Defence Careers website - information on upcoming intakes
NCEA Level 2 with a minimum of 18 credits in English, mathematics and science is required to be an air warfare officer or pilot. NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training for all other types of air force officers. Useful subjects include construction and mechanical technologies, digital technologies, mathematics, physical education and physics.
Air force officers need to be:
- disciplined and organised
- careful and accurate, with an eye for detail
- efficient and able to work well under pressure
- able to manage and lead people
- able to solve problems and make decisions
- able to give instructions well.
Useful experience for air force officers includes:
- previous flying experience or work with planes
- training as a soldier in the Territorial Force/Army Reserve
- involvement in youth organisations such as Scouts, Young Eagles and Cadets
- work or sporting experience in a team environment
- experience in a trade, such as automotive mechanics, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering.
Air force officers must pass Air Force fitness tests, so they need to be fit, healthy and strong, with good hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses). Some positions require you to have normal colour vision.
Find out more about training
- NZ Defence
- 0800 136 723 - www.defencecareers.mil.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of getting a job as an air force officer are average as the low turnover of staff means the Air Force only recruit for a small number of positions each year. Competition for these positions is high.
The New Zealand Air Force is made up of around 2911 staff.
Diversity of staff important
The Air Force is committed to diversity, and wants to increase the number of women and have more of a mix of cultures. Women typically make up about 17% of Air Force staff.
Chances good for some specialist roles
Your chances of being accepted into basic air force officer training are better if you apply for the following trades:
- a pilot
- a communications and information systems officer (CIS Officer)
- an intelligence specialist.
Defence Force only employer
Air force officers work for the New Zealand Defence Force in New Zealand and overseas.
- Air Force News, 'The RNZAF in 2097?' April 2017, (www.army.mil.nz).
- Defence Careers website, 'Army Intake Schedule', accessed July 2017, (www.defencecareers.mil.nz).
- New Zealand Defence Force, 'Defence White Paper 2016', June 2016, (www.defencecareers.mil.nz).
- New Zealand Defence Force, 'Future35 Our Strategy to 2035', accessed July 2017, (www.nzdf.mil.nz).
- New Zealand Defence Force, 'New Zealand Government Defence Capability Plan 2016', (www.nzdf.mil.nz).
- New Zealand Defence Force, 'The 2015-2016 Annual Report', accessed July 2017, (www.nzdf.mil.nz).
- Patterson, J, 'NZ Defence Force to get $20bn Upgrade', 8 June 2016, (www.radio.co.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Air force officers may progress in rank to:
- pilot officer
- flying officer
- flight lieutenant
- squadron leader
- wing commander
- group captain
- air commodore
- air vice-marshal
- air marshal.
Air force officers may specialise in:
- combat and security
- engineering and technical trades
- intelligence, IT and communications
- logistics and administration
- medical and health.
- Defence Careers website - information on Air Force jobs
- Royal New Zealand Air Force website – information on Air Force ranks
Last updated 23 August 2017