Air Force Bumps Up Maximum Payout, Number of Career Fields Eligible for Reenlistment Bonus

The Air Force is upping the maximum amount in bonuses it will hand out to Airmen it is trying to retain in select career fields, from the previous limit of $100,000 up to $180,000 starting Oct. 1.

The number of career fields eligible for a bonus has also increased to 73, up 43 percent from last year’s 51 eligible career fields. All of the career fields represented on last year’s list are on this year’s too, the Air Force said in a May 23 press release.

The Air Force did not specify the new career fields in its release, but a spokesperson confirmed that a list posted to social media is accurate. The new eligible fields include air traffic control, electronic non-communications analyst, manpower management, and religious affairs.

The exact amount of bonus funds awarded varies based on several factors, including Airmen’s monthly basic pay, the length of the reenlistment, and experience level. New this year, the Air Force is extending its service cap from 72 months (6 years), to 96 months (8 years), which the service says can help Airmen receive larger bonuses and allow more flexibility in their reenlistment contract.

Airmen can also reenlist up to 12 months before their current term of service expires, which should give them more time to decide and open up a larger pool of eligible Airmen, the Air Force said in its release. The bonus can be made as a lump sum or as partial installments. The career cap is set at $360,000.

Retention bonuses are supposed to help retain Airmen in critical career fields with low manning, retention rates, or with extensive skills training. The economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic drove a surge in retention, and the number of fields eligible for retention bonus dropped to just 37 in 2021, down from 72 in 2020 and 115 in 2019. 

Retention has returned to pre-pandemic levels: Lt. Gen. Caroline Miller, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, told lawmakers earlier this month that the Air Force had bumped up its Active Duty recruiting goal from 26,000 recruits to 27,200 in response to “observed declines in current year retention averages and to help offset potential future retention trend declines.”

In its fiscal 2025 budget request, the Air Force included $1.1 billion for bonuses and retention programs for 118,000 positions, a major bump over last year’s request of $648 million for 65,000 positions. 

Even so, experts have pointed out that the Air Force lacks accessible data on the effectiveness of retention bonuses. 

“I can’t tell if a really big bonus offered 10 years ago to people working with computers was effective, because I can’t go back and see if the person who was offered the bonus got out or stayed,” RAND senior operations researcher and retired Air Force veteran Lisa Harrington told Air & Space Forces Magazine in January. “We really do need to be capturing the decision space of the individual Airman in the work we do.”

Air Force Specialty CodeSpecial Experience IdentifierSkill LevelCareer FieldZone AZone BZone CZone E
1A1X3D3, 5Special Mission Aviator (C-130J Loadmaster)2200
1A1X3E3, 5, 7Special Mission Aviator (WC-130J Loadmaster2210
1A8X1G3, 5, 7Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst – Chinese43.521
1A8X1I3, 5, 7Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst – Russian43.521
1A8X1K3,5Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst – Persian3000
1B4X13, 5, 7, 9, or 1B000Cyber Warfare Operations7753
1C1X13, 5Air Traffic Control3300
1C3X13, 5, 7, 9, or 1C300All-Domain Command and Control Operations2321
1C5X13, 5Battle Management Ops1100
1C5X1D3, 5, 7Battle Management Ops (Weapons Director)3430
1D7919Cyberspace Defense Operations, Superintendent0023
1D7X1M1AL, 1AP, 1AM or 1A03, 5, 7Cyber Defense Operations (Mission Defense Activities)1110
1D7X1P1AN3, 5, 7, 9Cyber Defense Operations (Data Operations)7753
1D7X1Q1AM3, 5, 7Cyber Defense Operations (Enterprise Operations)1110
1D7X1Q1AS3, 5, 7Cyber Defense Operations (Enterprise Operations)2220
1D7X1W1AS3, 5, 7Cyber Defense Operations (Expeditionary Communications)2220
1D7X1W1AM or 1AP3, 5, 7Cyber Defense Operations – (Expeditionary Communications)1110
1D7X3C3, 5Cable and Antenna Defense Operations – Cable and Antenna Operations3000
1H0X17, 9, or 1H000Aerospace Physiology0022
1N2X1A3, 5Signals Intelligence (Electronic Non-Communications Analyst)2000
1N3X1G3, 5, 7Cryptologic Language Analyst (Chinese)3.5320
1N3X1I3, 5, 7Cryptologic Language Analyst (Russian)3.5320
1N3X1K3, 5Cryptologic Language Analyst (Persian)3000
1N4X1A3, 5, 7Cyber Intelligence (Analysis)2220
1N8X13, 5, 7Targeting Analyst3420
1P0X1A3, 5Aircrew Flight Equipment (Ejection Seat Aircraft)2000
1P0X1B3, 5Aircrew Flight Equipment (Non-Ejection Seat Aircraft)2000
1T0X13, 5, 7, 9, or 1T000Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape7753
1Z1X13, 5, 7, 9, or 1Z100Pararescue7753
1Z2X13, 5, 7, 9, or 1Z200Combat control7753
1Z3X13, 5, 7, 9, or 1Z300TACP7753
1Z4X13, 5, 7, 9, or 1Z400Special Reconaissance7753
2A3737Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Craftsman0300
2A3757Advanced Fighter Aircraft Integrated Avionics Craftsman0220
2A3777Tactical Aircraft Maintenance (5th Generation) Craftsman0120
2A3787Remotely Piloted Aircraft Maintenance Craftsman0330
2A3X8A3, 5Remotely Piloted Aircraft Maintenance (MQ-1/MQ-9)1200
2A3X8B3, 5Remotely Piloted Aircraft Maintenance (RQ-4)1200
2A3X5B3, 5Advanced Fighter Aircraft Integrated Avionics (F-35)2200
2A3X5C3, 5Advanced Fighter Aircraft Integrated Avionics (MQ-1/MQ-9/RQ-4)2000
2A5X1A3, 5Airlift/Special Mission Aircraft Maintenance – C-20/C-21/C-22/C-37/C-40/E-4/VC-25)4000
2A5747Refuel/Bomber Aircraft Maintenance Craftsman0110
2A5X4C3, 5Refuel/Bomber Aircraft Maintenance – KC-463300
2A5X4D3, 5Refuel/Bomber Aircraft Maintenance – B-520.5100
2A5X4E3, 5Refuel/Bomber Aircraft Maintenance – B-10200
2A5X4F3, 5Refuel/Bomber Aircraft Maintenance – B-22100
2G0X15, 7, 9, or 2G000Logistics Plans0121
2M0909 or 2M000Missile and Space System Maintenance0002
2M0X1X3, 5, 7Missile and Space System Electronic Maintenance3211
2M0X23, 5, 7Missile and Space System Maintenance3211
2M0X33, 5, 7Missile and Space Facilities3211
2W2X13, 5 , 7Nuclear Weapons4430
3E5X13, 5Engineering1100
3E8X13, 5, 7, 9, or 3E800Explosive Ordnance Disposal54.543
3P0X1A3, 5Security Forces (Military Working Dog Handler)2100
3P0X1B3, 5, 7Security Forces (Combat Arms)1110
4C0X13, 5, 7Mental Health Service2110
4H0X13, 5, 7Respiratory Care Practitioner2110
4J0X23, 5Physical Medicine0200
4J0X2A5, 7Physical Medicine (Orthotic)0450
4N0X1C5, 7Aerospace Medical Service (Independent Duty Medical Technician)0220
4N0X1D3, 5, 7Aerospace Medical Service (Allergy/Immunization Technician)1110
4N0X1F3, 5, 7Aerospace Medical Service (Flight and Operational Medicine)1.51.510
4N0X1G5, 7Aerospace Medical Service (Aeromedical Evacuation)03.53.50
4N0X1H5, 7Aerospace Medical Service (National Registry Paramedic)0420
4N1X1B5, 7Surgical Technologist (Urology)0110
4N1X1C3, 5Surgical Technologist (Orthopedics)1000
4N1X1D3, 5Surgical Technologist (Otorhinolaryngology)2020
4P0X13, 5Pharmacy3000
4R0X1A3, 5Diagnostic Imaging (Nuclear medicine)0200
4R0X1C3, 5Diagnostic Imaging – MRI0200
4V0X1S5, 7Ophthalmic0330
4Y0X1H5, 7, 9Dental hygienist0111
5R0X17, 9, 5R000Religious Affairs0002