UPT Applicants

In general, you are eligible for a UPT slot as soon as you earn a bachelor’s degree up to your 33rd birthday. On average, it takes 10-15 months after you are offered the job before you start UPT. This will vary from squadron to squadron, but you need to add that 10-15 months into your timeline calculations.

Since it takes about a year before you’ll start training, most units will accept UPT applications as early as one semester or even one year before your college graduation. On the other hand, most squadrons will place a cap on the applicants’ maximum age at the application deadline to 31-32 years old to ensure anyone they hire will make it to UPT before their 33rd birthday.

If you start UPT after your 33rd birthday, you will need an age waiver. Historically, these have a very high approval rating once they’re submitted. Still, the trick would be to convince the squadron that you’re applying to that you’re worth the extra headache to go through the process when several other qualified candidates don’t need it.

Recommended Timeline

To maximize your chances for any UPT board, you’ll want to have a Private Pilot Certificate, high AFOQT and PCSM scores, a good GPA, 3 solid letters of recommendation, and a polished cover letter and resume. That’s a lot to accomplish if you wait to the last minute, so here’s a recommended timeline to ensure you maximize your performance with each section:

  1. Earn a Private Pilot Certificate – Give yourself 3-6 months to complete, and try to finish it before taking the AFOQT.
  2. Maintain a high GPA – Obviously, this applies throughout college, but GPA is another metric to compare you against your competition.
  3. Take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) – 7+ months before your application deadline
    • Six months is required in between tests (you can only take it twice — three times with a waiver).
    • 7+ months gives you time to take it a second time plus an extra month to get the results before the application deadline.
  4. Take the Test of Basic Aviation Skills (TBAS) – 7+ months before the application deadline
    • Six months is required in between tests (you can only take it twice).
    • 7+ months gives you time to take it a second time plus an extra month to get the results before the application deadline.
  5. Letters of Recommendation – 3+ months before the application deadline to request and collect all of your letters of recommendation
  6. Create/Customize Cover Letter and Resume – 4-6 weeks before the application deadline (this is where we can help!)

We’ll discuss each of these in more detail later in the course.

Rated Applicants

Each squadron has different needs, and those needs will fluctuate with each application cycle. Since you have no control over what that squadron is looking for that particular year (or if that squadron will even have a hiring board that year), we recommend that you start the application process two years before your anticipated separation from active duty.

Similar to how a college football team has recruiting classes, a squadron may have something similar in place. They may set a max number of pilots they are willing to hire from each “year group” (the year you commissioned). Unlike active duty, the Guard/Reserve is limited to how many people they can have in certain ranks. There’s a lot more nuance that would go beyond this course’s scope, but in oversimplified terms, this mainly becomes an issue when pilots are eligible for an O-5 promotion (if AGR …aka full-time). Squadrons don’t want to create a bottleneck at the top during the promotion process (e.g., you can’t promote a rock star because there are too many other guys waiting for promotions in front of that person), so they limit the number of people in each year group. So, going back to the football analogy, if you’re offered a slot two years out, you’re essentially an early commit to that squadron and secure one of the few slots they have in that particular year group.

Applying two years out also allows you to apply to the same squadron multiple times. Typically, squadrons have a hiring board once a year, though not always. That means, if you weren’t selected this year, it gives you a chance to be selected on the next board and still before you depart from active duty. It is not uncommon to require multiple application attempts at a particular squadron before being offered the job, so being able to apply multiple times will be a big plus in the squadron’s eyes (it shows that you really want to be there).

If you’re in the active duty Air Force and offered a Guard/Reserve slot, you can use that commitment to potentially curtail several months off of your active duty commitment through a program called PALACE CHASE.

Finally, starting the process early gives you and your family peace of mind. Leaving active duty can be stressful, so the sooner you can solidify your future, the easier it becomes for everyone.