From what I have read, the paths to become a fixed-wing pilot in the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, are to go to a military academy, enroll in ROTC in college, or go to an officer training school after earning a bachelors degree. In any case, a person will know if they are going to become a pilot before they become a part of the military.

For someone who is willing to become an officer in the military but is not offered a pilot slot when they join, is it possible for them to change their occupation before their contract has ended?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Voting to close because this is a question best addressed to a recruiter (and then triple-checking their answer). $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ It's still about Aviation, even so. And, "xyz can better answer that question than we can" isn't listed as a reason to close an otherwise on-topic question. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ +1 We shouldn't be too trigger happy to close questions! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ But isn’t this about military career path rather than aviation per se. $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 9:42

2 Answers 2


In the USAF, it has, historically, been common for rated Navigators to be selected for pilot training, and possible, though less common, for young officers in other career tracks as well.

That said, this process is

  • competitive (so certainly not guaranteed for a particular individual), and
  • dependent on the "needs of the service", so what is going on "now" may be entirely different from what was going on "then".

Also, the demand for UAV operators may have changed this dynamic considerably; it may be a far different process to become a "drone pilot" from a non-rated field, than to become a "real pilot." Talking with active duty officers (not recruiters) who are up to date on this landscape is indispensable for getting the most current picture.


Navy and Air Force in the US regularly see migration between officer specialties.

A friend who had a non-pilot Navy job, now flies patrol missions.

A co-worker who had a logistics job (math major in college) with the Air Force, later put in for pilot training, and was accepted. He eventually was assigned to Beale and flew U-2s and became an instructor pilot in the same aircraft.

Similarly, there are many pilots trained, who eventually take "desk jobs".

It has been told many times, that the best time to maneuver to a pilot job is prior to extending one's contract. Changing mid-contract may be problematic.

There are numerous limitations, age, physical, and there are also qualifying examinations involved.

I do not know the current regulations, but one might check out the reserves for opportunities. I know one right seater in 747s who is now flying A-10s on his days off. He has been deployed three times.


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