A guide on how to join an RAF apprenticeship (And benefits)

Updated 8 August 2023

The Royal Air Force (RAF) defends Britain's skies and projects its affluence and power to the world. It monitors threats in space, deters conflicts and identifies and manages dangers before they escalate through intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and rapid deployment of personnel globally. Knowing more about how to become an apprentice with the RAF can help you decide if this is the right choice for you. In this article, we explain what an RAF apprenticeship is, outline how to join it in five steps and discuss the benefits of working for the RAF.

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What is an RAF apprenticeship?

The RAF apprenticeship is a programme that aims to train apprentices on how to defend and attack from the skies. The UK military defence consists of different arms, such as the Army, Royal Navy and RAF, which offer over 20,000 programmes, making them the country's largest apprenticeship providers. The RAF itself offers about 23 different apprenticeships you can choose from, with a salary and bonuses.

The RAF is the youngest of these three military arms, as its creation dates back to the end of the First World War. Operating since 1918, it provides an agile, adaptable and capable military force. Its goal is to assist the ministry of defence in protecting the nation and its overseas territories from terrorism and threats. It helps the government achieve its foreign policy aim, which is to promote international peace and security. Undertaking this apprenticeship can provide candidates with great opportunities, such as good pay, world-class training and gaining nationally respected and recognised qualifications.

Related: 13 types of jobs in the British Armed Forces (And salaries)

How to join an RAF apprenticeship

Below are five steps for joining this apprenticeship:

1. Complete online registration and an application form

The first step to joining the RAF apprenticeship is to apply and register your area of interest. Before you reach this step, consider speaking with an Armed Forces Career Advisor, who can educate you on the options you have. You can also visit the RAF's website for more details regarding life in the RAF and available career options. You can find information about the Armed Forces Career Office (AFCO) nearest to your location through the institution's website.

Take your time to do thorough research. Once you've decided to pursue a career in the RAF, you can sign your contract and submit your application. Remember that the minimum age to apply is 15 years and nine months. You can apply for specialist roles, such as medical officer, until you're 55 years old.

Related: Average fighter pilot salary and the factors that affect it

2. Take the Defence Aptitude Assessment (DAA)

The first step of the RAF selection process is taking the DAA, which comprises various aptitude tests. Their aim is to evaluate and determine the careers in the RAF in which you're most likely to excel. Here are the elements of the DAA:

  • a four-minute work rate test consisting of 20 questions

  • a 15-minute verbal reasoning test consisting of 20 questions

  • a ten-minute memory test consisting of 20 questions

  • a four-minute spatial reasoning test consisting of ten questions

  • an 11-minute electrical comprehension test consisting of 21 questions

  • a ten-minute mechanical comprehension test consisting of 20 questions

  • two numerical reasoning tests, one with 15 questions to complete in 11 minutes and the other consisting of 12 questions to complete in four minutes

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3. Attend an AFCO interview

Once you've passed the DAA, you can move on to the next step, which is an interview at the AFCO. Interviewers may ask you questions that focus on the RAF and the reasons for your application. They may want to determine why you chose a particular role and evaluate your knowledge of the RAF, including where it's currently serving, its history, equipment and squadrons. They may also seek to assess your motivation and the extent of preparation you've made so far. Take your time to consider these key areas and prepare your responses in advance to help you succeed.

Related: What is an armed forces operational officer? (With skills)

4. Pass the medical and fitness assessments

During the medical and fitness assessment tests, the medical team looks at your general health with an emphasis on your eyesight, hearing and body mass index. They typically ask about your health and possible illnesses. Once you respond to questions about your medical history, the team screens you for any other underlying health problems that may hinder you from performing your role. The RAF fitness test usually comprises three elements, including the completion of a 2.4-kilometre run and a push-up and sit-up test.

Related: How to become an air marshal (With a list of air force ranks)

5. Complete pre-recruitment training

The last step of the recruitment process is pre-recruitment training, which acquaints recruits with what the intended fundamental training comprises. It often takes place at RAF Halton and takes about three days. During this training, you typically undertake further fitness assessment tests to affirm that you've maintained the fitness level you attained during your initial test. You can then take a functional skills test relating to the level of position for which you're applying. After you receive details on your required level, you can take a fundamental skill builder test in English and maths.

Related: The process for joining the Royal Navy (With benefits)

Benefits of joining the RAF

Being a member of the RAF typically entitles you to a variety of benefits, ranging from discounts to bonuses. Here are some of their examples:

  • Pay: As an entry-level RAF member, you typically receive a salary during your training and a reduced daily cost of living.

  • Discounts: As a member of the RAF, you have the right to a certain level of discount through the Defence Discount Service. Within a year, you can receive the privilege of getting about a third of standard rail fares in any city within the country and a discount on your railcard for £21.

  • Sports: You can participate in a variety of sports to develop core military skills. If you display talent in any sport, the RAF can create time for your training and sponsor you to compete.

  • Food: The RAF provide subsidised on-base catering for all your three meals. You typically get nutritious and fresh food for £38 per week.

  • Accommodation: While living in the mess, you can get fully furnished apartments at very affordable prices. You can also get accommodation outside the mess at a subsidised cost.

  • Health: The RAF provides all its personnel with a great dental and healthcare service that's readily available and free.

  • Call forward of leave: This service allows the RAF members to call forward up to ten days of their annual leave allowance from the next leave year.

  • Flexible work: The RAF provides all their staff with the possibility of flexible working hours that a member's line manager approves. This can enable personal development, let a member take care of a child or relative, or help them balance their work and personal life.

  • Time abroad: The RAF covers the relocation, food and accommodation costs and provides you with extra allowance, especially if you're in operation. This allows you to maintain an active overseas presence and still receive your pay.

  • Variable start and finish times: Being a member of the RAF provides you with the benefit of starting and finishing your work at different working hours from the ones that are standard within your unit.

  • Working from home: As a member of the RAF, you can work from home or any appropriate location, which can help you combine personal commitments and work. You can either perform hybrid work or regularly work from home, subject to a formal agreement in writing.

  • Parental leave: As a service member in the RAF, you may leave the RAF because of pregnancy or return after maternity leave, which can last up to 26 weeks. Some service members have the right to a maximum of two weeks of parental leave.

Related: How to become an RAF pilot (With definition and steps)

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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