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Your CCAF degree is a perfect starting point

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Dan Wells
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Staff Superintendent
On a recent deployment to the Middle East, I had the opportunity to talk to dozens of people about setting and achieving goals. I wasn't surprised to hear that getting promoted and preparing for the future were common goals for nearly everyone I talked to. However, I was surprised to find many of these hard working Airmen didn't really know how the Community College of the Air Force can help them tackle their goals. If you have similar goals, you need to check out my top five reasons why a CCAF degree is the perfect starting point and stepping stone for your future.

-- The Air Force places a very high emphasis on off-duty education for career progression. Competition for promotion and awards in the Air Force is tough and having a CCAF degree highlights those who are ready for advancement or recognition. Selection boards for Below the Zone, Stripes for Exceptional Performers promotions, awards, special duty assignments and promotion to senior and chief master sergeant all use off duty education as a determining factor. In fact, you can't receive a senior rater's endorsement on your enlisted performance report without a CCAF degree. So, if you plan to get promoted past master sergeant, then holding a CCAF degree is a must.

-- If you choose to go for a commission, then the CCAF is the perfect place to start. Having your career field CCAF degree completed shows your dedication and commitment to the Air Force. It also gives you an interim goal to achieve on your way to completing the required bachelor's degree. Knocking out the CCAF degree will also motivate you to move on to your next course of study and give you more options for your future.

-- None of us will be in the Air Force forever. When you do get out, there are many more job opportunities for someone with a degree and these jobs have much higher salaries. Having a degree shows a company that you are qualified and worth the money they would pay to have you work for them. Employers also interpret having a college degree as a sign that you are serious about the job, know how to learn and can achieve goals. According to figures taken from the Yahoo Education website, you can earn approximately 20 - 30 percent more with an associate's degree than with a high school diploma while enjoying a 30 percent lower unemployment rate. Furthermore, smart employers may wonder why you didn't take advantage of education benefits while you were in the military.

-- You are entitled to education benefits for serving in the military. If you don't take advantage of them, you are throwing away money and opportunities you deserve. USA Today lists the current cost of tuition and fees for the average community college at $2,963. Multiplied by two and you are paying $5,926 while spending two years in class to get the associates degree you could have for free.

-- Free. That's right; you can get your CCAF degree for free. Make an appointment with the education office to find out what classes you need. Then stop by the library and pick up a College Level Examination Program or Defense Activity Non-Traditional Education Support study guide for one of those subjects. The guide will also suggest other books to help with your preparation. After a week or two of studying, make an appointment to take the test. It'll take about an hour or two and you're done. If you pass the test you just earned three to six credits depending on the subject. On the same deployment I mentioned earlier, a highly motivated staff sergeant CLEPed all the requirements for his CCAF with the exception of Speech. The Speech CLEP wasn't offered at that location or he would have completed his Associates degree in just one deployment.

You don't need to wait for a deployment; you can start working on those goals of promotion and preparing for your future today. As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."