The Community College of the Air Force (CCAF)

Updated: July 11, 2021
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    Just by enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, you have already started earning your associate’s degree! Once you have completed basic training, your job-specific tech school, a professional military education course, and a few civilian college classes, you could be really close to earning your Associate Degree in Applied Science (AAS) Degree from the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF).

    If you want to find out more about the CCAF and how you can start on the path to a college degree, read on!

    What is the CCAF?

    The Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) is Headquartered at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and is dedicated to the higher education needs of Air Force enlisted members. The CCAF is a federally-chartered degree-granting institution accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    The CCAF helps airmen achieve their academic goals by using on-the-job training and traditional educational programs as part of a flexible degree program that grants military members an Associate Degree in Applied Science (AAS). The CCAF partners with more than 113 affiliated Air Force technical schools. The school has more than 250,000 registered active, guard, and reserve enlisted personnel who are stationed in 37 states and 9 foreign countries. This makes the CCAF the world’s largest community college system. The CCAF annually awards over 22,000 AAS degrees from 71 degree programs. Since it awarded its first degree in 1976, the CCAF has issued more than one million transcripts, and they have awarded more than 553,000 AAS degrees.

    How do I enroll in the CCAF?

    When you enter the Air Force and are assigned to an AF specialty, you are automatically admitted to the CCAF and registered in the AAS degree program designed especially for your Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC).

    Is there tuition for a CCAF AAS degree?

    The CCAF AAS degree consists of technical training, professional military training (leadership and management courses as part of military progression), credit by examination (CLEP/DANTES), and college classes (transfer credit or taken after you enlist). The only tuition you have to pay is for civilian college classes you take to satisfy that part of your degree. Remember, you’re eligible to use tuition assistance or the tuition assistance “Top-Up” program to help pay for these classes. Check with your base education office for details.

    How long do I have to complete my degree?

    You’ll have six years to finish your degree. You must also complete all degree requirements before separating, retiring, or becoming a commissioned officer. If you are combat-wounded or injured airmen, and started, but did not finish your degree, you can complete your degree after separation or retirement.

    I heard that I have to get my CCAF to get promoted to senior NCO?

    That used to be true, but recent changes to Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2502, you don’t need a degree from the CCAF for promotion. That doesn’t mean that the Air Force does not value an academic degree. It is still a factor that weighs in the promotion to the top-tier enlisted ranks.

    How many credits does it take to get my AAS degree?

    The Associate Degree in Applied Science (AAS) requires a minimum of 64 semester hours. You must have a minimum of 16 semester hours of resident coursework completed in a CCAF affiliated school to graduate.

    Here are the degree requirements for a CCAF AAS Degree:

    Semester Hours
    Technical Education24See your individual academic degree program in the CCAF Catalog for specific technical education requirements.
    Leadership, Management & Military Studies6This includes Airman Leadership School, NCO Academy, and the Air Force Senior NCO Academy.
    Physical Education4Basic Military Training satisfies this requirement.
    General Education15This includes courses taken, transferred, or credit by examination. They must all be from an accredited institution.
    Communication6Either 6 hours of written communication or 3 hours of oral communication and 3 hours of written communication meet this requirement.
    Mathematics3See the CCAF catalog for requirements.
    Social Science3See the CCAF catalog for requirements.
    Humanities3See the CCAF catalog for requirements.
    Program Elective15See the CCAF catalog for requirements.

    Tuition Free Career Development Programs & Scholarships

    The Air Force has several programs designed to assist outstanding Airmen with joining the Officer ranks and widening their career paths. Here are highlights of each:

    The LEAD program (Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development): Exceptional Airmen are nominated by superiors to attend the Air Force Academy or Air Force Prep Academy. Both are tuition-free and designed to turn you into an AF Officer.

    The SOAR program (Scholarship for Outstanding Airman to ROTC): ROTC scholarships for enlisted Airmen. These are for 2 to 4-year college programs and require the Airman to exit the service, pursue higher education, and then join up as an Officer. The scholarships cover all fees and the majority of tuition costs.

    The ASCP program (Airman Scholarship & Commissioning Program): A scholarship that requires you to separate from the military to complete your studies. This program is specifically to help you complete a bachelor’s degree in certain fields (such as nursing, technical and non-technical programs, and foreign language) where the US Military needs more officers. Selected candidates will receive $15,000 per yer for tuition and fees plus $600 for textbooks.

    Continuing Education

    The Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program (NECP): This program is for airmen interested in the nursing profession – a high demand field in and outside of the military. If accepted into this bachelor’s program, you remain on active duty and receive up to $15,000 for tuition and fees annually for three years plus an allowance for books. Upon completion of the program, you will receive your commission when you pass your licensing exam and follow an AF Officer’s career path.

    The POC-ERP program (Professional Officers Course-Early Release Program): Similar to the ASCP program but gives the participant the opportunity to go into the AF Reserves. If any of the Officer specific programs are something you are interested in – talk to your base Employment Readiness staff or your Wing leadership. You’ll need to use your GI Bill benefits, scholarships, or grants to pay for your degree program. When the degree is completed you’ll be commissioned as a second lieutenant and  must commit to a minimum of four years of active duty.

    The Physician Assistant Training Program: This program targets enlisted Airmen who are interested in becoming a Physician’s Assistant. The Air Force will put you through training while you are on active duty and you will then continue to serve your country as a PA and have a great transferrable skill when you ETS.

    History of the CCAF

    In the 1970s, Air Force visionaries wanted a way for enlisted airmen to gain recognition for the Air Force training they received. So, after a series of conferences, Air Force leaders in the training arena recommended the founding of an Air Force community college. On April 1, 1972, after approval of the Air Force Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force, the Community College of the Air Force was born.

    The concept of the CCAF degree centers around career-field focused education offered by Air Force technical schools, a core of general education from accredited civilian colleges, and management education provided by Air Force and civilian sources. The CCAF grew out of a certificate-based institution in the mid 1970s into a degree-granting institution in July of 1976, when President Ford signed Public Law 94-361, authorizing the Air Training Command (ATC) commander to confer the Associate’s Degree in Applied Science (AAS).


    You have a great opportunity as an airman to get your college degree. Just by finishing basic training and tech school, you are well on your way to earning your Associate’s Degree in Applied Science from the CCAF. If you took college classes before you joined the Air Force, you are that much closer to your AAS degree. You can also use your AAS degree as a stepping stone to an advanced degree. Why not reach for the stars and turn your AAS into a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

    You have many different education resources as part of the US Air Force. Take time to research and see which is the best route for you. If you are interested in going from enlisted to Officer, look at all your different options. The Air Force, in particular, has many different career paths for enlisted who want to become an Officer. AF Tuition Assistance and the college credit you earn while doing your daily tasks may be just what you need to take your next advancement exam.

    Once you separate or retire from the military, your Forever GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits can also help you get that advanced degree and land you a post-military job with great pay and career potential.

    So, make an appointment with your base education office and explore all that the CCAF can do for you and your career, both on active duty and post-military.

    About The AuthorJim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.

    Written by Team