woman in yellow sweater standing beside brown metal railings

This Is How You Build Your Career And Go To College At The Same Time

What does it mean to serve your country in the United States Air Force? Why not ask the Airmen who do it themselves? In partnership with the Air Force, Thought Catalog is giving you answers to the most frequently asked questions about serving as an Airman.

When I started my college search, I knew I wanted to be a writer, to share my words with the world and pursue language and written expression through whatever means—freelance work, blogging, journalism, poetry, short story writing, novel writing, or teaching the English language. For me, the path was clear. I would go to school, get a degree in both an English and education related field, pursue writing on the side, and build myself as both a teacher and writer.

For my little sister, five years younger and tremendously fearless, her path was vastly different. She wanted to pursue criminology and was interested in the Air Force. At the time her search began, I knew nothing of the Air Force, what enlisting entailed, or how it could shape her future. I wasn’t sure how, or if she would even be able to pursue the Air Force while in college. I wasn’t sure if she would have to give up one passion for the other. I wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to afford a college education at a private university. And I wasn’t sure how, or if the Air Force could help her build a potential career.

But through witnessing her freshman year experience and from the experiences of other Airmen around the nation, I’ve learned that enlisting not only offers individuals a direct road into their career field, but kick starts their journey by helping them get a college degree. I now see how this path, though very different than my own, is an amazing opportunity.

Through the Air Force, you can develop the skills needed in whatever line of work you choose.

People join the Air Force from many different places and walks of life. Some are traditional students, enlisting right out of high school; others join much later to pay for school, to pursue a different line of work, or to open doors for other career paths, such as being a civil engineer, a scientist, a policeman/woman, a firefighter, or an FBI agent, for example.

Some people join to serve their country. Some join to find a road to college that might not have been an opportunity based on grades, test scores, or academic performance alone. Some join because of the many educational and health benefits. And some join to be a part of the military, to gain leadership skills, and to do really incredible things outside of the traditional 9-5 career path.

Through the Air Force, you can prepare for your future.

When I started looking at colleges, I had no idea that there were programs that allowed you to pursue both your career and education simultaneously—that’s one of the biggest, and best parts of the Air Force—you are not only learning about, and preparing yourself for a career, you are also working on a college degree, which only opens future doors for you.

There is no giving up of one for the other; in the Air Force you are able, and encouraged to do both.

Through the Air Force, you learn valuable things about yourself and what motivates you.

The Air Force provides skills to build yourself both personally and professionally. Not only are you put in pressure situations that test your strength and skill, but you discover what motivates you, encourages you, and how you can push yourself even further than you ever imagined.

Through the Air Force, you can create and cultivate life-long relationships.

The Air Force is not only about career and future readiness, it’s about learning how to work with other people, communicate, grow, and build yourself up, as well as your fellow servicemen/women.

In the program you will learn how to get along with others, support others, and work together, despite differences. You will get to know people of different ages, from many different cultures and backgrounds. And this knowledge will give you insight that allows you to flourish in your future career and personal life.

Through the Air Force, you can build your skills and strengths, readying you for a successful future.

So often it is seen that you have to choose one path—either you join the work force or you go to college. The Air Force doesn’t make you pick one or the other; instead, it offers the opportunity for both, either at the same time, or one before or after the other, allowing you to continuously grow and build yourself as an individual. This opportunity is invaluable. Not only will you be ready to serve in whatever capacity, but you will have a sense of yourself, your strengths, and your abilities.

This post was sponsored by the US Air Force


Marisa is a writer, poet, & editor. She is the author of Somewhere On A Highway, a poetry collection on self-discovery, growth, love, loss and the challenges of becoming.

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