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Working in the RAF isn't what you think it is

Published on: 11 Apr 2022

The Royal Air Force is one of the most prestigious organisations in the country. Defending our skies and keeping us safe, many people believe the RAF is all about flying planes, fighting and defending. But, how do you think the planes actually get up there? Those who work in the background in the RAF are the many that make up the force itself. Nearly 40 per cent of the RAF is made up of engineers – and you could be one of them in just four months. Not what you were expecting? Keep reading, as you might be surprised at what working for the RAF includes.


So, as I’ve mentioned, the application process to become an engineer in the RAF takes approximately four months. With Initial Officer training taking 24 weeks and engineering officer training taking 30 weeks, that’s ultimately a year of training – however the benefits can be reaped immediately.

You might be thinking ‘why so much training when I’ve already gained my degree?’ The RAF provide some of the best training you will ever receive, both in leadership and management but also in the ability to make sound engineering decisions even when under pressure. There’s plenty in it for you too. For starters, the lifestyle at the RAF is second to none. It’s one of the most fun jobs around in engineering, where the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ really comes to mind. You’re well paid from day one plus you’re introduced to a group of people who will surely grow to be lifelong friends. I must interject here - you’ve likely heard that before; probably when you joined university. ‘These people will be your friends for life!’ well, actually they won’t. After university, many people drift off in different directions and hardly reconnect after graduation. The RAF is different.  These people indeed will be your lifelong friends. You’ll see them every day, work with them and socialise with them too. You’ll all have plenty in common for you’ll all possess the same passion for engineering, the defence sector and the RAF. You go through a lot together during Initial Officer training and you can’t help but make the bonds that create fantastic friendships.

Of course you’ll need determination, commitment and work really hard during your time at the RAF, so it’s only fair that you get the time you need to relax and unwind. The work/life balance with the RAF is very good, whether you prefer to head straight to the bar after work, go to the gym, enjoy full-scale dining in the Officer’s Mess or head home to your own house and family then the RAF has something to offer you. If you experienced a certain social life at university, the RAF won’t be too different!


A lot of people may think that the concept of working in the RAF is pretty scary, what with all the responsibility you hold from day one. However, at the end of the day the RAF has professional engineers who will lead and manage large teams of highly skilled technical personnel, sometimes under demanding circumstances. Therefore, all of the engineering officers undergo specialist training to prepare them for the role they are about to undertake. As an engineer officer you are indeed given considerable responsibility from your first day, therefore we need to ensure we give you all the skills required to employ this responsibility in the best way. If you ever find yourself struggling, help will always be on hand, so dismiss that drill sergeant vision you’ve been having about joining military personnel, because it’s not like that at the RAF.

Misconceptions and reality:

I’ll be locked in to a 12-year contract
There is a 12-year contract at the RAF (massive job security) but you can leave it just like any other job. It depends on how long you’ve already served to how much notice you need to give. But if you want to leave, you can. You’re not locked in to anything.

It’ll consume my life
There’s more to be said of the RAF other than working all the time. There’s a great social aspect to it and once your working day is complete your time is your own, this includes the option of living in your own house and everything that brings. And don’t forget you get a significant amount of annual leave on top of any reimbursement for time away.

I don’t want the hassle of finding new accommodation & friends when moving my entire life to a new location.
Just like university, your friends and accommodation are all sorted, making it super easy for you to relocate. Your final salary is yours and yours only, while the rest is sorted.

I want to expand my education – won’t this be put on hold whilst I’m in the RAF?
No it won’t. Actually, being in the RAF can give you an accelerated pathway to achieving Charted status with your fees paid. This happens with being affiliated with institutions such as the IET.


All jobs have perks. Some of your friends at university or college will be taking on a new job solely based on its benefits.  As if I haven’t mentioned enough already, I haven’t mentioned the perks of the job! The RAF offers incentives for each stage of your life and career, so you can ensure that throughout the years you work in the RAF, extras won’t go out of date. For example, the RAF has a fantastic housing scheme that helps you to buy your own home, they can even pay your travelling costs to get to work – so you don’t have to live on the RAF base itself if that’s not your thing. If you want to live on base, you’re entitled to heavily subsidised housing where you can live amongst your colleagues and friends. If you have children there’s an excellent boarding school allowance package available.  

As well as the long-term perks, there’s a fantastic gym and sporting facility on site, great medical care (which is better than most private medical insurance), 30 days annual leave, plus bank holidays (most office jobs go from 20-25 days a year) not to mention additional leave if you’re deployed. You’ll also be able to take part in a non-contributory pension scheme too, which means all of your pay is yours.

So, back to engineering in the RAF. Why is so much of the RAF made up of engineers and only 9% of it being pilots? It’s because they are a technical service who operates at the cutting edge of technical advancements; this equipment needs to be maintained and supported to ensure it is ready when it’s needed and that’s the roles of the engineers and technicians. With the pending arrival of the new F-35 aircraft, you can guarantee that you’ll be working with some of the most advanced technology in the world.

There’s no such thing as a ‘typical day’ in the RAF. Every day is different. You’ll learn new things constantly. You’ll get the support you need if and when you need it. You’ll help others, strive to be the best in your team, get all the perks listed above and possess the pride of serving your country at the same time. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. Apply today.