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Air Force Officer

Āpiha Tauārangi

Air force officers plan and supervise flying missions, repair and maintenance of planes, helicopters and radio equipment.


Air force officer cadets usually earn

$51K per year

Squadron leaders can earn

$101K-$133K per year

Source: NZ Defence Force, 2023

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an air force officer are average due to high competition for limited positions.


Pay for air force officers varies depending on specialist trade, experience and rank.

  • Air force officer cadets usually earn $51,0000 a year.
  • Pilot officers usually earn between $71,000 and $84,000.
  • Flying officers usually earn between $78,000 and $98,000.
  • Flight lieutenants usually earn between $90,000 and $117,000.
  • Squadron leaders can earn between $101,000 and $133,000.

Air force officers may also get food and accommodation allowances, free medical and dental care.

Source: New Zealand Defence Force, 2023.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Air force officers may do some or all of the following:

  • plan flight paths, fly and navigate planes and helicopters.
  • supervise maintenance and repair of aircraft and ground equipment
  • budget, and manage resources assigned to them
  • plan and provide air movement of freight and personnel
  • design ground to air communication networks
  • help in search and rescue operations, and disaster relief efforts in New Zealand and overseas
  • organise and conduct training.

Air force officers also have duties related to their area of specialisation. For example, air force pilots carry out tasks related to that role, such as preparing flight plans and flying aircraft.

Skills and knowledge

Air force officers need to have:

  • leadership, management and budgeting skills
  • knowledge of air force regulations, tactics and protocol, including health and safety, ethics, and conduct
  • knowledge of drills and parade requirements
  • knowledge of how to operate and maintain weapons, radio and specialist aviation equipment
  • problem solving skills
  • first aid and rescue skills.

Air force officers also need to have skills and knowledge related to their field of specialisation or trade. For example, air force intelligence officers need knowledge of mission planning and electronic warfare capability.

Working conditions

Air force officers:

  • usually work regular business hours but may work long or irregular hours on training exercises or when on deployment
  • work and train at air force bases in New Zealand and overseas
  • work in all weather conditions and may have to work in combat situations
  • may spend long periods away from home on overseas assignments.

Entry requirements

To be eligible for air force officer basic training you need to:

  • be at least 17 years old to apply (18 years old at the completion of basic training)
  • have no criminal convictions
  • have a minimum of NCEA Level 2 with 18 credits in English, maths and science
  • hold a current and clean driver's licence
  • be medically and physically fit
  • be a New Zealand citizen, or a New Zealand residence class visa holder.

If you meet the above requirements, you will also need to:

  • pass aptitude and fitness tests
  • attend a formal interview for your selected trade (area of specialisation)
  • attend and pass a residential selection board.

Some trades differ in their age requirements, and may require you to have NCEA credits in specific subjects or a tertiary degree.

On-the-job training

New air force officer cadets are posted to RNZAF Woodbourne for 26 weeks to complete their initial Officer Training Course.

Secondary education

NCEA Level 2 with a minimum of 18 credits in English, maths and science is required to be an air warfare officer or pilot. NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training for all other types of air force officers. Useful subjects include English, maths, science and technology subjects, engineering, international relations, history and physical education.

Personal requirements

Air force officers need to be:

  • disciplined and organised
  • confident
  • careful and accurate, with an eye for detail
  • efficient and able to work well under pressure
  • able to manage and lead people
  • able to solve problems and make decisions
  • able to give instructions well.

Useful experience

Useful experience for air force officers includes:

  • previous flying experience or work with planes
  • involvement in youth organisations such as Scouts, Young Eagles and Cadets
  • work or sporting experience in a team environment
  • experience in a trade, such as automotive mechanics, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering.

Physical requirements

Air force officers must pass air force fitness tests, so they need to be fit, healthy and strong, with good hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses). Some positions require you to have normal colour vision.

Find out more about training

New Zealand Defence Force
0800 136 723 -

What are the chances of getting a job?

Chances of getting a job as an air force officer are average as the low turnover of staff means the Air Force only recruits for a small number of positions each year. Competition for these positions is high.

The New Zealand Air Force is made up of around 2911 staff.

Diversity of staff important

The Air Force is committed to diversity, and wants to increase the number of women and have more of a mix of cultures. Women typically make up about 17% of Air Force staff.

Chances good for some specialist roles

Your chances of being accepted into basic air force officer training are better if you apply for the following trades:

  • a communications and information systems officer (CIS Officer)
  • a supply officer.

Defence Force only employer

Air force officers work for the New Zealand Defence Force in New Zealand and overseas.


  • Air Force News, 'The RNZAF in 2097?' April 2017, (
  • Defence Careers website, 'Army Intake Schedule', accessed July 2017, (
  • New Zealand Defence Force, 'Defence White Paper 2016', June 2016, (
  • New Zealand Defence Force, 'Future35 Our Strategy to 2035', accessed July 2017, (
  • New Zealand Defence Force, 'New Zealand Government Defence Capability Plan 2016', (
  • New Zealand Defence Force, 'The 2015-2016 Annual Report', accessed July 2017, (
  • Patterson, J, 'NZ Defence Force to get $20bn Upgrade', 8 June 2016, (

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Air force officers may progress in rank to:

  • pilot officer
  • flying officer
  • flight lieutenant
  • squadron leader
  • wing commander
  • group captain
  • air commodore
  • air vice-marshal
  • air marshal.

Air force officers may specialise in: 

  • aviation
  • engineering
  • hospitality
  • intelligence, IT and communications
  • logistics and administration
  • medical and health.
A helicopter hovers in a blue and cloudy sky with a person dangling below on a rope

Air force officers plan and fly flights and missions in fixed wing aircraft or helicopters

Last updated 28 August 2023