After the Air Force separated from the Army in 1947, it retained the Army's system of MOS occupation codes, modifying them in 1954. These were 5-digit codes; for example a maintenance data systems specialist was 39150 and a weather technician was 25170. In October 1993, the Air Force implemented a new system of AFSCs, aligning occupations with the forcewide restructuring that was implemented under Merrill McPeak. These reduced officer AFSCs from 216 to 123 and enlisted AFSCs from 203 to 176.
The enlisted AFSC consists of five alphanumeric characters:
Career group (Numerical)
Special Duty Identifiers, typically used for Airmen chosen for specialized jobs
Reporting Identifiers, typically used for Airmen in transitive status: trainees, awaiting retraining, prisoner, etc.
Career field (Alpha, different for each)
Career field subdivision (Numerical, different for each)
1 – Helper (recruits or retrainees in technical school)
3 – Apprentice (technical school graduates applying and expanding their job skills)
5 – Journeyman (experienced Airmen functioning as front-line technicians and initial trainers)
7 – Craftsman (Airmen with many years of experience in the specialty, responsible for supervision and training)
9 – Superintendent (Airmen in the grade of Senior Master Sergeant and above, with at least 14 years of experience, responsible for broad supervision)
10 – Chief Enlisted Manager (CEM) (Airmen in the grade of Chief Master Sergeant responsible for policy and direction on a broad scale, from the individual squadron to HQ USAF levels)
Specific AFSC (Numeric, specialty within career field subdivision)
The specific AFSC is 1 (Crypto-Linguist Specializing in a Germanic Language)
For some specialties, an alpha prefix is used to denote a special ability, skill, qualification or system designator not restricted to a single AFSC (such as "X" for an aircrew position). Additionally, an alpha suffix (a “shredout”) denotes positions associated with particular equipment or functions within a single specialty (an Afrikaans specialist in the Germanic linguist field would have an "E" shredout). Using the above example, the AFSC X1N371E would refer to a Germanic Cryptologic Linguist who is aircrew qualified and specializes in Afrikaans.
Here is an extended listing of AFSC groups. Most categories have numerous actual AFSCs in them.
95A0 - Non-Extended Active Duty AFRC or ANG USAFA Liaison Officer or CAP Liaison Officer
96D0 - Officer not available in awarded AFSC for cause
96U0 - Unclassified Officer
96V0 - Unallotted
97E0 - Executive Officer
99A0 - Unspecified AFSC
During the course of their Air Force careers, Airmen sometimes switch jobs and receive multiple AFSCs to denote training in multiple specialties. A Primary AFSC (PAFSC) is the designation for the specialty in which the individual possesses the highest skill level and is, therefore, the AFSC that he or she is best qualified to perform. The Duty AFSC (DAFSC) reflects the actual manpower position the Airman is assigned to. The Control AFSC (CAFSC) is a management tool to make assignments, assist in determining training requirements, and consider individuals for promotion. Often an enlisted Airman's PAFSC will reflect a higher skill level than his or her CAFSC since the CAFSC skill level is tied to rank while the PAFSC skill level is tied to performance and education.
Usually, the PAFSC, DAFSC, and CAFSC will be the same. However, situations such as retraining, special duties, or Air Force-level changes necessitate these distinctions. Additionally, Airmen that have retrained into multiple specialties will have several Secondary AFSCs (2AFSC, 3AFSC, etc.).
Special Experience Identifiers (SEIs) are established to identify special experience and training. The Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory (AFECD) contains the complete list of authorized SEIs and includes designation criteria and authorized AFSC combinations. (AFI 36-2101)
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