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CCAF degree... What's the point?

Managing one's education, career and personal life can be a worthwhile balancing act. ( U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Marcy Glass)

Managing one's education, career and personal life can be a worthwhile balancing act. ( U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Marcy Glass)

Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- You are new to the Air Force. You check in to your unit, meet new people, worry that you might not remember everyone's names. You even get lost, twice. You are nervous and excited all at the same time. Your peers seem nice. Your boss sits you down and gives you his initial expectations and you wonder how you will ever be that smart. You see that some of the people in the office have "I-love-me walls" where they have awards and diplomas from the degrees that they earned. You are interested in this thing they call the Community College of the Air Force degree. You remember hearing about it when you were signing up, and your tech school certificate has something that says a certain number of credit hours earned on it, but what on earth is it? And why should you care? You've been interested in education, but why earn a CCAF degree when you can jump right in to the bachelor's degree you've been interested in?

All enlisted service members need to earn their CCAF degrees. We as leaders should be encouraging our Airmen to get their CCAF degree. We tell them to get their educations, but what do we know about the degree opportunities and how can we help them succeed?

Many Airmen get started with all of the drive in the world but somewhere along the way they get tainted. They hear the nay-sayers complain about all of their negative experiences. Isn't it our responsibility to be a positive influence in our Airmen's lives? We should have the answers when they come to us with questions.

There are many excuses why not to earn a CCAF degree, but there are more reasons why an Airman should. Some people complain that going to school takes too much time. Others believe that a CCAF degree would not benefit them after leaving the Air Force. Some even state that they are happy with where they are at in their lives right now and are not interested in school.

Earning a CCAF degree takes too much time...

Really? How many hours do we spend communicating on social media, going out with friends, watching television or playing video games?

For a student to achieve their CCAF degree, they need to have 64 semester hours of coursework. Credit hours are not earned in a traditional manner however. When the student arrives on station they have already earned four hours for physical education during basic training and additional technical credits towards their degree. Only five civilian courses need to be taken. A student has the option to earn up to a total of 30 semester hours in the technical and civilian coursework areas through college level testing. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?

"The Community College of the Air Force degree is a benefit that the Air Force provides its Airmen. No other branch of service can directly translate military training and education into college credit, or award accredited college degrees to its enlisted service members," said Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht, former CCAF commandant.

So why not take a little bit of that social time and use it towards taking a class?

How can someone say that earning an education takes too much time? Today one can attend evening classes or even earn an entire degree online. Many schools offer opportunities to attend school, communicate with their instructors and do all of their library research without ever getting out of their pajamas or entering a classroom.

"Education needs to be a priority in an Airman's life. It's an investment in yourself and your future," said Albrecht. "Each Airman must prioritize those things that compete for his or her time...mission, family, friends, community and recreation."

Some believe that a CCAF degree will not benefit a person outside of the Air Force.

Facts show that this belief is incorrect. Many colleges will take the credit hours earned from a CCAF degree and use it towards a bachelor's degree. A study conducted by the CCAF found that 82 percent of CCAF alumni surveyed in 2009 who attempted to transfer credit to a civilian institution indicated all or most of their CCAF credits transferred.

A CCAF graduate has an advantage over his peers who do not have a degree when applying for a job outside of the Air Force. Another study conducted by the CCAF has shown that 66 percent of retired CCAF alumni surveyed in 2009 indicated the CCAF degree was helpful in gaining employment.

"A CCAF degree is not magic, but earning one can only help you as you progress through your Air Force career, or transition to the civilian workforce," said Albrecht.

A student who has earned a CCAF degree proves to their employer that they are willing to work hard and to set long term goals. "Earning a CCAF degree represents professional education and development. It demonstrates not only the graduate's ability to set and achieve long-term goals, but also his or her desire for self-improvement. Both concepts are more marketable to employers than a resume reflecting Air Force service with no degree," said Albrecht.

Some individuals believe that they are happy with where they are at in their lives right now and are not interested in school.

One does not typically join the Air Force with the goal in mind to stay where they are in their current rank. Most want to press forward and many dream to reach the top tier of the enlisted ranks. Times have changed. A CCAF degree is required for a senior rater endorsement and the chance to be competitive for the two highest AF enlisted ranks.

"Earning or not earning a CCAF degree impacts an Airman's promotion opportunity," said Albrecht. "An Airman unwilling to invest time and effort in his or her education sends a message to his or her leadership. The Airman is telling leadership not to expect much of them and that they are not interested in self-improvement and future opportunities."

We as peers, supervisor and leaders need to get the word out to everyone in the Air Force. We each need to understand the benefits the CCAF degree brings to our enlisted Airmen and we need to pass our knowledge on.

So, the CCAF degree... What's your excuse? Go to your education office, get the information, and spread the word!
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