December 7, 2022

Air Force cybersecurity and IT careers

The US Air Force has 75 years of history. It was the newest military branch before the establishment of the Space Force in 2019. Nearly 700,000 people contribute to Air Force missions such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, maintaining air superiority, worldwide strike capability, and global mobility.

Meeting these goals requires significant support, including in cyber and IT roles. Many of the over 100 jobs available in the Air Force involve computer science and technology. 

Read more to learn about some of these jobs and how they equate to civilian positions.

Air Force careers in cyber and IT

The Air Force uses alphanumeric codes called Air Force Specialty Codes, or AFSCs, to categorize and identify military jobs. Here’s a list of some of the military’s cyber and IT-based jobs — and insight into their civilian counterparts or their application in the civilian workforce:

Cyber warfare operations (1B431) 

Airmen in this role develop, sustain, and enhance cyberspace capabilities to defend national interests from attack. They conduct offensive and defensive cyberspace operations. They also work to detect and mitigate unauthorized access to national cyberspace systems.

To hold this position, the Air Force requires knowledge of operating systems, hardware, software, databases, and programming languages. With this background, cyber warfare operations personnel can apply their skills in a variety of civilian jobs such as systems or application architects.

Knowledge operations management (3D031)

This role coordinates the distribution of information and data, specifically the flow, distribution, life cycle, and disposal of communications and information that’s integral to Air Force operations. Work here may involve tasks like creating launch manuals or storing and disposing of high-level documents.

Knowledge operations management personnel might find opportunities as entry-level IT support employees. Related work in the civilian sector could include providing initial technical support for clients in an organization as a systems operator or cloud support technician.

Cyber systems operations (3D032)

Airmen in this role design, install, and support cyber systems. Responsibilities include ensuring these systems operate properly and remain secure from intrusion. By enhancing cyber capabilities and providing secure systems, the Air Force can stay ahead of the technology curve.

In the civilian world, people with these skills typically install, support, and maintain server operating systems and other computer platforms and software. They ensure that all current computer patches are in place and respond to outages or interruptions to computer network operations. 

Cyber surety (3D033) 

In this role, airmen are responsible for the security of computer networks and online communications. They use programming and hardware to help keep Air Force systems and information safe and also enforce security rules to protect systems from unauthorized access.

In the civilian world, a person with these skills and responsibilities could work as an IT specialist. Here, responsibilities might include installing and maintaining systems, and protecting networks and databases from unauthorized access.

Computer system programming (3D034) 

In this role, airmen develop, design, write and analyze programs critical to war-fighting capabilities. An example of this work is writing and operating programs for maintenance tracking or creating a program that organizes and displays intelligence data. This role ensures the Air Force has the software and programs needed to complete every mission.

In the civilian world, people with this type of job experience could work as computer programmers, software developers, systems software analysts, computer analysts, software developers, IT specialists, or IT programmers or analysts.

Client systems (3D131)

Airmen with this job ensure that computer hardware and software function correctly at all times. They install programs and troubleshoot and resolve problems. Client systems personnel play a critical role in maintaining access and control of the technology necessary to complete all missions.

In the civilian world, people with this type of experience may work as networking specialists. These specialists typically schedule client system installation and maintenance, report and correct security incidents, repair and replace broken equipment, and manage data centers. 

Cyber transport systems (3D132)

In this role, airmen verify that Air Force and Space Force network infrastructure is operating properly. The work may include repairing an on-base network hub or installing fiber-optic cable in another country. Cyber transport systems personnel keep communications systems up and running.

In the civilian world, people with this type of experience may install, monitor, and repair computer and telecommunications equipment. They may also work as an information security analyst, computer systems architect, or information technology project manager.

Radio frequency transmission systems (3D133) 

Airmen with this job install and maintain radio frequency communications. They deploy, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair a variety of communications devices, like antenna systems, tuners, and transmission lines to ensure communications are maintained.

To hold this military job, you’ll need knowledge of electrical and radio theory. People in this field may find it possible to work in a civilian career that involves ground-based radio or satellite communications, like telecommunications technicians.

Cable and antenna systems (3D137)

People with this Air Force job oversee the installation and maintenance of cable and wireless systems. These systems may include local area networks, wide area networks, or coaxial cable and antenna systems. This job supports the Air Force’s ability to monitor a mission and communicate from anywhere in the world.

This might not be the right fit for those afraid of heights. Whether in the military or civilian sector, cable and antenna systems personnel likely climb and work on tall structures to install or maintain communications equipment. You’ll also have opportunities to work in jobs like electrical technicians, where knowledge of antenna and underground cable systems is important.

Cyber operations officer (17D) 

With responsibility for a wide range of weapons, training, and intelligence, cyberspace operations officers work with computerized, satellite, and airborne communications and operations and tracking systems. These assets play a critical role in planning missions and the effectiveness of cyberspace capabilities.

Based on that training and experience, cyber operations officers may have opportunities to work in civilian senior leadership positions as emergency services or corporate strategy managers.

Cyber warfare operations officer (17S)

These officers command a crew and are in charge of cyberspace weapons systems. Combat communications, missile guidance systems, the nation’s power grid, and rocket launches all depend on cybersecurity in the battle space above the Earth. They maintain vigilance across all cyber channels and work with and advise commanders. This officer assesses intelligence information, plans and executes missions, and ensures their team and equipment is always mission ready.

In the civilian sector, cyber warfare operations officers can apply their skills and experience to work as training managers, senior-level IT professionals, or data center project managers.

The Space Force has similar cyber and IT careers for candidates interested in protecting America’s interests from an even higher vantage point. 

This article was reviewed by Dr. Michael J. Kirchner

michael kirchner, a white man with brown hair and a beard, smiles at the camera

Dr. Michael J. Kirchner is an assistant professor of organizational leadership at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he teaches courses in leadership and human resource development. Dr. Kirchner also serves as the campus’ veteran resource center director. 

Previously, Kirchner oversaw the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Military and Veterans Resource Center, where he guided programming for the campus’ 1,500+ military-affiliated student population. Under his leadership (2013-2016), the campus built a nationally recognized “military-college-career” framework focusing on supporting student veteran transitions. 

Kirchner earned his Ph.D. in human resource development from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research on career transitions and leadership development has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Human Resource Development Quarterly, Advances in Developing Human Resources, New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, and Industrial and Commercial Training. 

Kirchner is the founder and president of Time for Development LLC, where he provides consulting to organizations on military-friendly programming, human resource development strategy, and training design. He served for a year in Baghdad, Iraq, from 2004-2005 as part of the U.S. Army National Guard.

Kirchner is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.