Lieutenant colonels hoping to make colonel must have a master's degree beginning Dec. 1, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a video released Thursday.
Welsh said promotion requirements involving advanced academic degrees have caused the most confusion.
"Some people believe you have to have it to compete for major," Welsh said. "There's never been an Air Force written requirement to have an academic degree beyond the bachelor's to compete at any grade."
Welsh said the Air Force hoped to clear up misconceptions on the service's academic requirements, because airmen were taking large amounts of time away from their families to complete degrees that may not have been required.
"Every senior rater seemed to have their own set of rules that determined who they would give a definitely promote recommendation to," Welsh said. "Our company grade officers, over and over and over again, told me that they felt they had to do everything. Every correspondence course, even if they were selected for residence, and they had to do it at a younger and younger grade. As a result, everybody's free time was taken and families were being dramatically impacted. And I'm not sure job performance was getting any better, for our company grade officers, because their attention was divided."
But Welsh encouraged airmen who want to further their education to do so.
"If you have the time to get your degree, I would encourage you to get it done," Welsh said. "If you like to study, and you believe that education is important for your future, then get multiple degrees. We're not going to take away the opportunities to do that, we will still encourage it. It's just not going to help you for promotion until you're competing for colonel."
Welsh said tuition assistance and the GI Bill are still available to help airmen who want to get a master's degree earlier than necessary.
"Knock yourself out," Welsh said. "It's your time. But don't blame the Air Force because you don't have as much time with your family. The intent of all this is to give some of that back to you."
Welsh also highlighted other professional military education rules that will go into effect beginning with the Line of the Air Force majors board that convenes Dec. 1.
To be eligible for promotion to major, Welsh said, captains must have completed basic developmental education. All active-duty captains will be able to attend Squadron Officer School in residence, Welsh said.
If a captain has not gone to Squadron Officer School in residence by one year before his major's board, he can take it by correspondence, but that should be unusual, he said.
Previously, only captains who were operationally deferred would be able to take that correspondence course.
Majors who want to be promoted to lieutenant colonel must have completed intermediate developmental education at the Air Command and Staff College or an equivalent program, Welsh said, unless they're on the school's list. In that case, majors can compete below-the-zone before finishing school.
And to be promoted to colonel, lieutenant colonels must have finished senior developmental education at Air War College, or an equivalent program, Welsh said.
As with majors, these lieutenant colonels can compete below-the-zone if they are in school or have been selected to attend school.■