For example, if the Air Force decides that it needs to promote 25 percent of all of their eligible E-4s to the grade of E-5 during the next year, each and every Air Force AFSC (job) will promote 25 percent.
However, the Air Force "rounds up." So, it appears that some jobs have higher promotion percentages than others.
For example, let's say the Air Force has decided to promote 25 percent of all their eligible E-4s to E-5. AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) XYZ has 200 E-4s eligible, and AFSC XXX has 10 eligible. 25 percent of 200 is 50, so the Air Force would promote 50 people in AFSC XYZ. However, 25 percent of 10 is 2.5. You can't promote 1/2 of a person, so the Air Force would promote three people in AFSC XXX. That then, becomes an actual promotion rate of 33.3 percent for AFSC XXX.
Another exception to the equal promotion rule is that the Air Force is allowed to award five extra percentage points to AFSCs (jobs) that they considered critically-manned. So, if the overall promotion rate for E-5s is 25 percent, the Air Force could promote 30 percent of any AFSC they consider to be seriously undermanned.
Okay, so, after the Air Force determines what the promotion-rate is going to be overall, how do they decide who, in each AFSC (job) gets promoted? First of all, one has to be "eligible" for promotion, based on TIS, TIG, and "skill-level" they've received in their job. "Skill Levels" are based on "On-the-Job" (OJT) training requirements, completion of job-school, and/or completion of a job correspondence course, called a "CDC," or Career Development Course. Air Force "Skill Levels" are:
- 1-Level. Untrained. Designates individuals who are in basic training and/or technical school.
- 3-Level. Apprentice. The 3-skill level is awarded after graduation from technical school.
- 5-Level. Craftsman. The 5-skill level is awarded after a period of OJT, and completion of CDCs, after arrival at the first duty assignment. While it varies based on the complexity of the job, it takes most people about 18 months to earn their 5-skill level.
- 7-Level. Supervisor. When a person is promoted to Staff Sergeant (E-5), then enter into 7-level training. This is accomplished via OJT, and (usually) graduation from a 7-level job-school. Sometimes, there is no available job-school, and upgrade is accomplished by completing 7-level CDCs.
- 9-Level. Manager. Skill-level assigned to E-8s and E-9s.
For promotions to the grades of E-5 to E-7, the TIS/TIG and skill-level requirements are:
- Staff Sergeant (E-5) - Three years TIS, six months TIG, and awarded the 5-skill level
- Technical Sergeant (E-6) - 5 years TIS, 23 months TIG, and awarded the 7-skill level
- Master Sergeant (E-7) - 8 years TIS, 24 months TIG, and awarded the 7-skill level
Assuming the individual is eligible for promotion, based on TIS/TIG/Skill Level, and are recommended for promotion by the commander (realistically, the commander never non-recommends unless the individual is in trouble), then the WAPS points come into play. Various factors concerning the member are worth "promotion points." Those with the most "WAPS Points" within the AFSC are the one's selected for promotion:
Promotion Fitness Examination (PFE) - This is a 100 question test about Air Force general supervisory subjects, such as history, leadership, NCO responsibilities, first aid, customs and courtesies, etc. The questions are derived from the Air Force Promotion Fitness (PFE) Manual, Air Force Manual 36-2241 Vol 1. The maximum number of points that can be awarded is 100.
Specialty Knowledge Test (SKT) - This is a 100 question test about the individual's job in the Air Force. Most questions on the SKT are derived from the Career Development Course (CDC) that the individual had to study to be awarded their 5-skill level. The maximum number of points that can be achieved from the SKT is 100.