Changes to U.S. Air Force Promotions

The U.S. Air Force promotion system for enlisted has been criticized for years as being unrealistic and ineffective in determining fitness for promotion. For the past three years, Air Force leaders have been phasing out some parts of the old promotion system.

The Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS) is a United States Air Force program that determines promotions to the ranks of Staff Sergeant (E-5) through Master Sergeant (E-7). It provides feedback score sheets to enlisted members considered for promotion, which help members to focus on specific professional development needs. Selections for promotion to Senior Master Sergeant (E-8) and Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) utilize an integrated weighted and central selection board system. In addition to the weighted score, the central selection board evaluates each individual using the whole person concept. Board scores are determined by considering performance, leadership, breadth of experience, job responsibility, professional competence, specific achievements, and education. The board score is added to the weighted score to determine order of merit for promotion.


Beginning with the 2017 master sergeant promotion cycle, according to a Thursday release from the Air Force Personnel Center, airmen hoping for promotion to staff, technical, master or chief master sergeant will no longer receive any boost from how long they’ve served in the Air Force or their current rank.


Beginning in 2018 the entire WAPS system will change to reflect the needs of a more combat effective and socially acceptable Air Force. The WAPS Promotion Score Calculator will be used by enlisted airmen to estimate the minimum test score for promotion to the next enlisted rank. Eligible candidates receive points based on a number of criteria. Candidates with the highest numbers of points, up to the promotion allowance in each career field, are promoted. The score of the last person promoted is known as the cutoff. The cutoff can gauge how narrowly a given candidate missed a promotion. The cutoff score varies because of variations in both the number of promotion slots and the number of points earned by the top candidates.

Awards and Decorations

For awards and decorations, a maximum of 25 points is allowed. Point values follow order of precedence.

1 pt – Achievement Medal (all versions)
3 pts – Commendation Medal (all versions)
3 pts – Aerial Achievement Medal
3 pts – Air Medal
5 pts – Meritorious Service Medal
5 pts – Defense Meritorious Service Medal
5 pts – Purple Heart
5 pts – Bronze Star
5 pts – Airman’s Medal
7 pts – Distinguished Flying Cross
7 pts – Defense Superior Service Medal
7 pts – Legion of Merit
9 pts – Silver Star
9 pts – Distinguished Service Medal
9 pts – Defense Distinguished Service Medal
11 pts – Air Force Cross, Navy Cross, or Distinguished Service Cross
15 pts – Medal of Honor (Note: Promotion to next highest grade usually will occur the first day of the month following awarding of MOH)

Enlisted Performance Reports will no longer be written.

Promotion Fitness Examination

The Promotion Fitness Examination (PFE)is a test of material taken from the Professional Development Guide. It covers a wide range of US Air Force knowledge, including history, organization, regulations, practices, traditions, and customs. The number of PFE points awarded is equal to the number of correct responses out of the 100 items on the exam.

Specialty Knowledge Test

The Specialty Knowledge Test (SKT)is a multiple choice test consisting of 100 questions. Test material is taken from the Career Development Course (CDCs) and applicable Air Force instructions and manuals for each AFSC, as the SKT is specific to a candidate’s AFSC. The number of points earned on the SKT is the number of points awarded toward promotion.
Some members do not take the SKT. A common reason for this is that a candidate is performing a special duty and does not have CDCs. In other cases, candidates are in the process of retraining and have not completed the CDCs for the new role. Other candidates may not have access to their CDCs for one reason or another. When a candidate does not take the SKT, the PFE score counts again in place of the SKT. This is termed either “PFE only” or “SKT exempt”.

Social Adjustment Point System (SAPS)
Airmen will be awarded points based on their social adjustments to a maximum of 100 points.
1 pt –Points will be awarded for each day the airman is actually performing duty in their specialty. 25 pts. Max.
2 pts – Points will be awarded for each spent in training. 25 pts. Max.
3 pts – Points will be awarded for each day the airman is actually airborne.
3 pts-   Points will be awarded for each day spent deployed or on Temporary Duty.
5 pts – Points will be awarded for each day spent in combat.
5 pts – Points will be awarded for each time SKT has been taken. 25 pts. Max.
7 pts – Points will be awarded for the successful completion of a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program.
7 pts – Points will be awarded for not being Caucasian.
7 pts – Points will be awarded for being designated as Female by Annual Controlled DNA Testing.
9 pts – Points will be awarded for maintaining the correct Body Mass Index (BMI) for 30 days.
9 pts – Points will be awarded for passing the annual Fitness Aptitude Test (FAT).
9 pts – Points will be awarded for owning a Mess Dress Uniform.
11 pts –Points will be awarded for being a member of the Democratic Party.
15 pts –Points will be awarded for sexual orientation as defined by the Federal Alternative Life Style Guidelines (FAG).