Is it worth joining at 17?


I’m currently planning on joining the cadets at 17, but i’m worrying that i won’t be able to experience it like i would if i applied at a younger age. Is there anything i would miss out on and what’s the most common/average age in cadets (no worries if that’s difficult to answer, i know that every place varies)?


It’s not the best age to join - allowing time for all the “new recruit” trg & associated classification lessons, it would be a while before you could participate in some activities (must be first class cadet). It can also take a considerable time to get your blue uniform (via RAF stock).

When you become 18 (this is when you “age out”) - you need to be considered by staff for suitability to stay on as a “staff cadet.” They won’t have had much visibility & you probably won’t have been promoted / held positions of responsibility, so very little for them to assess you on.

All in all, maybe not worth the personal hassle? Is there a local organisation that could you volunteer for - something that gives community service / assistance, etc? Local youth sports?

I’m afraid you can’t even join after you turn 17. Extract from the Air Cadets website:

To be an Air Cadet you must be 13 years old, or 12 years old if you’re already in year 8 in school or in S1 for those in Scotland. The latest you can join is before your 17th birthday. Most cadets leave when they’re 20 years old and some stay involved as an adult volunteer.

Cadets can still join afywr 17, but need Group Captain waiver to do so.

Rocking horse poo comes to mind.

I’ve only ever heard of it as a transfer from another CF or CCF Army.

i’m turning 17 in around 3 months time, is that still alright/possible?

We’ve had a couple join at 17 and we’ve had an open conversation with them on what to expect and set goals for them because realistically they have 12 months with us.

We get our cadets into uniform within 6-8 weeks but that does vary sqn to sqn.

As they are more mature and used to study we will offer to do a condensed version of the first class syllabus.

You won’t be able to do everything but there’s absolutely no reason you can’t get a lot out of the cadets within 12 months - speak to your local Sqn staff they will be able to give you an accurate answer for what they can provide.


perfect, thanks for the reply. I have an interview/visit thing tomorrow so i’ll see how it goes.

I wouldn’t join at that age: you’d be doing your initial training with a bunch of 12 and 13 year old kids, and have 15 year olds who are senior to you telling you what to do.

I actually left the ATC to join the army a few months after my 17th birthday. You could apply to join the RAF or one of the other services at your age - if I was 16 again that’s what I’d do. It gets you out of the house and away from your parents, and you get paid a good wage from Day 1, which is better than wasting your time and your parents’ money on higher education.

If you’ve got good O Level exam results (Maths, English & a Scientific subject) you can do any trade you want, and many others need no academic qualifications at all. I served 23 years in the Royal Engineers and the RAF Regt, and learnt several trades. :thinking:

I’m glad this has been asked. We had someone join aged 17yrs 2m last parade night. I thought it was okay as they had more than 6m left before 18. I did advise it isn’t the best age to join.

So I need to get Grp Cpt approval? Has anyone been in this situation?

She said she wishes to join the RAF and I did suggest she could join UAS at 18 when in University…or just straight up join up.

No. You cannot join after your 17th birthday, unless you were already a cadet previously. It’s then that you need RC approval.

1 Like

Thank you. If she is down again this evening then I will explain this.

1 Like