Airline Industry Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the airline industry. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Jobs I Could Pursue in the Airline Industry?

There are several careers available in the airline industry, including airline pilots and flight attendants. Airline pilots may fly a variety of aircraft include airplanes and helicopters. If you work for an airline, you will be responsible for sticking to a regular schedule where you will fly passengers or cargo. Commercial pilots have a different set of responsibilities and reasons for flying. As a commercial pilot you may participate in rescue missions, crop dusting or charter trips. Pilots will be required to check the function of all equipment and the overall condition of the aircraft pre and post flight in addition to monitoring the weight, fuel, and weather. They communicate with air traffic control.

Flight attendants communicate closely with pilots, demonstrate safety equipment and procedures, monitor passengers for safety purposes and perform emergency medical care when necessary. As a flight attendant, your primary job duty is to care for the passengers by meeting their needs and comforts as well as keeping them safe in a crisis situation.

The following chart gives you an overview of general requirements for these careers.

Flight AttendantAirline Pilot
Degree Required High school diploma; associate's degree preferred Bachelor's degree
Training Required On-the-job training On-the-job training
Education Field of Study Hospitality, tourism, public relations, communications Any field of study is acceptable
Licensure/Certification FAA certification is required for each aircraft assigned to Commercial pilot's license, multi-engine rating, instrument rating and airline transport pilot certificate is required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%* 5% (for airline and commercial pilots)*
Mean Salary (2015) $46,730 (for flight attendants in scheduled air transportation)* $137,120 (for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers in scheduled air transportation)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Flight Attendants and Airline Pilots Do?

If you'd like a career in the airline industry, you have several options. Jobs encompass everything from baggage handlers to security officers. However, two of the more popular and lucrative airline job choices are flight attendants and pilots.

Flight attendants routinely greet passengers and receive tickets. They offer personal services for the enjoyment and safety of airline passengers. Some of their duties include serving food, beverages and blankets as well as demonstrating the proper use of seat belts, oxygen masks and life jackets while giving instruction as to emergency procedures. They also answer passengers' questions and address their concerns about flying. Prior to flight, they ensure that cabin doors are securely closed and that aisles are cleared.

Airline pilots are the captains in command of airliners. As such, they may supervise co-pilots in addition to all other in-flight personnel. They may fly several different airplane models, including multiple-engine jets or twin-engine aircraft. Pilots must steer and navigate airplanes with the help of flight management instrumentation, air traffic controllers and autopilot controls.

A pilot must ensure that the airplane systems are in good working order before takeoff. Some other duties include checking weather forecasts and safety reports, and if necessary, taking alternative routes to ensure the safety of all aboard the airliner. During flights, they must monitor fuel levels and ascertain that engines are functioning properly.

What Education Do I Need?

If you're pursuing a career as a flight attendant, you should acquire a minimum of an associate's degree - although a bachelor's degree could improve your job prospects. Your studies should focus on areas such as communications, with a curriculum that offers courses such as interpersonal communications, public speaking, public relations and communication studies.

Once you have completed your education, you can apply to the airline of your choice. Once hired, you receive a period of training, probably between three and eight weeks. After training, you are required to pass Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification test on procedures and regulations. Employers prefer to hire applicants with a customer service background and experience dealing with the public. It is also beneficial to speak a foreign language fluently.

If you have aspirations of becoming an airline pilot, you need flight training. You can acquire this through the military or a licensed FAA instructor. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many airlines require at least two years of postsecondary studies, you may wish to acquire a bachelor's degree in an area such as aeronautical engineering to be competitive in the field. The FAA approves several educational flight programs in colleges and universities around the country. These programs offer classroom instruction, training with simulators and flight experience with professional instructors.

An undergraduate aeronautical engineering program may include classes in flight fundamentals, aerospace controls, thermodynamics and aviation management. Curricula also include mathematics and physics courses.

You must earn an advanced instrument rating and a commercial certificate before becoming a paid pilot. These credentials qualify you to fly multi-engine aircraft. You' also need to undergo physical examinations, including tests for hearing and vision. A minimum of 250 hours of flight experience is necessary to obtain a commercial certificate. Such experience can be gained through military service or by becoming a pilot for a courier service.

How Much Money Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, flight attendants who worked in scheduled air transportation services earned a mean annual salary of $46,730 as of 2015 ( Airline pilots who worked in scheduled air transportation were paid a mean wage of $137,120 annually as of that same year. Many pilots received reduced-rate fares when traveling by air.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another possible career also involved in the airline industry is an air traffic controller. To become an air traffic controller you will likely need a bachelor's degree, though some employers will allow work experience in addition to some education. You will also need to be a United State citizen, have a clean background check, take the FAA preemployment test receiving a qualifying score, finish an FAA Academy training course and receive a passing score on the Air Traffic Standardized Aptitude Test (AT-SAT). It will also be imperative for you to pass physical tests annually and job performance tests bi-annually.

Another potential career field is aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic or technician. Education for this field varies, though many employees get their training through an aviation maintenance technician school that is approved by the FAA. Others may have a high school diploma and receive on the job training, while others prefer to enter this field after gaining experience in the military. Your job duties will depend on whether or not you choose to enter the field of aircraft mechanics or avionics. Aircraft mechanics will work specifically with mechanical problems on aircraft, such as repairing and replacing parts while making sure that specific standards are met. Avionics technicians work on electronics such as radar, radio communication and navigation equipment.

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