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How to Become a Flight Attendant in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for flight attendants. Get the facts about training and certification requirements, job duties and salary to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Does A Flight Attendant Do?

Flight attendants work on flights providing various safety and amenity services to passengers. They make sure that all passengers are properly seated on the plane, that luggage is stowed, and demonstrate emergency safety procedures. They also provide or sell snacks and drinks during the flight. If you're interested in putting your customer service skills to use as a flight attendant, keep reading to learn what's required for a job in this field.

Education Required High school diploma at minimum; some college experience preferred
Training Required Mandatory training provided by employers
Key Responsibilities Greet and assist passengers, prepare the cabin prior to takeoff and landing, present emergency procedures
Certification FAA certification required
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 10% growth*
Median Salary (2018) $56,000*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Flight Attendant?

Flight attendants are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to perform a variety of safety and customer service-related tasks throughout all phases of a flight. Your duties as a flight attendant may include greeting passengers and assisting them with luggage, as well as preparing the aircraft cabin for takeoffs and landings. You may also help the elderly and small children board the plane.

During preparations for takeoff, you'll give presentations on emergency procedures and you'll serve food and beverages, as well as provide pillows, blankets or magazines to passengers, during the flight. In addition, you and the other crewmembers must attend briefings by pilots on matters such as weather forecasts, specific routes and emergency procedures. Flight attendants may work long hours, sometimes up to 14 hours daily.

Step 1: Acquire an Education

You can begin preparation for a career as a flight attendant in high school. You'll need good communication skills, so you might take courses such as drama, psychology, foreign language, speech and English. While education beyond high school isn't a strict requirement, a growing number of airlines are looking to hire candidates who have college degrees in areas such as nursing and communications. You might also consider flight attendant training programs, such as those offered in some community colleges.

These programs may grant certificates or associate's degrees, and they include courses in airline operations, air transportation, cultural geography, first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Some programs also offer classes in computerized reservations and physical science.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Many airlines want you to have prior work experience that involved public interactions. To gain such experience, you might consider getting a summer or part-time job while attending school. The retail and banking industries may offer opportunities for acquiring customer service experience. Other jobs that may give you customer service experience include waiter or hostess duties at a restaurant, serving as a receptionist in a business or working as an usher at a theater.

Step 3: Ensure That You Qualify For Employment

Most airlines require flight attendant applicants to be either 18 or 21 years old. In addition, your potential employer may also require you to be a citizen of the United States. You should have sufficient height to reach the aircraft's overhead bins. Many airlines also stipulate that your weight be in proportion to your height. Some airlines also prohibit flight attendant applicants from having unusual body piercings or extreme hairstyles.

Before being hired, you'll be given medical tests to ensure that you're physically healthy and have good vision. Your prospective employer will also perform background investigations and drug screenings. To be considered for a position, you must you successfully pass these checks.

Step 4: Complete an Airline Flight Attendant Training Program

When you are provisionally hired by an airline, you will then complete a training program at an airline flight-training center. Your program may last from three to six weeks, and you will be trained in areas such as emergency equipment use, giving first aid, airplane evacuation procedures, and dealing with disruptive passengers and terrorist threats.

To pass the program, you must perform your new duties unassisted, while being observed by experienced staff. You'll also be tested on your performance. Good performance ensures that you'll continue to advance through the program, and eventually, you'll be allowed to ride on trial flights.

Step 5: Obtain Certification

After training and demonstrating your ability to complete all training exercises satisfactorily, you'll be awarded the FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency. You should be prepared to retrain periodically, and to occasionally take FAA-administered safety examinations. You'll be certified to work on a certain type of aircraft, and it will be necessary to undergo an additional one or two-day period of training whenever you change carriers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

For individuals interested in the service industry, there are many other possible career choices. Jobs in bartending, waiting tables, and food preparation typically require no more than a high school diploma and some on-the-job training. You could also become a customer service representative for a company or organization, assisting customers on the phone with order fulfillment, technical issues or service problems. A customer service rep typically needs only a high school diploma to get started. A job in retail sales is also possible, which could involve selling a variety of items from clothing to cosmetics.