Airline Pilot and Flight Crew

Do you like to see many different places? Do you like the thrill of flying? If so, then read on to discover if becoming an airline pilot or flight crew member might be for you.

Is Becoming an Airline Pilot or Flight Crewmember for Me?

Career Overview

The pilot, first officer and flight attendants usually make up the flight crew of an airplane that transports passengers. The flight crew is responsible for operation of the aircraft, from takeoff to landing. Flight crew members spend a significant amount of time away from their home base. The airline you work for provides lodging and other expenses while you are away. Many flight crew members work irregular hours, since airlines operate at all hours of the day.

Job Duties and Skills

The flight crew plans the flight route and makes changes as they are needed. Pilots and first officers deal with the operation of the aircraft, while flight attendants deal with the passengers in order to ensure their comfort and safety. The components of the aircraft are always monitored by the pilot and first officer while in the air, and at least one of them will inspect the aircraft while it is on the ground before it takes off. Pilots and first officers are skilled in using flight instruments and understanding the variables that can affect the flight plan. Good communication and teamwork skills are also helpful if you want to be part of a flight crew.

Employment Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for flight attendants was projected to decline by 7% between 2012-2022 and pilots could expect little or no growth ( The 2012 median annual income of pilots, copilots and flight engineers was $114,200, while flight attendants earned $37,240, according to BLS reports. First officers can be promoted to pilots, but that is the extent of your job title promotion opportunities while working on a flight crew. You are able to choose when you work and what flight routes you operate as you gain seniority. You and your family usually receive flight benefits when you work for an airline.

How Can I Become an Airline Pilot or Flight Crewmember?

Training and Education

Not all airlines require a college degree, but if you hope to work for a major airline, you will probably need at least an associate's degree from an FAA approved school. Most airline flight crew applicants face competition for jobs, and those who have obtained a degree are usually favored over those who have just completed high school. Experience flying the particular model of aircraft you will be working on can also give you an edge over other applicants.

If you wish to become a flight attendant, a high school diploma is the minimum requirement. Yet, many employers prefer college graduates from academic programs such as communications or tourism. Such degree programs may provide aspiring flight attendants with the people skills necessary for the tasks of the job. Knowing a foreign language is typically a requirement for flight attendants, too, especially for those interested in international travel.


Airline pilots must meet the flight training requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The first step for you to become an airline pilot is to earn the basic FAA license. Airline pilots are also required to have the airline pilot transport license. This license requires that you have at least 1,500 hours of flight time and pass the tests administered by the FAA.

Degree Programs

An associate's degree in pilot operations combines aviation education with hands-on training to become FAA certified. You are able to fly about two hours each day, with opportunities for additional time on the weekends. A bachelor's degree in aeronautical technology also gives you the opportunity to specialize in becoming a pilot. You can take courses such as aviation meteorology, flight instruments and aviation laws. Engineering programs with a specialization in professional pilot training give you a strong background in engineering in addition to training you how to fly an airplane. A program that provides you with a diverse background can open up other job opportunities if you wish to eventually work in a management position in the airline industry.

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