Inside Pilot Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises


"It Would Have Been Easier If I Just Had Gone To Med School...
What a huge expense of time, effort and money to get basically nowhere." (Commercial Pilot; 2014)

Career: 22 years of experience, currently based in Montana, male
School: Studied Aeronautical Science at Embry Riddle in Arizona; completed Bachelor degree in 1988


"I Never Expected A Bad Economy Would Spur Bigger Ships...
The lack of jobs due to technology and the economy. As the ships get bigger, the number of them has dropped considerably and the number of Captains and mates needed has dropped also." (Great Lakes Pilot; 2014)

Career: 20 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Deck Officer Training at Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 1985


"Male Dominated Profession...
I was surprised at how many people have tried to do such a job but fail out for some reason or another. I know there is a lot of technical skills involved but I didn't find it too hard to figure out. I was also surprised of the lack of diversity in the field. There are also not a lot of women in it as well. Its a very white male dominated field so far. Hopefully in time it will change." (Flight Engineer; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Aeronautical Engineering at Embry Riddle in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2009


"I was surprised to learn that pilot jobs with the airlines pay less than a livable wage to start. After spending $30,000+ for licenses and education, the starting pay for regional airlines is around $18,000 per year." (Airplane Pilot; 2013)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Aviation Technology at Metropolitan State College Of Denver in Colorado; completed Bachelor degree in 1996

Best & Worst Things About This Career


Flight Instructor: "The worst part would be inconsistent work. If the weather isn't good or if a student didn't study what they needed to we have to cancel our lessons for the day. I won't get compensated unless I teach. Another bad part of being a flight instructor is seeing people lose confidence and hope in themselves. It's part of my job to instill confidence in people, but there's some people that just get too discouraged too fast and give up." (2011)


Airline Pilot: "Airline pilots say that we have the best job in the world, and the worst career. There are few things in life that compare with flying into Hong Kong or New York, or crossing The Alps or Kamchatka. Exploring the worlds greatest cities is exciting. But the economy always threatens the career. When an airline folds you lose more than your job, you lose seniority. Unlike other careers, when you start over at a new airline your experience does not count - you are treated, and paid, the same as a pilot who has never flown an airliner before." (2011)

Career Tips


"Dual License Opens Your Field Considerably...
If you wish to go sailing as a career, consider being licensed as an engineer. There are far more engineering related jobs on shore to tide you over between sailing gigs. A dual license would be a real plus." (Great Lakes Pilot; 2014)


"Save Your Money And Time, Find Something Else That's Practical...
If you love aviation, settle with an ultra-light and take yourself flying on the weekends." (Commercial Pilot; 2014)


"Learn From Others - It Could Pay Off In A Difficult Situation...
The first piece of advice I would give to someone who wants to be a flight instructor is to only do it if you are positive you want to and have a passion for aviation. The hours are long, the pay is low and unless you love doing it, you'll get discouraged very easily. While you're learning to fly you really want to find an instructor you get along with well. If your instructor intimidates you or is too lax, you may not progress well and essentially you'll just be throwing your money away. Don't learn just the bare minimum. Go on every aviation site you can, talk to as many aviation enthusiasts as you can. Learn as much as you can about everything aviation related. If you're flying a plane by yourself and a problem arises, and you remember, "Oh, so and so had that same issue," you'll be more able to deal with the situation." (Flight Instructor; 2011)


"What It Takes To Become A Pilot...
Getting a job as an airline pilot will require a college degree, tens of thousands of dollars, years of specialized training, more years as a flight instructor, more years as a regional airline pilot, and a lot of luck to land a job at a major airline. The US military is a great option for many people who want to become airline pilots." (Airline Pilot; 2011)