Your pilot career awaits: Industry tips

I’m sure many of you saw the article we posted on our Facebook page a few weeks ago about the current pilot shortage.  We like to share those kinds of articles with you as encouragement that your ambitions for aviation can take you somewhere if you work at it.  North America and the world are indeed facing a shortage of pilots.  Estimates differ, but some figure that US airlines, which together employ around 96,000 pilots, will need to find more than 65,000 pilots over the next eight years (  To get a broader scope of the demand, Boeing estimates that as many as 460,000 new pilots will be needed worldwide in the next twenty years (–pilots-boeing-sheridan).  

The main reasons for this?  The aging workforce demographic means that many senior pilots have hit, or are close to hitting, retirement age and demand for air travel is only increasing around the globe.

The less cited chapter of this story is that the industry also seems to do its best to discourage prospective career pilots.  High costs of training, high qualification minimums for job entry, low initial wages, and lack of job security means it can be a tough go for incoming pilots.

Don’t be discouraged.  If you love aviation, a good career awaits if you’re willing to work for it.  Though you will start off small, when considered over the course of an entire career, pilots still have more earning potential than many other professionals.  And you’ll have an office view that can’t be beat.

With a pilot career in mind, here are a few tips on how to get going in this industry:

1.) Immediately get yourself a non-flying job at an aviation company – handling cargo and various other “ramp rat” tasks, dispatch, flight operations, customer service, etc.  This way you will have put in your required year or two on the ground so that once you have completed all your flight training you’ll be put on the flight line that much sooner.

2.) Get a degree.  Aviation is increasingly becoming the domain of higher education.  It doesn’t need to be the oft-touted aviation degree; any one will do (although a business degree might be especially useful).  Employers want to know that you are bright, hard working, and have developed your communication and critical thinking skills.  More and more, pilot applicants with degrees are getting put on the top of the resume pile. 

3.) Do your research.  Spend time on the forums and get familiar with job requirements, companies, and industry expectations. 

4.) Be ready to move.  This is a national industry; setting strict geographical constraints early on will severely limit your employability.  When searching for that first job, consider putting some of your CPL flight hours toward a x-country flight to visit prospective employers.  Another option is to make a road trip out of it.  Rather than just emailing resumes, go drop them off in person, shake hands, meet people, and demonstrate that you’re eager and ready to work.  

5.) Network.  This is one of the smallest and best-connected industries out there.  Your reputation will always precede you, so be mindful of that as you work through your flight training and meet people in the industry.  Network – put yourself out there and look for opportunities to meet fellow pilots and others already working in aviation.  Not only will they probably be full of great career advice for you, but it may lead to a “heads up” connection for job postings.  More often than you may realize, jobs are not advertised externally – pilots are often hired internally or through connections. recommendations, and word of mouth.  

Though the industry can be tough on newcomers, there is an increasing amount of opportunity for pilots.  If you love flying, embrace the challenge and go for it.  The reward?  You get paid to fly. 

Comments or questions?  Other advice on getting that first flying job?  Post a reply and let’s get this discussion going!