Jobs Soar for Pilots
Opportunities for pilots should remain at a comfortable cruising altitude
for many years to come.
"The job market in aviation is amazing right now," says Laura Gerhold.
She is the aviation academic advisor at the Institute of Aviation at the University
of Illinois. "The airlines are hiring pilots as fast as we can train them,
and it is projected to continue like this for the next five to eight years."
Explaining the Cycles and Demand
To become a captain for a large commercial airline, pilots must have over
1,000 hours of flight experience. Students usually leave aviation schools
with 250 to 300 hours of training in the air. So, most pilots start their
careers at smaller regional airlines. There are also opportunities with charter
and tour services, cargo and transport services, and flight instruction.
When the major airlines need new pilots, they look to smaller airlines
and other air services to recruit experienced pilots. Then the smaller airlines
look to training schools to fill the empty positions left by advancing pilots.
Everybody moves up, so there is room at the bottom to move in.
There are a few reasons why pilots are in demand right now.
"At a time when airlines are hiring like crazy to replace retiring pilots,
as well as provide crew for additional aircraft purchases, the number of young
people training is declining. Therefore, there is a tremendous demand for
the new pilots, and I think the demand will increase even more," says Cave.
Gordon Bush is the general manager of an airline that offers scheduled
and charter flights. He says people want to travel further on vacation, and
this adds to the demand for pilots.
Employment opportunities in the aviation field follow the ups and downs
of the economy. During a recession, for example, air travel declines, and
airlines need fewer pilots. However, in the long term, a growing population
and economy is expected to boost the demand for air travel, along with the
need for pilots.
Never in the history of aviation have there been so many new aircraft.
And with many more on the way, the industry is expecting a pilot shortage.
"By every estimate, the next 20 years will be a time of unparalleled growth
for the airline industry," says Sherry Carbary. Carbary is the president of
Alteon Training, a Boeing company. She is responsible for the company's aviation
"While Boeing and Airbus may not agree on some things, they do agree that
over the next 20 years, the world's fleet will more than double," she says.
Boeing and Airbus expect the world's airlines to add 25,000 new planes
to their fleets by 2025. Those new planes will require 360,000 new pilots
worldwide. That's more than 18,000 new pilots every year through 2025. In
the U.S. alone, 10,000 new pilots will be needed per year, says Carbary.
"In our last graduating class, 97 percent of our graduates had a job in
aviation within three months," says Gerhold. "It is a great time to get into
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
It is possible to land a job without a formal diploma or degree. A pilot's
ticket to a job is the commercial pilot's license. However, airlines will
give preference to pilots with a degree or diploma.
While any undergraduate degree is evidence of the ability to learn, the
aviation programs provide much more pilot-oriented knowledge than, say, a
degree in computer science," says Cave.
He believes the chances of landing a job are greater when a pilot has an
aviation diploma. They're greater still with an aviation degree.
"Even the smaller airlines will insist on graduation from a program such
as ours when they are hiring during a period when there are plenty of pilots
available to them," says Cave.
The flying school where Cave works and the local university work together.
They offer a program in business administration and aviation. Programs split
between educational institutions and flying schools are fairly common.
The Pilot Price Tag
Pilot training is one of the most expensive college programs. That's because
students are required to spend a certain number of hours in the air. Students
commonly need 250 to 300 hours of flying time to graduate. And a single flight
can cost $550.
In addition to tuition and books, students also pay for fuel and medical
tests. Also, pilots may need additional licenses to fly different types of
aircraft. Costs add up quickly. It's not unusual for students to spend over
$30,000 a year on flight training.
Even with a degree, airlines still want piloting experience. And starting
pay is low compared to other professions, says Bush.
As new pilots gain seniority, their salaries increase accordingly, adds
Bush. So new pilots must be patient and do their time at the
bottom of the ladder.
"Some new pilots jump ship because they feel promotion is too slow. So
they start again at the bottom of the seniority list with other companies,
and have to wait longer to get ahead," says Bush.
"The market is mainly looking for qualified pilots with some hours on the
type of aircraft they operate, or pilot in command time on single engine aircraft,"
Preparing for Take Off
"My advice to students who are interested in being a captain of an airliner
is to work hard in high school, and get a good knowledge base in math, physics
and English. Continue your education by attending a school that has a well
developed aviation program so you earn the right credentials for that dream
job of the future. Secondly, develop interests in other areas," says Cave.
A pilot's license is dependent on a medical certificate. So, it's a good
idea to think about a second career -- just in case.
"You may never need to leave your career as a pilot, but if you are forced
to due to a medical problem, it's nice to have a secondary career in mind,"
If you love airplanes and aviation, and you're prepared for a job that's
not nine-to-five, a piloting career may be for you. "Aviation is no doubt
an exciting career for the young and not so young," says Bush.
Lists flight schools and job opportunities
Cleared to Dream
Provides information on careers in aviation, including a section
on "a pilot's life"
Pilot Lingo -- The Encyclopedia
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