Is Being a Pilot Worth It? [2021 Career Guide]

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Is being a pilot worth it?

Is Being a Pilot Worth It

Many pilots find the job to be very exciting, dynamic, and rewarding. There are numerous careers in the aviation industry that you can pursue following your schooling.

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Many aviation careers are accompanied with financial benefits and energetic workplace environments.

Is Being a Pilot Worth It?

airline and commercial pilots

Yes, being a pilot is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 5% job growth for airline and commercial pilots over the next ten years. This is faster than the average growth for all occupations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the variable work schedules and the need to replace retiring pilots is what will create demand in this occupation over time.

Individuals in the airline or commercial piloting industry tend to earn above average salaries. Though this work requires immense patience and concentration, most pilots find their work to be exciting and dynamic.

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The training to become a pilot is an extensive commitment, as it takes time for flight students to log the necessary number of flight hours to earn the appropriate pilot certifications. Luckily, you are still able to take to the skies as a pilot-in-training.

There are a number of perks that can come with being a pilot as well, depending on the employer. For instance, pilots who work for airlines are often awarded discounted travel opportunities that can extend to their family and friends. If you do well under pressure, have a dream of flying, and enjoy travel, a career as a pilot may be worth considering.

How to Decide Whether Being a Pilot Is Right for You

is Being a Pilot Right for You

Like every career, when considering how to become a pilot, there are pros and cons to working in the aviation industry. Only you can determine whether becoming a pilot is ideal for you, but here are a few factors to consider prior to working toward your degree.

1. You do well under pressure.

Being a pilot can be stressful at times. It requires immense concentration, quick decision-making, and a lot of patience. A pilot is responsible for the well-being of all crew members and passengers on board, and they sometimes have to fly under unpredictable conditions.

In addition, pilots work long hours and may have to deal with jetlag and inconsistent sleep patterns while working. It’s beneficial to understand these circumstances from the start so you can be prepared and learn how to persevere through them.

2. You are okay with a variable schedule.

aviation industry career

Pilots may spend several nights away from home, as flight assignments are unpredictable. If you are a commercial pilot, your schedule may be even more irregular, though possibly more flexible.

Pilots, in general, work very sporadic hours, and preferred routes and hours are given to pilots with seniority. Due to their variable schedules, pilots can potentially spend holidays away from family and work many days in a row without days off.

3. You enjoy continuously learning.

The learning never stops for pilots. They are constantly training and optimizing their skills. This is because the industry experiences a lot of evolution throughout the years.

Because of this, education for a piloting career can become a costly venture. At the same time, though, this investment can also lead to high wages and advancement opportunities. Some pilots even have their continued training covered by their employer.

5 Things You Can Do with a Pilot Degree

Pilot Degree career

Getting a pilot degree doesn’t just lead to careers in the cockpit. Aviation professionals may find themselves working in other roles as well. The following are some common occupations you may encounter in the field.

1. Airline Pilot

An airline pilot is responsible for flying either private, transport, or commercial airlines. They often fly long distances and work variable work schedules.

Since airline transport is required around the world, pilots may travel regionally, nationally, or even globally, with layovers in different countries.

2. Flight Engineer

A flight engineer is responsible for checking, monitoring, and improving the systems in airplanes.

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They ensure that all instruments are operating according to optimal status during a flight. This includes regulating cabin pressure, monitoring fuel usage, and assisting the pilot in emergency situations.

3. Commercial Pilot

Commercial pilots do not require as many certifications as airline pilots, but they can still get paid for their flying services.

Most work in nonscheduled air transportation, so they may also work nonstandard hours. It’s common for commercial pilots to be involved in activities like charter flights, aerial tours, firefighting, and crop dusting.

4. Copilot or First Officer

Copilot or First Officer

If the responsibility of piloting an aircraft intimidates you, you might consider pursuing a copilot position.

A copilot, or first officer, is the assistant to the pilot and often manages the radio communications and navigation during a flight. They are responsible for relaying and monitoring flight checklists to the pilot as well.

5. Flight Instructor

A flight instructor is responsible for training students how to fly aircraft safely. This includes teaching people the proper method of checking an aircraft prior to a flight, the safety rules of flying, and the basics of aircraft operation.

Bachelor of Aviation Degree Alternatives

Bachelor of Aviation Degree

If you’re interested in this field and want to know what other degrees are out there as an alternative to a bachelors in aviation, here are a few to consider:

  1. Bachelor of Aviation Technology. If you are interested in aircraft design and maintenance, this may be a fitting alternative degree for you. While this degree does include pilot training, it has a central focus on the technologies of aviation and their construction and operation.
  2. Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering. This program has a very advanced focus on aerodynamics, propulsion, and aerostructures. The coursework in this degree program may even prepare students for working in the space industry.
  3. Bachelor of Air Traffic Management. If air traffic control is your passion, then you may want to consider earning a degree in air traffic management. You can learn about the operations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

These are just three alternatives to a general aviation degree. There are numerous other program options available. The one that’s right for you will likely depend on your interests and career goals.

Pilot Careers & Salaries

Pilot Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for pilots is projected to grow 5% through 2029, which is above average of all occupations.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Airline Pilots, Scheduled Air Transportation $173,780
Air Traffic Controllers $130,420
Commercial Pilots, Manufacturing $121,830
Airline Pilots, Nonscheduled Air Transportation $117,030
Airline Pilots, Federal Government $111,460
Airline Pilots, Support Activities for Transportation $100,910
Commercial Pilots, Nonscheduled Air Transportation $100,530
Commercial Pilots, Support Activities for Air Transportation $85,080
Commercial Pilots, Ambulance Services $83,210
Commercial Pilots, Private Technical and Trade Schools $81,980

Aviation careers can vary extensively. Whether you’ll be on the ground or in the cockpit is up to your professional goals and personal preferences.

Pros and Cons of Being a Pilot

There are a number of pros and cons of being a pilot. Whether it is the ideal career path for you is an individual decision, but here are some pros and cons that may be worth considering.

Pros Cons
  • It’s financially rewarding.
  • You have the opportunity to travel.
  • You are continuously learning.
  • Being responsible for the flight of an aircraft can be a rush.
  • You get additional perks, such as meal allowances and discounted travel
  • It is an expensive educational career. Your irregular work schedule may result in suffering from jetlag and mental stress.
  • You are responsible for the health and safety of crew members and passengers.
  • Layovers can be very exhausting and debilitating for pilots.
  • Working as a pilot requires passing regular medical exams.

It can be beneficial to research further into the various pros and cons of being a pilot if you’re determining whether this career path is right for you.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Pilot?

pilot tuition and flight training

Although tuition and flight training vary, you can expect to pay between $60,000 to $100,000 when pursuing becoming a commercial airline pilot.

Your total cost will depend on a number of factors, such as whether you attend flight school or pursue a college degree at a university.

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Which certifications and ratings you need to reach your flight goals will also impact your final cost. Each certification requires a specified amount of flight hours to qualify, and the cost of rental planes and instruction fees can add up.

Students who want to become airline pilots may work as flight instructors as they work toward logging their flight hours for their airline transport pilot (ATP) certification.

Do Pilots Make Good Money?

salary for pilots

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual salary for airline pilots, co-pilots, and flight engineers is $160,970. Most airline pilots work in scheduled air transportation. Pilots in this industry make a median of $173,780.

The median salary for commercial pilots is $93,300. Most work in nonscheduled air transportation, which offers a median salary of $100,530 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). While pilots can earn well above average salaries, some airline pilots also experience additional perks, such as an expense allowance or discounted travel for family and friends.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pilot?

It generally takes 3 to 4 years to become a pilot. The length of time it takes to become a pilot can vary, though, depending on the certifications and ratings you plan to get. Each certification requires a specified number of logged flight hours.

Your timeline can also depend on whether or not you intend to pursue a college degree. It generally takes 4 years to earn a bachelors degree with full-time study. Some aviation programs offer flight training and guide you toward pilot certification while you earn your degree.

Getting Your Bachelors in Aviation Online

Bachelors in Aviation Online

Not only do pilots get to soar above the clouds, but they also get to enjoy the perks of travel and above average pay.

A bachelor in aviation can lead to a number of rewarding careers in the flight industry. By enrolling in an accredited online aviation program, you can schedule your educational journey around your personal obligations.

Online programs often let you earn your degree on your own time and at your own pace. If your online aviation degree program involves flight training, you may end up completing your coursework online and receiving your in-person training at an approved facility near you. Also, for students interested in the business side of the aviation industry, some universities offer aviation management degree online programs.

If you’re ready to begin your journey of flight, why not start exploring bachelors programs in aviation today?

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Claudia Amendola Alzraa
WRITTEN BY
Claudia Amendola Alzraa
Claudia has a Master's in Library and Information Studies, a Bachelor's in Education, and a Bachelor's with Honors in English and Philosophy. With a history working in Special Education, Claudia is an advocate for diversified and equitable education, and student success initiatives.