Choosing a career is an important step and shifting careers later on involves major life change. With as much time as we spend at work, it is natural to want to pick a profession that will be fulfilling and rewarding both now and in the long term. Is a pilot that profession for you?

Here are twelve reasons why you may want to say yes to becoming a pilot.

A Military Pilot Giving the Thumbs Up - Pilot Mall

1.      Many unique career choices

Tell someone you want to be a pilot, and you will probably be asked, “What airline do you want to fly for?” Although we often think in terms of commercial passenger airline careers, there are a wide variety of piloting jobs to choose from.

Becoming a pilot can be a good career choice at any age, and some of the more unique directions you can take your piloting career include: astronaut, aerial firefighter, bush pilot, drone operator, skywriter, storm chaser, and aerial photographer.

Career Options:

    1. Airline Pilot
    2. Flight Engineer
    3. Commercial Pilot
    4. Copilot or First Officer
    5. Flight Instructor
    6. Air Traffic Controller
    7. Military Pilot
    8. Banner Towing Pilot
    9. Air Tour Pilot
    10. Aerial Firefighter
    11. Bush Pilot
    12. Drone Operator
    13. Test Pilot
    14. Law Enforcement Pilot
    15. Government Service Pilot
    16. Ferry Pilot
    17. Aircraft Salesmen Pilot
    18. Cargo Pilot
    19. Agricultural Pilot
    20. Contract Pilot
    21. Astronauts (when combining ATP with a Master's degree in a STEM field)

And that's still not everything! 

Woman Looking Exhausted with her Office Job - Pilot Mall

2.      Not stuck in a cubicle          

One of the beautiful things about life as a pilot is that the view from your “desk” is ever changing. Instead of staring at a computer desktop background of the Grand Canyon or the Las Vegas Strip, you may be flying over them.

This varied view and constant change of scenery are a big perk of life as a pilot. You get paid while you watch the sunsets and sunrises over the whole country or even the world, and you are never stuck spending your days under artificial lighting within the confines of a dreary cubicle.

Man on a tropical beach enjoying life - Pilot Mall

3.      Travel

True, the length of your layover and location of your hotel may dictate how much time you have to enjoy the cities that you fly into, but one of the reasons many pilots get into the profession is a love for travel.

Each new city you visit has its own foods, culture, architecture, and social events. As a pilot, you get to sample a little taste of that city whether by trying a new restaurant, going for a walk around the historic downtown, or even just picking up a local newspaper to read at the hotel.

A woman shaking hands with the hiring manager - Pilot Mall

4.      Possibility of lucrative pay

Is becoming a pilot worth the cost? That is a question that many prospective pilots ask themselves.

The truth is that entry-level pilot salaries are not too impressive. Initially, you may be working hard just to pay off your flight school, but if your goal is to make life as a professional pilot your career, remember that you are in it for the long haul.

The long-term gain makes the cost of becoming a pilot worth it for those who genuinely love to fly. Gain seniority at a national airline, and you can work up to making a 6-figure salary.

As we said before, airlines are not your only career option though. The average base salary for a federal government pilot is roughly $115k - $126k, and if you are one of the few to score a coveted NASA astronaut position, you can look forward to an average base salary of $132k.

Looking for some of the most lucrative pilot jobs? Consider applying as an aerial firefighter pilot. In one fire season, the average pilot banks about $73k - $113k, and once you work your way up to senior captain, you could be looking at a $360k paycheck.

Here is a ball-park idea of hourly pay:

    • Certified Flight Instructor Salary: $20-$30 an hour
    • Certified Flight Instructor - Instrument/MEI Salary: $30-$45 and hour
    • Air Tour Pilot Salary: $20-$30 an hour
    • Airline (First officer) Salary: $80-95 an hour
    • Airline (Captain) Salary: $120-$220 an hour
    • Private Charter Pilot Salary: $60-$90 an hour

Woman in a passenger seat on an airline - Pilot Mall

5.      Flight benefits

After flying all the time for work, you may think twice about wanting to jump back on a plane during your days off, but if you work for an airline, flight benefits are your golden opportunity to share the adventure with your spouse, your kids, your parents, and even your friends.

Many airlines offer free standby seats for immediate family members and a certain number of “buddy passes” you can share with whomever you choose.

closeup of a daily planner with a flight schedule - Pilot Mall

6.      Varied schedule

The schedule of a pilot is anything but Monday through Friday 9 to 5. While some people like routine and predictability, the varied schedule of a pilot has its’ benefits.

For starters, while others must schedule their dentist appointments during their lunch break or use paid vacation time, you can easily book a Tuesday morning cleaning on one of your regular days off.

Avoid the wait at your favorite restaurant by simply opting for a late weekday lunch while everyone else is back in the office rather than elbowing your way through the post-work happy hour crowd.

A happy airline captain seated in the cockpit - Pilot Mall

7.      Perks of seniority

Once you have been around for a while and paid your dues, it is time to reap the benefits. Airline pilots with seniority have more say over their schedules and can choose the best, highest paying flights.

Senior pilots can opt for a packed schedule that earns them extra money or a pared down itinerary of a minimal number of flights, so they have time to pursue other adventures.

With seniority, you will also have earned more paid time off, and be free to enjoy holidays and special events with your family.

A Flight attendant and a Pilot Chatting in an Airport - Pilot Mall

8.      Different co-workers every day

In an office setting, you may be stuck in the cubicle next to your least favorite person for years, but one of the great things about being a pilot at a large airline is that if you fly with someone you do not click with, the odds of that person being a part of your flight crew again are pretty slim.

On the flip side, the large flight crew roster means a fresh opportunity to meet and get to know new interesting co-workers on each flight.

A Father playing in the yard with his children - Pilot Mall

9.      You do not have to take work home with you

Unlike your corporate office contemporaries who spend their evenings and weekends squeezing in extra work or replying to incessant emails, as a pilot, once you leave the airport, your job is done.

Your down time is all your own with no expectations for you to log extra hours at home. You are free to completely unwind and spend uninterrupted quality time with friends and family.

A man admiring british architecture - Pilot Mall

10. International opportunities

If working overseas sounds like an exciting career move, but you are not sure how to make it happen, the airline pilot route can make your international living dreams a reality.

International airlines are often interested in hiring American pilots. Many of these contracts include housing and living expenses along with your base pay.

2 pilots managing the various cockpit instruments - Pilot Mall

11. Mentally engaging and challenging

Your aircraft may have autopilot, but that does not mean that your brain just checks out mid-flight. In fact, pilots must always be alert and engaged as they monitor the aircraft status, radio communications, weather conditions and relative positions of other aircraft.

The challenge of maintaining a high level of situational awareness taxes your brain in a good way and keeps work from becoming an exercise in boredom.

A pilot Looking up at the Sky - Pilot Mall

12. Get paid to do something you love

One of the greatest joys in life is getting paid to do something that you love. If you are considering becoming a pilot, hopefully your top reason for choosing this profession is a deep love for flight.

Life as a pilot will have its challenges like living in hotel rooms, enduring a rough schedule and missing holidays with your family, but if flying is your passion, there is something pretty magical about waking up every morning and getting paid to sit in that cockpit.

Now that you're ready to take the leap, why not start your flight training today? Pick up a copy of Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook and learn everything that you need to know.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How many years do you have to study to be a pilot?

    This depends on each individual student's ability to learn and absorb the information in a timely manner. Some get their commercial license in as little as six months, and factor in at least an additional 3 months to become a flight instructor. To qualify for the airlines, a pilot needs to first rack up 1500-hours of flight time.

  • How much does pilot training cost?

    This varies depending on where you intend to train and what your end goal is. Expect around $15,000-$20,000 or more for your Private Pilot Certificate. Getting a Commercial Pilot License will run you anywhere from $55,000-$100,000 or more. To work with the airlines, you will need to time build and the ATP training will cost around an additional $5000 and a multi-engine rating will cost around an additional $3000-$6000 depending on the aircraft rate and instructor fee.

  • What are the pros and cons of becoming a pilot?

    The pros and cons are both numerous. They say to be a happy pilot, you need to "eat, breathe, and sleep aviation", being a pilot takes up a lot of money, time, and skill. It is a challenging field that is both rewarding and taxing. The benefits are the ability to travel, earn a high income, and have a job that you can be proud of. The cons are the loss of time and the financial cost of finishing your training. Expect to miss out on holidays or important family dates because of having a varied work schedule.

  • What age is best to become a pilot?

    As long as you are 18 or older and under 65 years of age, any time in between is a great time to become a pilot as long as you can pass the medical certificate requirements. If you are over 65 years of age, you might not be able to have a career with an airline, but you can still enjoy earning and holding a pilot's license for either private-sector work or recreational purposes.

 Rod Machado's Private Pilot/Commercial Handbook

Rod Machado's Private Pilot/Commercial Handbook

Learn to fly from a book that has personality with Rod Machado’s "Private Pilot/Commercial Pilot Handbook." In addition to having everything you need to know to become a knowledgeable and competent pilot, this book is full of wit, humor, analogies, and fun.

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