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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.