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Working in the Airline Industry

If you enjoy the thrill of flight and mastering complex instruments, like to travel and understand the important role airlines play in hospitality and tourism, then you may love working in the airline industry. Start investigating possible opportunities today.

If one of your passions in life is traveling, then a career in the airline industry may be a great choice for you. In fact, as a military spouse, you are probably no stranger to traveling. Through deployments and relocations, you have probably been on a plane once, twice or maybe 20 times. You can put your familiarity with airlines to good use by working in the industry. You may even be able to take advantage of some of the benefits and fly free with your service member to a well-deserved vacation spot.

Education requirements

Entry-level positions in the airline industry often require a high school diploma or equivalent. You can then work your way up to lead positions based on your performance. However, advanced career positions, such as a pilot or mechanic, require more formalized training from a specialty, flight or technical school.

Pilot

Commercial pilots typically require a high school diploma or equivalent while airline pilots typically require a bachelor’s degree. All pilots who are paid to fly must have at least a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Additionally, airline pilots must have the Airline Transport Pilot certificate. Ratings such as the ATP, instrument or multi-engine ratings expand the privileges granted by the commercial pilot’s license and may be required by certain employers.

Flight attendants and cabin crew

Flight attendants receive training from their employer and must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. Although flight attendants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, some airlines prefer to hire applicants who have some college. Prospective flight attendants typically need previous work experience in customer service.

Mechanics and service technicians

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians typically enter the occupation after attending a Part 147 FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School. These programs award a certificate of completion the FAA recognizes as an alternate to the experience requirements stated in the regulations and grants holders the ability to take the relevant FAA exams. Although aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians are not required to have licenses or certifications, most do, as these credentials often improve a mechanic’s wages and chances for employment. The FAA requires that aircraft maintenance be done either by or under the supervision of a certified mechanic with the appropriate ratings or authorizations.

Roles and responsibilities

Professionals working in the airline industry have many roles and responsibilities, which are often determined by employment position.

Pilots: Pilots plan each flight with the flight dispatcher and meteorologist, brief the crew, check takeoff procedures, determine the plane’s operation worthiness, fly the plane and file a trip report.

Flight attendants: Flight attendants assist passengers in boarding the plane, check tickets, stow carry-on bags, answer questions, close and lock doors and check the aisles, rows and storage bins for loose items. They explain safety procedures and ensure that each passenger follows regulations, make announcements during flights, serve food and beverages, provide blankets and other amenities and direct passengers during emergencies.

Mechanics and service technicians: Mechanics and service technicians complete preventative maintenance and inspect aircraft engines, landing gear, instruments, pressurized sections, brakes, valves, pumps, air-conditioning systems and other parts of the aircraft.

It may not always be easy to find a job in your specific occupation, so you may want to consider similar types of employment in the airline industry. Many of these occupations require the same skills and knowledge and have very similar work environments. A few of these occupations include the following:

  • Air traffic controllers
  • Baggage handlers
  • Clerical and office support workers
  • Airline station managers
  • Airport managers
  • Engineers
  • Financial analysts
  • Marketing personnel
  • Reservation agents
  • Ticket agents

When you are ready to start your job search, visit the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search to search for positions with organizations committed to hiring military spouses.

You may also want to search for positions on USAJOBS with organizations like the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation.

Professional organizations and networking

Join a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Network with other professionals in your industry to give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to get an interview at your new location.

Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Next steps

To get more information about starting your career in the airline industry, check out the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Enter the keywords 'airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers,' 'flight attendants' or 'aircraft mechanics and service technicians' to learn more about the occupational overview for your specialty field.

If you need additional information on obtaining the proper license or certification as part of your specialty field, visit the Advantages of Licensure article in the Education, Training and Licensing lifecycle stage of MySECO. Visit the Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state.

If you move due to a PCS, your service branch can now help reimburse licensure and certification costs up to $1,000. Each service has its own procedures for reimbursement, so be sure you know what your branch requires.

You can also speak with a SECO career coach by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on MySECO.

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