Fancy a job which takes you all over the world? Then why not reach for the stars and choose a high-flying career as a commercial airline pilot – the sky’s the limit!
A commercial airline pilot transports passengers and cargo all over the world and flies planes on short domestic journeys or for long-haul flights. A pilot will undergo a lengthy training programme requiring a lot of commitment but starting salaries are high and a pilot can receive some excellent perks. A pilot needs to be focused and responsible – piloting is not a career for people with their head in the clouds!
Being a commercial pilot is a sought-after line of work and the rate of competition for jobs is sky-high. The responsibilities of a pilot include flying the plane, briefing cabin staff, checking flight plans, calculating fuel consumption and noting weather conditions.
The typical qualifications needed to become an airline pilot are a minimum of five GCSEs and two A-levels. A degree is not necessarily required, but some prospective pilots will have one. A pilot is required to hold an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). You can qualify for an ATPL through an integrated course or by undertaking modular training. An integrated course takes around 18 months to complete and combines both practical and theoretical elements. Taking an integrated course usually costs upwards of £50,000.
Alternatively, a trainee pilot can study on a modular training course which is divided into several sub-sections. This spreads out the cost of pilot training and allows people to study at their own pace. After attaining an ATPL, you’ll be required to train further under the wing of more experienced pilot.
Being a fully qualified pilot does not guarantee instant employment. Competition is fierce and a qualified pilot will often have to wait a while for their career to take off. Working hours can be irregular – a commercial pilot won’t necessarily follow regular working schedules and they will often have to fly at odd hours or overnight.
Career progression is attained through experience and a pilot’s salary can be extremely lucrative. A junior officer can earn around £21,000+ a year, but experienced captains can find themselves landing a salary of up to £140,000 a year if they work for with the bigger airlines. A pilot is restricted to 900 flying hours a year but as a perk of the job, if a pilot wants to stay on in a foreign country to explore or take a short break, some airlines will cover their costs for up to four days.
If you think being a commercial airline pilot is the career for you, Balpa, the industry’s main professional body in the UK has some useful career advice.