What kind of positions exist in the pilot carrier world?

There is a wide variety of professional pilot positions, but the three that are the most common. Those three are airline, corporate, and military.

How can I become a airline pilot?

There are few corporate pilot and airline jobs require a college degree, yet they all require a lot of hours of flight time; most pilots start off by obtaining a 4 year degree, preferably in a non-aviation field. After a person gets the education and the minimum flight training, you can typically be qualified to fly an airplane for compensation. Most people will only fly in airlines for about a year or two, this is because the excitements is only an instant gratification and most airline pilots end up working very low pay and long hours. After gaining some experience, one can apply for any other flying job.

If your career goal is the airlines, you will learn how to navigate until you have enough flight time to be considered by a regional airline. Once you are hired by a regional airline, you will start off as a First Officer (i.e. co-pilot) and you will work your way up to the Captain’s seat as you gain experience- assuming, of course, that your airline is growing and has a future need for Captains (Freeman). Everything is based upon your date of hire; so this means that based on when you were hired, you would be next in line for the captains seat or any other seat next in line.

Once a pilot gains about 1500-2000 hours as a Captain (minimum), which equates to about 2 to 4 years of additional experience (minimum), he or she will then start to become competitive for a job at a larger carrier (Freeman). The competition for higher ranking pilots positions only gets harder, that is why it is important to built off your experience and be patient.

What do I need to do for a corporate career path as a pilot?

Once you have gained experience flying, some people prefer to apply for an entry level position with a corporate flight department. The corporate jobs that are open to pilots with lower levels of flight time tend to be the least desirable (Freeman). These corporate positions often have low pay and this position could require a pilot to be “on call” for a timely departure many days during a given month; this mean that you would not have a set schedule and you would have a hard time planning things outside of work. Sometimes these lesser desirable jobs come with duties like washing the airplane or doing a lot of office work. Some corporate flight departments are said to only allow their pilots only a few days free of duty each month, imagine trying to have a schedule and trying to plan things out! You have to be really open with your schedule to have a job that has you on call.

Like any other job, experience will allow you to eventually apply for other desirable corporate jobs. There positions include flying large, advanced business jets for established and well regarded corporate flight departments or working for a fractional corporate jet operator (Freeman). These types of jobs can provide you with better salaries, benefits, and a more stable quality of life.

How what do I need to do to be a pilot for the military?

The military pilot career path is a different from other pilot jobs. There are different things you can do to become a military pilot and different ways to do it. For example there are military academies, reserve officer training corps (ROTC), Guard/Reserve units, and UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training). We will talk about all of these different forms of becoming a military pilot.

Military Academies

Getting accepted into any of the military academies is difficult; the students accepted tend to be very successful in high school and are also involved in extracurricular activities. If you choose this route to become a pilot and if you are accepted, the military will pay for your entire college education. This is a very respected path but you just have to make sure that it is that one for you. Having college paid for is a huge advantage, but you have to make sure you meet all the requirements and that everything is in order. Also, since the standards of academy acceptance are so high, these academies tend to get the most pilot slots; this means that life as an academy student, is demanding and very disciplined (Freeman). Academic standards are high for students in the military, and students are expected to be physically fit and active and be part of activities outside the classroom.

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)

If one wants to become a military pilot, another path that can be taken is through a ROTC program. If you are selected and accepted for a ROTC program, you would attend a university and obtain your Bachelor’s Degree, but in addition to your Bachelor’s degree you would also attend college military classes and weekly leadership labs where you learn to become a military officer (Freeman). During the summer of your sophomore year, you also attend a 4 to 6 week “boot camp” where your officer training continues; this is an example of how discipline is rigid and you have to be a good academic student and have good time management skills to be successful if you take this route.

The Military pays for the majority of your tuition, and you can also receive a small monthly stipend to help with your expenses while at school, such as books and food. In exchange for this financial assistance, you will have a commitment to serve after you graduate from college (Freeman). A student who has successfully and fully participated in a ROTC program is generally looked upon favorably when the military is awarding pilot slots, that is why it is important to do well and to try your best to do things right when you are part of the ROTC program. Participation in a ROTC does not guarantee selection for a pilot slot, you so also have to keep in mind other opportunities and be away of what is being offered. It is possible that if the military is not looking for pilots when you graduate from college that you could be placed into a non-flying position. Remember, you have to be patient and earn your way to become a pilot if there are no spots open.

Guard/Reserve Unit

Another way one can become a professional military pilot is by joining a Reserve or Guard unit after you graduate from college, this is a good choice if you have already gained flight experience on your own (Freeman). These positions can be hard to obtain since these units tend to hire from within, but remember patience and hard work are required as long as keeping an optimistic mindset.

UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training)

If you are selected for a flying position from one of the above paths, you will be sent to UPT; an UTP is about 13 months long and is broken into two cycles (Freeman). The first cycle everyone involves flying the T-6. The second cycle pilots are divided into different training groups to fly fighters, heavy aircraft, or propeller powered aircraft; some pilots may even go fly UAVs (Freeman). After going through UPT, you’ll likely go into military active duty. As an active duty officer, you can expect to have a commitment of over a decade, and you can expect to have to move your family during that time about every 4 years (Freeman). As you move up in the ranks as an officer you tend to fly airplanes less, you have to make sure that you stay in good physical shape, you are required to participate in many military exercises, and you could be sent anywhere in the world, including combat zones (Freeman). However, this work pays off and you will receive quality training, a good income, and other good benefits. Any carrier requires hard work and patience; for a pilot it all depends what you want to do and how you want to do it.


Freeman, Joel. “How Becoming an Airline Pilot Works.” HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks.com, 04 Aug. 2000. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.