Think of becoming a professional pilot as building a portfolio of your skills.  You can attain these different skills in a variety of ways and some skills may be required by certain employers, while other skills may not be necessary (and may even be unwanted) by others.  However, there are fundamental skills that you will need across the board (for any employer).

The basic skills you will need for a career as a pilot with any employer are:

Basic Skill #1: Learning to Fly

To be a pilot, you obviously need to learn to fly.  Here are the first few steps you need to take:

Step 1: Research The Types Of Pilot Certificates

Step 2: Get A Medical Certificate

Step 3. Choose Your Flight School

Basic Skill #2. In most instances, you will need a college degree

If you already have a college degree, try to think of a way to use it to your advantage?  For instance, do you have a technical degree, such as in physics, math, or engineering?  Look for opportunities with aircraft manufacturers, such as maintenance test pilot, demonstration pilot, or even test pilot.

If you don’t yet have a college degree, there are ways for you to get both a college degree and your flight certificates and ratings at the same time.  However, be careful if you’re thinking of applying to aviation universities that offer a “professional pilot” degree because this type of degree will only be good for getting pilot jobs.  If you ever loose your medical or want to change careers (you get furloughed, or decide a flying career is not for you), you won’t have anything to fall back on.

It’s better to obtain a degree in something other than flying – it can still be related to aviation, just don’t make it a “pilot” degree.  For instance, an aviation management degree, aviation safety degree, human factors degree, are examples of degrees that will give you skills you can place into your portfolio and will accomplish a few things:

1. Will make you a better pilot

2. Will open up more opportunities for you than someone who is “only a pilot”

3. Will serve as a backup in the unfortunate event that you decide not to fly as a career, but will still allow you to work in the aviation industry

The above two sets of skills are the minimum you need.  However, in order to be competitive, you should try to attain the following skills as well:

a. A college degree outside of aviation

b. Negotiation skills

c. Interviewing skills

d. Organizational skills

e. Computer skills

f. Any other skill that you have an affinity for

Some of the best pilots I know have law degrees, management degrees, and advanced engineering degrees.  This not only allows them the opportunity to be pilots, but also opens doors into management positions or offers them the opportunity to have side business when they are not flying.

Even if you don’t get a “degree” in something else, you can take classes, seminars, or courses in order to continue to fill up your portfolio with skills that will set you above the average pilot candidate.

Photo courtesy of AviationNews.EU

I’m so psyched to tell you that I just flew a gorgeous Boeing 737NG for the first time as a pilot!  It was such an unbelievable experience.  This is the first time I ever flew a jet airplane too and it’s so much better than I ever expected.  Wow!

With 26,000 lbs of thrust on each General Electric engine, it was an amazing feeling accelerating down the runway.  I saw the runway centerline stripes speeding under the nose of the airplane and it felt so surreal!  Time suddenly slowed down – you know like when something incredible happens.  I remember thinking “No way, I can’t believe I’m doing this!  This can’t be happening!”  I felt like laughing out loud, but I didn’t (at least not until after takeoff).  The captain’s voice suddenly brought me back to reality when he called out  ”80 Knots”.  I replied, “Checked”.  I couldn’t believe I was saying that word – coming out of my mouth, because that meant I was the one doing the takeoff.

The rest of the flight seemed like an out-of-body experience.  I could see myself performing all the actions necessary to fly the airplane, especially during approach and landing after the autopilot comes off.  I made all the right callouts, managed the speed, and configured the airplane, but it didn’t feel like it was me doing all that – how did I know to do all that stuff at the right time?

I had obtained my type rating a month before and it was such a great experience!   I used to think, wow there’s so much stuff to know, how am I going to remember all this!  But, I did remember everything ;-D

This experience alone has made everything so worthwhile.  All that hard work!  All those student loans, holding two-three jobs, volunteering at the Civil Air Patrol to get flight time, flight instructing after my normal job.  It’s been a wild ride for sure!

I just wanted to share this story with my readers as an inspiration to work hard and pursue your dreams.  Take whatever passion you have and run with it!

If you have any questions for me, I would LOVE to hear from you.  Email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below!


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