While the airline industry provides hundreds of thousands of jobs for the American economy, it has seen significant troubles over the past decade. As a result of this slowdown, the rate of job growth has decreased: the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for flight attendants to show little or no growth through 2020, while jobs for aircraft mechanics are expected to grow at a slow rate of six percent. Airline positions typically offer good pay and benefits, but applicants should expect strong competition for available jobs.
Airline ticket agents help passengers board flights, ensure that only those with tickets enter the plane, and assist passengers who need to make alternative arrangements due to a cancelled or missed flight. Some employers will hire candidates for this position who have only a high school diploma, while others prefer either postsecondary education or industry experience related to the hospitality or service industries. As of 2012, ticket agents working in the airline industry earned an average of $35,830 per year.
Flight attendants provide for the safety and comfort of airline passengers while in flight, by providing food, drink, and other amenities, and by monitoring the behavior of passengers. The FAA requires that flight attendants have several weeks of training, usually provided by the airline hiring them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that flight attendants working in the scheduled air transportation industry earned an average of $42,210 as of May 2012.
Aircraft mechanics inspect airplanes before and between flights to make sure that they are safe. They also perform scheduled maintenance and repairs. Aircraft mechanics must attend an FAA-approved flight mechanic school before being hired; programs typically last between 18 and 24 months. As of 2012, mechanics working in the scheduled air transportation industry averaged $60,130 per year. Airline avionics technicians, who specialize in the maintenance and repair of computerized flight systems, earned an average of $59,060.
Pilots are some of the highest-paid professionals in the airline industry. This job requires years of preparation; pilots usually hone their craft for several years in commercial industries before finding a lucrative job with an airline. To be hired by an airline, a pilot must be at least 23 years old and have logged at least 1,500 hours of flight time. In addition, many airlines prefer to hire pilots with a college degree. As of 2012, the average annual income of a pilot in scheduled air transportation was $130,410.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 Wages for Reservation and Transportation Ticket Agents and Travel Clerks
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 Wages for Airline Pilots, Copilots and Flight Engineers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 Wages for Flight Attendants
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 Wages for Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Information Clerks
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Flight Attendants
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 Wages for Avionics Technicians
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Airline and Commercial Pilots
- Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images