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Private Pilot: Job Description & Career Information

Learn what private pilots do and how you can become one. Find out what the career prospects are and what the earning potential is. Keep reading to determine if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition for a Private Pilot

Private pilots fly planes used for private customers. They may taxi corporate executives from city to city, transport professional sports teams to their next games or take celebrities to a movie shoot. Because of the nature of the work, private pilots frequently get to know and bond with people who use their services. Private pilots work for smaller companies which allows for greater career autonomy. They are also known as charter pilots or corporate pilots.

Education Flight school; bachelor's degree may be required
Job Skills Excellent vision, communication skills, problem solving, technical ability
Median Salary (2015)* $102,520 (for airline and commercial pilots)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% (for airline and commercial pilots)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Anyone who wishes to fly professionally must obtain a commercial pilot's license; doing so requires hundreds of hours of training, including time spent operating a variety of different aircraft. Many private pilots begin their training at flight schools that offer flying lessons to newcomers to the industry; there are approximately 600 flight schools accredited by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). Companies hiring private pilots usually require them to have a bachelor's degree in any field; having a degree in aeronautical sciences or aviation is also a huge plus.

Licensure

To fly an airplane, commercial pilots must be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, which requires 250 hours of flight experience and being 18 or older. Additionally, pilots must pass a strict physical examination, a written test, and a flying demonstration with a FAA-designated examiner.

Skills Required

Anyone interested in a career as a private pilot will need patience; flight training is time-consuming, costly, and stressful. Private pilots must have 20/20 vision and be in good physical condition. Having good customer service skills, understanding mechanics, and being extremely safety conscious are also requirements for private pilots.

Economic and Professional Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that 119,200 jobs existed for airline and commercial pilots in 2014; job growth is predicted to be 5% over the next decade, until 2024. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for airline and commercial pilots was $102,520 in 2015.

Alternate Career Option

Private pilots are often qualified to track and direct air traffic, and may consider pursuing a job as an air traffic controller.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers keep track of incoming, outgoing, and airborne flights within a specified area to ensure safe operation and efficient coming and going of aircraft. Air traffic controllers are a pilot's link to the ground - they provide takeoff or landing instructions and weather reports to pilots, directing or approving changes to routes if needed; if there's an emergency on a flight, the pilot can notify the air traffic controller who will in turn alert the airport's emergency response team.

The requirements to become an air traffic controller include being younger than age 31, having U.S. citizenship, possession of an air traffic management degree from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved school, and passing the pre-employment test given by the FAA. Candidates must also complete a FAA training program. Aspiring air traffic controllers with previous experience, such as former military service members, may be exempt from some of these requirements. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs available for air traffic controllers will decline by 9% from 2014-2024. In 2015, air traffic controllers earned a median salary of $122,950, per the BLS.

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