Flight Engineer: Job & Career Info

Learn the job duties and career outlook for flight engineers. Find out education and training requirements for this job, as well as some alternative careers.

Career Definition for a Flight Engineer

Flight engineers monitor the many instruments used on airplanes during flight and provide routine maintenance when en-route. Their watchful eye and technical expertise allows pilots to concentrate on flying. Many airline companies consider flight engineer jobs as the first step to becoming a pilot.

Education Bachelor's degree
Job Skills Analytical skills, leadership, observation skills, physical ability
Median Salary (2015) $117,290 (all airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers)
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1% (all airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Commercial airlines require flight engineers to have at least a bachelor's degree. While they can technically study any subject as undergraduates, many aspiring flight engineers and pilots major in aviation or aeronautical studies.


Flight engineers must obtain a commercial pilot's license, have at least 1,500 hours of flying experience and pass a series of physical and psychological tests. Flight engineers have to continue training throughout their career to maintain their license.

Skills Required

Flight engineers must have a strong background in flying aircraft. Additionally, they need to be adept at reading instruments, dials and other tools used in planes. Leadership and the ability to make decisions quickly are desirable traits, and flight engineers must be in top physical form.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to industry experts, most new aircraft only require a pilot and co-pilot, but not a flight engineer; however, the military still has a need for flight engineers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth for pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers would increase by 1% from 2014 to 2024 decade. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers was $117,290 in May 2015.

Alternative Career Options

Individuals interested in becoming a flight engineer may consider related jobs, including air traffic controller and commercial pilot.

Air Traffic Controller

Those interested in working with aircraft, but who prefer to stay on the ground, may be interested in a career as an air traffic controller. Air traffic controllers monitor and direct aircraft traffic in the air. Most air traffic controllers complete a 2- or 4-year degree, pass the Air Traffic Standardized Aptitude Test and complete a specialized Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) training program. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for air traffic controllers was $122,950, according to the BLS. The BLS projects that employment for air traffic controllers is expected to decrease by 9% from 2014 to 2024.

Commercial Pilot

Like flight engineers, commercial pilots receive flight training and are licensed by the FAA. They fly all types of aircraft, including passenger and cargo planes, and planes equipped to dust crops or put out fires, but not on a regular schedule or route like an airline pilot. While the median salary is lower for commercial pilots than for flight engineers, there are likely to be more jobs for commercial pilots in the coming years. According to the BLS, jobs for commercial pilots are expected to increase by 10% from 2014 to 2024, which is about-average growth. These pilots earned a median annual salary of $76,150 as of May 2015.

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