Civilian Jobs For Military Pilots

Sep 24, 2017

For former military pilots, the transition back into civilian life may be confusing and the hunt to find a job could be intimidating. Fortunately, former pilots may find they are qualified for several jobs in the civilian world.

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After working as a pilot in one of the branches in the military, a veteran may be interested in pursuing a career that puts to good use the skills learned during their time in service. There are a number of ways that an ex-military pilot could transition into a civilian career. We will discuss a few of these career options below.

Career Comparison

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth* Applicable Military Skills/Traits
Airline Pilot $127,820 (for all airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers) 1%(for all airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers) Operating aircraft, attention to detail, timeliness
Commercial Pilot $77,200 10% Operating aircraft, attention to detail, timeliness
Flight Instructor $50,660 (for all postsecondary vocational education teachers) 5-8%(for all postsecondary vocational education teachers) Knowledge of operating aircraft, communication skills
Air Traffic Controller $122,410 -9% Ability to follow safety protocols, communication skills, knowledge of aircraft, scheduling, decision making
Aerial Firefighter $48,030 (for all firefighters) 5% (for all firefighters) Ability to operate aircraft, fire safety skills, communication skills, decision making

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Aeronautics, Aviation, and Aerospace Science
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Airline Flight Attendant
  • Aviation Management and Operations
  • Commercial Pilot and Flight Crew
  • Flight Instructor

Relevance to Military Background

The military provides pilots with hundreds and thousands of hours of flying experience, making the choice to transition to another type of flight or pilot job in the civilian world quite natural. In addition, the military equips its members with a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility, two skills that are important in any career but especially in those that involve the safety of other people. Below, we will discuss some of these career possibilities in greater detail to understand how a military background sets former military pilots up for success in these jobs.

Airline Pilot

Many former military pilots transition into a career as a pilot for a major passenger airline. To become an airline pilot, you generally need to have had thousands of hours of in-flight experience, which makes the military a great source of training and preparation for a career with an airline. Airline pilots are not responsible for plane maintenance, though they must make sure the aircraft is operating normally before departure and during flight. Airline pilots often work on a team with a co-pilot or two as well as several flight attendants. The pilot is responsible for communicating with passengers throughout the flight to inform them of the flight status, weather conditions, and possible turbulence.

Commercial Pilot

Commercial pilots mainly are responsible for flying unscheduled flights, rather than transporting passengers. While these professionals generally make less money than airline pilots, a former military pilot may prefer flying commercial flights if they want a more flexible schedule, do not wish to interact with as many people, and enjoy performing tasks other than flying. For example, many commercial pilots are also responsible for scheduling flights and loading luggage. The flights that commercial pilots make could be for aerial and photographer tours or charter flights for individuals. The training that a military pilot received is generally more than adequate preparation for a job as a commercial pilot.

Flight Instructor

As a flight instructor, you will be responsible for teaching students how to operate different kinds of aircraft safely. With a background as a military pilot and the appropriate licensure, you will be able to pass on your knowledge and skills to a new generation of hopeful pilots. In a teaching role, you will be responsible for communicating information effectively and clearly, a skill which you may have picked up during your time in the military. Flight instructors may be employed by flight schools or other postsecondary educational institutions.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers are responsible for monitoring air traffic using advanced radar technology. They are in charge of making sure planes take off and land according to schedule, confirming a clear and safe airway in which to fly, updating pilots on changes in airport or weather conditions, and keeping track of all ground traffic at an airport. To become an air traffic controller, it is necessary to have several years of work experience, which a veteran's time in the military could fulfill, though pilots would have to undergo additional training at the FAA Academy and pass a test to be eligible for a position. A pilot's knowledge of aircraft, sense of responsibility, and communication abilities would all be qualities that could be put to good use as an air traffic controller.

Aerial Firefighter

Aerial firefighters are a special type of firefighter that combat fires from planes by spraying large amounts of water or fire retardant chemicals on the fires from the air. They often work on a contractual basis and usually are employed to fight large wildfires. A military pilot would qualify for a position as an aerial firefighter, as they would fulfill the necessary flight hour and certification requirements necessary to obtain one of these positions. The safety training and flight skills a pilot learned while in the military would likely come in handy for this position.

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