How to Become a Flight Attendant: Career Overview
The main role of a flight attendant is keeping passengers safe on flights and ensuring their security, whether in everyday operations or emergencies. To become a flight attendant, at least some college education is preferred, but not required, and experience in customer service is helpful. Once hired by an airline, future flight attendants must go through training to get certified.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent; college degree preferred|
|Required Certification||Federal Aviation Administration certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||10%*|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2018)||$56,000*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Flight Attendant Job Description
Flight attendants are fully trained in all the safety protocols and procedures of the flight. They'll help passengers board the flight and find their seats, ensure luggage is stowed properly, and make sure passengers have their seatbelts on when needed. They'll give demonstrations about procedures to follow in case of an emergency. If there were an actual emergency, they would inform passengers on what to do. They also might need to perform first aid.
Flight attendants will also distribute items like food, drinks, pillows, blankets, and more to make passengers comfortable. They may also perform customer service related duties, like answer people's questions, coordinate seat changes, or help comfort anxious passengers.
Flight Attendant Hours and Shifts
Being an airline attendant means not having a regular 9-to-5 office job. They work nights, weekends and holidays, and may switch shifts frequently. Flight attendants usually work 12-to-14-hour shifts, but may work longer for international flights. However, flight attendants will get at least a nine-hour break in between flights, as mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Of the hours worked, flight attendants usually spend 75 to 100 in the air each month. An additional 50 hours are spent on the ground, completing administrative duties or preparing for flights.
All this flying means that flight attendants frequently stay overnight in hotels away from home. Airlines will generally pay for lodging and give flight attendants a meal allowance.
Flight Attendant Career Pathways
Flight attendants must go through training each year to keep up their certification. As they gain seniority, it usually means more of a say in schedule and routes. In addition, senior flight attendants may advance to management positions, which involve recruiting and training flight attendants, as well as creating schedules.
Flight Attendant Education Requirements
Although no higher degree than a high school diploma is required to become a flight attendant, airlines may prefer that they have a college degree, or at least some college experience, especially as flight attendant jobs continue to be competitive. For relevant college coursework, aspiring flight attendants could consider attending a program at a travel and tourism school. Or, they can consider online degree programs to become a flight attendant.
However, most flight attendant education will take place after someone is hired as a flight attendant. They will go through training to get an FAA certificate. This training, which usually lasts for three to six weeks, will educate future flight attendants in emergency procedures, airline policies, flight regulations and more. They'll also complete practice flights. Once they get their FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency, they'll continue to complete additional training as they progress in their jobs.
If flight attendants work on international flights, they may be required to have proficiency in a foreign language.
Other Flight Attendant Requirements and Experience
Aside from education, airlines may like to see that flight attendants have one or two years of experience in customer service, like working in a hotel or restaurant, to show they can successfully interact with the public. Airlines also look for flight attendants who can communicate well with others and are skilled decision-makers, since they'll need to stay calm and level-headed in case of an emergency.
Because this job requires moving around and standing, flight attendants should be in decent physical shape. They may be on their feet for long periods in a cramped space and will need to be able to help people move overhead luggage, manage equipment like food carts, and operate emergency exits.
Flight Attendant Salary and Employment Outlook
The median salary for flight attendants in May 2018 was $56,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The agency also reported that the career is growing at a rate of 10 percent, which is faster than average, and that as of 2018, there are 119,300 flight attendant jobs. This growth could be in part due to airlines getting larger planes that fit more passengers, which creates a need for more flight attendants. Despite the growth, it is still a competitive career because many people apply.