I read a forum recently where a young man was thinking of becoming of pilot because of the money pilots make and because of the lucrative lifestyle they lead. If this is the reason why you want to become a commercial / professional pilot, you are in for a very rude awakening. Most of the successful pilots I know are flying because they have a passion for flying. If you want to make a lot of money and lead a lucrative lifestyle, I would advise you to stay away from aviation altogether.
The Price To Pay
The truth about being a pilot is that it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. You have to want to fly so bad that it hurts if you’re going to go anywhere as a pilot. I know pilots who have had to sleep in hangers and rent out warehouses instead of apartments just so they could make ends meet while they built up their flight time in order to qualify for better-paying flying jobs.
Starting pay for pilots in the first few years of their careers is approximately $18K/yr – $35K/yr. The first years and even decades of a pilot career are anything but lucrative or glamorous. Salaries vary greatly depending on the type of aircraft you fly. Typically, the bigger the airplane, the higher the salary. This also means the longer it typically takes to get there. You’ll be well into your thirties if you’re lucky or more likely into your forties before you are making a good salary as a pilot. And by “good salary”, I mean something over $50K/yr which is pretty modest these days.
Seek quality of life rather than salary
If money is very important to you, you should research the current salary trends in the industry, but never go by salary alone when determining what pilot career to choose. Other factors are so important that you must take them into consideration.
For instance, is being healthy and staying as young as you can for as long as you can important to you? If so, perhaps being a pilot for some of the cargo airlines may not be the best choice. Why? Because a lot of the cargo flights take place overnight, especially in your first few years of being a pilot. Your biological clock will be in a constant state of adjustment. Every living being has a biological clock. This clock tells your body when to perform certain processes. For instance, at night, when you are supposed to be sleeping, your body tries to rebuild torn tissue, repair muscle, reinvigorate your immune system, and remove toxins from your body. If your body knows it’s time to sleep, but you’re taking in ridiculous amounts of caffeine to stay awake for that overnight flight to Tokyo, your body won’t be able to perform all the processes it needs to keep you as healthy as you would otherwise be.
Lack of sleep causes premature aging and makes you susceptible to a host of different diseases. It’s not accidental that cargo pilots for companies such as FedEx and UPS are some of the highest paid pilots in the industry. They have to make certain sacrifices, but they get compensated for this with a higher salary. Overall, however, a pilot career at a major cargo airline company is one of the most sought-after pilot careers because of the salary and routes flown. In addition, cargo pilots are responsible for cargo, not people, so that might be alluring to some, while not to others.
Pilot Trick: Decide how to balance your salary with your quality of life. Try to figure out the type of lifestyle you would like and do your research about what type of pilot career may be suitable for you.
Check out these links to get an idea of the current salary trends for pilots
Also, check out forums for pilots and ask the experts for their opinions. There’s nothing like getting a good reality check from someone who has been there and done that…and is currently doing it.
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