Up in the Air

By J&C Team

Do airports and flying fill you with excitement? If so a career in aviation may be the perfect fit!

A job in aviation can offer you the chance to travel the world and help people reach their destinations in comfort. But even if you’re not a big fan of flying, there are plenty of aviation careers on solid ground. Here we take a look at some of the options.

Cabin Crew

Excellent customer service is key, as your priority is to ensure all passengers have a comfortable, safe flight. As well as providing refreshments and in-flight sales, you need to be able to deal with an emergency and administer first aid. You will also have to demonstrate and enforce safety procedures.

What skills do I need? Good GCSE results may be sufficient but it will help if you have a degree or HND in hospitality, languages or tourism. You also need excellent communication skills, the ability to work in a team, as well as keep calm and diffuse tense situations quickly.

How can I progress? With experience you can become a purser or chief purser (chief flight attendant or cabin manager), who has management responsibilities of first class or business cabins.

How much can I earn? The starting salary for members of the cabin crew is £12,000 to £14,000, but this can be boosted by shift pay, performance or sales bonuses, and with experience increases to a base rate of £20,000.


Airline pilots have full control and responsibility for the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of their flights. They are responsible for preparing a detailed flight plan and have to work out the fuel load based on the total weight of the aircraft, the distance to be flown and the altitude.

What skills do I need? You can become a pilot with good A-levels but having a science or engineering degree will help considerably. You’ll need a private pilot’s licence, followed by a commercial pilot’s licence and an airline transport pilot’s licence. The latter takes between nine and 36 months to gain.

How can I progress? Promotion from first officer to captain can take around 15 years with ongoing training. You could become a flight instructor or take on a senior management role.

How much can I earn? You start at £15,000 to £20,000, but large airlines pay between £38,000 and £50,000. Experienced captains on long-haul flights can earn up to £150,000.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers manage aircraft through all aspects of the flight from take off to landing, using radar and radio to communicate with pilots. Some specialise in different stages of the process, including approach controllers and aerodrome controllers.

What skills do I need? Five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) are mandatory and a degree providing numeracy and technical skills is a bonus. Training takes a year through National Air Traffic Services, which stipulates you need to be motivated, conscientious and decisive.

How can I progress? After the year’s training, you’ll need a further two years’ hands-on experience before becoming fully qualified. You can then progress to supervisor level.

How much can I earn? Starting salary is just over £13,000, rising to £17,000 after training and, with experience, to £36,000 and more.