Spring is just around the corner, and college acceptance letters are beginning to sprout like crocuses in high school seniors’ mailboxes. If you have a student in your household who’s been accepted to an aviation college or university, congratulations. If you have a high school junior with birdmanlike aspirations, you might already be scouting for institutions of “higher” learning. Either way, there are some things you could and should be doing in the coming months to ensure your airminded student has the best shot at success on campus, and in the years following graduation. A college education is surely a leg up to a lasting career in aviation.
For those whose course is set for next September, now is a good time to narrow their focus on how they expect to spend their undergraduate time. Part of that decision-making process involves determining precisely what area of aviation they want to get involved in.
Many people equate a career in aviation with an airline pilot job. Unfortunately, that career path isn’t the glory ride it used to be. Part of the lost luster has to do with comparing the job today with the way it was in the “good old days.” That might not be a fair comparison, since there are many career paths that have also
gotten rockier over the past few decades. Though not necessarily still paved in gold, there is still a lot of good to be said for job track that includes gold-striped epaulets. But it isn’t the only way to go, either.
Other ways to pursue a big-jet pilot career include charter operators, cargo carriers, corporate pilot slots, and fractional ownership programs. They all have appeal. In some cases, the less frenetic lifestyle can be more comfortable than that of a major airline crew. There are also requirements for pilots in other roles,
such as law enforcement, news, pipeline patrol, flight instruction – and don’t forget the military option. Most aviation-oriented colleges include ROTC opportunities on campus.
College-bound students should also consider related professional areas where aviation needs good people. They include engineering; IT; finance and management; sales and marketing; manufacturing; maintenance; and government jobs with the FAA and other agencies. (I’d mention journalism, but I don’t need the competition.) In most cases, you can build a career that involves significant flying time, even though piloting isn’t the primary element of the job description.