Career Path of a Professional Airplane Pilot
Want a career as a professional pilot flying for international airlines, global corporations or worldwide freight carriers? Competition for these career paths is high, and we know how to navigate the steps to get you there.
You start your career by getting the ratings and certificates you need to fly professionally. After you finish flight training, you’ll have somewhere around 250 hours of flight time as an airplane pilot. But, you’ll need anywhere from 750 to 1250 more hours to move on to your next step – working at a regional airline or entry-level job in another pilot career path.
With the right training and guidance which we can provide, you can start preparing to turn your dream into a successful career. Visit our graduate map to learn about our alumni working in the industry.
Hillsboro was paramount to my success in aviation. I completed my entire certified flight instructor training at Hillsboro. After passing my check ride, I was hired as an instructor at just 19 years of age and flew over 1000 hours during my time as an instructor teaching students from all over the world. Flight instructing at Hillsboro was a unique experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
William Romualdo, Captain for Avianca Airlines
This experience helped open doors at airlines for William. After flying a Boeing 737NG for GOL Airlines, he was hired by Avianca and at 28 years old was promoted to an Airbus A320 Captain.
Hillsboro helped plot my course to becoming an airline pilot. I wanted a college degree, and when I learned about Hillsboro’s partnership with Portland Community College (PCC), I enrolled and started down the path toward obtaining my college degree, aircraft certificates, and flight experience.
Michael Lane, Captain at SkyWest Airlines
Because of his determination and commitment to this training, Michael is now living his dream as a Captain for SkyWest.
WHERE DO I START?
You start your career by getting the ratings and certificates you need to fly professionally. After you finish flight training, you’ll have somewhere around 250 hours of flight time as an airplane pilot.
But, you’ll need anywhere from 750 to 1250 more hours to move on to your next step—working at a regional airline or entry-level job in another pilot career path like corporate charter or cargo.
So how do you even get your first job as a professional airplane pilot?
BECOME AN AIRPLANE FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR
There are always exceptions, but a surefire way to advance your career is to become a flight instructor. You’ll sharpen your skills through the act of teaching students and build your flight hours while you get paid.
We do hire many of our qualified graduates as flight instructors, and you’ll find the best way to make the next move in your career—whether you’re aiming to be an airline pilot, corporate pilot or freight pilot.
You’ll typically spend a year or two as an instructor before you move on to the next step.
AIRLINE PILOT CAREERS
This career path offers more routine schedules that are known in advance, the chance to work with a team and the opportunity to fly international routes. It can start off with lower entry pay, but leads to stronger benefits in the long run.
Like any goal, there’s a tactical way to approach your career as an airline pilot. First, you’ll start off flying for regional airlines like SkyWest, Horizon Air, and ExpressJet.
Here, you’ll fly everything from medium turboprop aircraft to jets like the CRJ 900. At this level you’ll gain invaluable experience around airline operations, also know as Part 121—learning to coordinate with airport crews, satisfy customers and how operations at small and major airports work.
Your time at the regional level depends on the hiring needs of major airlines like Delta, American and EVA Air. Once you make the leap into the big leagues you’ll fly larger aircraft and longer routes.
FRACTIONAL & CORPORATE PILOT CAREERS
With higher pay than airlines and less-predictable schedules, this career path will have you flying for businesses and private individuals around the world.
The aircraft you’ll fly are state-of-the-are, with luxurious interiors and the latest avionics equipment. Your schedule will vary greatly from day to day—you could just as easily end up in Mumbai as in Memphis. This career demands an adventurous individual who’s ready to go with the flow and loves the challenge of changing plans on the go.
To step into this career path you’ll start as a flight instructor and likely spend some time as a regional pilot, building the skills you need to operate at small and large airports.
FREIGHT PART 135 CAREERS
If you dream of flying solo without worrying about passengers, a career as a Freight Part 135 pilot is for you.
On this path you’ll fly everything from single-engine Cessnas filled with boxes to FedEx® 747s on international routes. Like any other career path, you’ll start off in smaller aircraft and work your way up.
The Freight Part 135 world works similarly to the airlines in that you begin flying regional feeder routes to learn the ropes before you step into more advanced aircraft and longer routes.
You will find yourself flying alone a lot in this career, which is as challenging as it is rewards. It’s not to say that you’ll never have a co-pilot for large operations, but you’ll have the opportunity to hone your problem-solving skills and instinct solo more often as a freight airplane pilots.
HILLSBORO'S GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL NETWORK
The best way to start any career is to know someone who get your foot in the door.
Our graduates fly for companies all over the world and when you learn to be a pilot at Hillsboro, the network comes with the training.
Friends you make as a student and as a flight instructor will go off to work at companies you want to work for, pass along job opportunities and get your name in front of hiring managers.
Pilots look out for each other and when you graduate from Hillsboro Aero Academy you’ll have the global network you need to realize your dreams.