Is Being A Pilot A Good Career? 3 Major Benefits to Becoming A Professional Pilot

Is Being A Pilot A Good Career? 3 Major Benefits to Becoming A Professional Pilot

By Jordan Bullock, A321 Pilot

For many people, becoming a pilot is a childhood fascination that either culminates into an illustrious career, or fades away as something that could have been. For others, being a pilot is a second career, often originating from being unhappy in their current work arrangement. 

The process to become a pilot is taxing, consuming and requires a high level of commitment. But the payoff? It’s great! As a pilot you can work in a multitude of different career paths. From instructing, to corporate flying, to airline careers, there is something for all types of pilots.

Let's take a look at 3 major benefits to being an airline pilot; travel, pay and quality of life:


The most obvious one of our three. Traveling is a major sticking point when discussing the benefits of flying. Both for work, and for pleasure due to airline benefits and the ability to jumpseat anywhere. 

When working, we often get layovers of 20 plus hours in really cool places. I know many pilots that bid for a schedule that constantly includes European trips, which usually nets them an off day or two in cool places like Paris, London or even Tokyo. During layovers, the company provides you with a hotel and a per diem that usually covers your food and dining expenses. You essentially get a few days of vacation, paid for by the company.

Along with cool layovers while working, travel benefits are another major plus to being a pilot. I can jumpseat on any airline, or list standby and get a normal seat if they have anything open. Want to go to New York City for the weekend? Cool, check out some flights and just show up at the airport. It really is that easy. 


In recent times (past 5 years or so), the pilot shortage has really hit most of the major airlines pretty hard. The good news? Pay is at an all time high. Almost every airline has agreed on a new contract with their pilot group over the past few years, and each one seems to push the pay higher and higher. While I have my doubts on the sustainability of this, it seems obvious that the days of flying jets for $15 an hour are over. 

Even at most regionals, the pay starts out at over $100 hour. Most carriers have a monthly guarantee of at least 70 hours, so first year pay starts out at nearly six figures. That is just the minimum, that doesn’t include any extra overtime or per diem. Captains at most airlines are making over $300 an hour. You can do the math and realize it’s a pretty incredible pay rate. 

While the pay rate is great, the retirement contributions are better. My company contributes 15% to my 401K, and this is on the low end compared to competitors. So, I can contribute nothing to my 401K, and I still have more put into it than my wife who maxes her contribution of 3% out. Airline 401K matching is amazing compared to any other industry. 

Quality of Life

This one is a bit tricky and depends on your lifestyle or the phase of life you’re in. To be honest, the stereotype of what I thought was a typical pilot schedule is what truly kept me away from the airline world. The assumption is that pilots are always gone, miss a ton of holidays and time with the family. This is true, to an extent and really depends on the airline you’re at. 

My airline has a mix of flying, meaning we have a ton of 1 day trips which allow me to sleep in my own bed, and a ton of 3 or 4 day trips that would give me cool layovers. So it really depends on what I want to do. Now, with the airline hiring over the past few years, I’ve got a decent amount of seniority which allows me to bid for the schedule that I prefer. As a married father with a 1 year old and a wife that works remotely 9-5, the afternoons and night flying are perfect for me right now. I haven't seen a hotel in 3 months, and I’ve got every weekend off while sleeping in my own bed every night. 

My wife refers to my career as “part time”, because certain months I work maybe 6 days the entire month. My busiest month I worked 16 days. With all this being said, many airlines require pilots to work way more. And, the life of a junior pilot at a major airline can require not so great schedules and plenty of reserve time (on call). But, again, you’re handsomely paid and will never work more than 18 days a month unless you voluntarily pick up overtime. 


Flying is an immense privilege. Personally, I was on the fast track to a law degree when I felt the need to get in the air. I’m not cut out to sit behind a desk and I found that out rather quickly. Becoming a pilot requires commitment and a lot of time studying, practicing and stressing. But, in the end, you get to fly incredible machines thousands of feet in the air. It’s the best job in the world. Don’t forget that, and enjoy the process!

By Jordan Bullock, A321 Pilot

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