Pilot demand has increased steadily with low-cost airlines, growth in the business jet market, open-skies agreements and demand from India, the Middle East and Far East. However, the absence of airline-sponsored pilot training persists. Most civil pilots are self-funded; although there are a few smaller bursaries available to help with some aspects of the training, you will need to fully finance your training costs, choosing between taking the integrated route (intensive training from scratch through to a commercial pilot’s licence) or the modular route (which can be completed at a slower pace and is usually cheaper). Many airlines, although not all, state a preference for integrated pilot training. However, this is a difficult option with huge costs of around £75,000, so do seek impartial advice from organisations such as the RAeS or Gapan.

All commercial pilots must also obtain the CAA Class 1 Medical certificate to fly passengers, for which you can actually apply prior to starting on any training. Becoming a pilot through the RAF, Royal Navy or Army Air Corps avoids high training costs, and you may even get to fly the world’s fastest jets! The selection criteria, particularly medical, are tougher and the work means flying in difficult conditions – be that in war zones or on humanitarian missions – but many military pilots go on to successful careers as civil pilots, or into other exciting fields such as flight testing.


The career choices in aerospace don’t end with flying and engineering. Consider:

  • Airport and airline operations: specialist degrees now exist in this area
  • Regulation: engineers, lawyers, human factors experts and medical teams work to ensure crew and passenger safety through aircraft design and safety regulations
  • Air traffic control: monitoring the thousands of aircraft flying in UK airspace each day requires highly numerate and confident individuals, and is well remunerated!

Getting ahead

Whichever area you choose, as well as completing academic or vocational training, being able to offer the right skills is vital for the workplace. While an aeronautical engineer, pilot or airline executive will use very different professional knowledge to carry out their duties, they will use similar skills to apply it effectively, such as communication or problem-solving. These skills are transferable because they can be developed in other contexts and enhance employability, as possessing them makes candidates more appealing to potential employers. Skills can vary from the intangible – such as teamworking, innovation or leadership – to more easily measured proficiencies that you learn both inside and outside the classroom, such as IT or languages, acquired through formal qualifications. Simply listing skills on your CV is not enough; you will need to provide evidence, based on your experiences gained up to the point of your application. This includes your studies, work experience (industrial placements, voluntary or community work and part-time jobs all develop skills), sports – good for teamwork skills – and extra-curricular activities, such as college or university societies where you have taken an active role.

How would you illustrate and articulate examples on your CV or application form, or – if the former go well – at an interview? It is worth spending time preparing your examples before you even start applying for placements or jobs. Aim to produce a set of examples that are original, interesting and make you stand out from the crowd. However, don’t forget that the application process is not just about you! Take some time also to research the company you are applying for – through press articles, annual reports, conferences or lectures you have attended – and use this research in your application to prove your motivation. get all of that right and your career could well climb to the very highest altitude!

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