Cameron writes asking:
I am interested in becoming a pilot but with todays job market I feel like it might be trouble. My first concern is, do military pilots excel further, faster than civilian trained pilots? Like most careers I’m told that starting out I won’t make a dime. How long would it be before I would be able to make a living being a pilot?
Great question and I’m glad that you are considering becoming a pilot. What I always tell people is do what you love and the money will follow. I consider myself very fortunate that as a pilot, I love going to work each day. Flying is what I was meant to do.
That being said, becoming a career pilot definitely has its challenges, especially in the early stages. Monetarily, the civilian route is much harder. Not only do you have to pay for your certificates and ratings but you also have to pay in the form of low paying jobs while you gain experience. You asked the question, “do military or civilian pilots excel faster?” Do you mean excel in pay? You won’t get rich flying in the military but you won’t go broke either. However, civilian pilots are able to determine their own pay by finding jobs that pay well. If you goal is major airline flying, you can get there with either a civilian or military pilot background. You also asked, how long would it be before I would be able to make a living as a pilot? In the military? Pretty much instantly. Civilian? All depends on the opportunities you are able to uncover in your network (and make no doubt about it, civilian flying is all about networking!)
How about this for an answer? If my son (who is currently 3) asked me for advice about the best way to become a career pilot, I would recommend that he strongly consider the military. If he could pass the strict medical requirements, he would have several advantages of choosing this route. One, he would have the honor of serving his country. Two, he would get the absolute best training and experience in some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. And three, as a member of the military, he would be more likely to get better overall compensation than his civilian counterparts, especially early on.
If you decide to go the civilian route, then a couple more recommendations. Definitely get a 4 year college degree in something other than flying and second, go to a local flight school at a nearby airport for your training. You will find it much more affordable.
Again, just my two cents. There are many other personal factors you have to consider when choosing between civilian and military route.
Good luck and be sure to let me know what you end up doing.