By DebbieH 19 Sep 2017 7 min read

Aviation jobs: The complete guide

There are a wide range of roles available in the aviation industry, from pilots to office workers. There are opportunities to progress careers in areas as diverse as engineering, design and customer service – whatever your skills, there is something for you.

To help you decide what kind role your skills might be suited for, we’ve put together this guide to take you through the different jobs in the industry. We explain what each job involves, the skills and qualifications you need, and how much you could expect to earn. Navigate to the job guides by scrolling down or by using the menu.


What does a pilot do?

Pilots are those who fly and navigate aircraft and helicopters. Airline pilots fly aircraft for airlines which transport people and cargo on a fixed schedule. They are responsible for transporting passengers who are usually going on holiday or travelling for business, and generally work for commercial airlines.

Their primary responsibility is to operate the aircraft, but throughout the day, they can find themselves checking the weather, performing pre-flight inspections. Pilots are also responsible for the safety of all crew and passengers onboard the aircraft.



The responsibilities of pilots vary from day to day, depending on factors such as whether the flight is a long haul, international, or a one-hour internal flight. General duties include:

  • Pre-flight checks of all the instruments, engines, fuel and safety systems aboard the aircraft
  • Working with flight dispatchers to create the best flight path
  • Supervising the loading of cargo, baggage and fuel
  • Briefing the cabin crew members before flight
  • Following the instructions given by air traffic control
  • Adjusting the flight path in case of weather emergencies
  • Informing the cabin crew and passengers and crew about journey progress
  • Writing end reports about in-flight issues



In order to qualify to be a pilot, you’ll need to earn an Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL), the training for which can be completethe cabin crew are responsibled in 18 months or taken part-time. The cost of this ranges between £60,000 and £90,000. To qualify for the license, you will need to complete the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Class 1 Medical course.



  • Strong leadership skills
  • The ability to remain focused and level-headed under pressure
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Excellent communication
  • The ability to make decisive decisions
  • The ability to interpret complex information
  • The ability to make split-second decisions


Average salaries*

Starting salary: £20,000 to £30,000

Experienced co-pilot and captain: £38,000 to £90,000

Highly Experienced pilots: £140,000

Figures from the National Careers Service.


Cabin Crew


What does Cabin Crew do?

Also known as flight attendants, air hostesses, and/or flight stewards, the cabin crew are responsible for the welfare, safety, and comfort of airline passengers travelling during flights.

The cabin crew are the face of the airline and therefore must remain friendly and professional. Their main role is providing quality customer service to on board passengers whilst ensuring their comfort and safety throughout the flight.

They strive to make the flying experience as pleasant as possible for the passengers through the provision of on flight amenities (blankets, snacks, drinks) and are further trained to deal with security and emergency situations, and administer first aid. As a cabin crew member, you could work on long haul or short flights.



Daily responsibilities for the cabin crew involve a high level of customer interaction, including:

  • Greeting passengers as they board and exit the aircraft
  • Showing passengers to their allocated seats on the aircraft, and if need be, showing special attention for passengers with specific needs (i.e. the elderly, unaccompanied minors, disabled passengers)
  • Checking that there are enough supplies on board
  • Making announcements throughout the flight
  • Demonstrating safety procedures and the correct use of emergency equipment
  • Administering first aid in case of emergency
  • Serving meals and refreshments intermittently throughout the flight
  • Selling commercial duty-free goods in flight and distributing sales targets and in flight entertainment
  • Write flight reports upon the completion of a journey
  • Adding up and record all food and drink orders, and duty free sales.



To qualify to be a cabin crew member, you’ll need to have GCSEs (A* to C) in English and maths, a valid passport, and have a good level of general fitness. You’ll also need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

The majority of airlines expect staff to complete training courses covering a variety of topics from safety, to legal and immigration issues, as well as basic hospitality training.

Once recruited, you will complete a mandatory 4-6 week training course, called the SEP (Safety & Emergency Procedures).



This role especially and be both physically and emotionally demanding, as cabin crew members must remain calm, professional, and diplomatic with all passengers, as well as spend an extended time on their feet. You will be expected to show:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Confidence in dealing with people
  • Commercial and sales awareness
  • Diplomacy and tact
  • The ability to work well in a team
  • Numeracy skills for handling foreign currency
  • Discretion when dealing with VIPs
  • Exceptional customer service skills


Average salaries

Starter: £12,000 to £14,000

Experienced: £15,000 to £21,000

Highly Experienced: £30,000

Figures from the National Careers Service.


Air Traffic Control


What does the air traffic control do?

A fast-paced job requiring quick decision making and sound judgement, air traffic controllers are responsible for managing communication with pilots and providing assistance in the event of an emergency.

Their primary concern is the safe flight of the aircraft, and are further responsible for managing the flow of aircraft in and out of the airport. They must work rapidly, with the utmost efficiency, and often work in towers or control facilities.

Typically, air traffic controllers work within airport traffic control towers, at the terminal or Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC), to direct all air traffic, and ensure that pilots receive appropriate instructions for taxi, takeoff, and landing.



  • Issue take off and landing instructions to pilots
  • Monitor and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground  through the use of radar and computers
  • Control the majority of ground traffic at airports
  • Provide pertinent information to pilots, such as runway closures, weather updates as well as other critical information
  • In the case of emergency, alert airport response staff
  • Tracking and guiding aircraft
  • Managing aircraft as they approach the airport
  • Coordinating with the pilots to help them land, park, and line up for take-off



To qualify to be an air traffic controller, you’ll need to get an air traffic control licence from the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which can take around 3 years to train.

You’ll complete your training whilst working as a trainee controller. Getting work as a trainee control will require at least 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, a medical examination, and DBS security clearance.



  • The ability to be calm under pressure
  • Attention to detail
  • A technical mind to compute technical information  
  • Generally be proficient in IT skills
  • Excellent communication skills (to give instructions to pilots)
  • The ability to interpret information from different sources to assess situation
  • Excellent troubleshooting skills
  • Strong problem solving skills
  • Active listening skills


Average salaries

Starter: £17,000 to £21,000

Experienced: £32,500 to £36,000

Highly Experienced: £46,000 to £50,000

Figures from the National Careers Service.


Flight Dispatcher


What do Flight Dispatchers do?

Flight dispatchers are the unsung heroes of airport operations, ensuring that pilots and passengers are able to fly safely. Without them, the flight crew would not be able to manage the flight effectively and safely.

They normally work at the operations centre of the airline. Their main job is to make airline operations run smoothly, and are responsible for monitoring safety guidelines and weather patterns.  

Known widely as the ground pilot, the job of a flight dispatcher is one of intense decision making and high stress as they must monitor and take into a variety of factors, including winds and thunderstorms, turbulence forecasts, airspace restrictions, and airport conditions.



  • Preparing pre-flight administration, flight plans and flight briefings
  • Maintaining the aircraft schedule to ensure they meet airport and airspace regulations
  • Remaining in constant communication with pilot to ensure that the flight adhering to its flight route
  • Acting as the middle man between the pilot and ground services
  • Signing dispatch release forms to provide authorisation for aircraft flight
  • Checking the visibility at both the departure airport and the destination airport to identify potential hazards 
  • Preparing flight plans containing information about the conditions, maximum allowable take off plan, weather conditions, and other information vital to the safe completion of a flight
  • Reviewing the aircraft weight, cargo load and fuel loads
  • Providing pilots with alternative flight plants in case of an emergency
  • Communicating with the flight captain to solve any issues that may arise on flight



Flight dispatcher applicants generally need to have acquired a few GCSE’s at grades (A*-C), especially in English and maths. Qualifications such as a GCSE in leisure and tourism, an A level in travel and tourism, or a Diploma in aviation operations may further aid your application. Degrees in travel, airline or aviation management are also useful for qualifying for this role.



  • Active listening skills to effectively communicate with pilots who might be mid-flight
  • Effective Communication, as you will spend a great deal of your time communicating with others to assure that flights go smoothly.
  • Good Judgment
  • The ability to make decisive decisions
  • Excellent Problem-Solving skills
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure
  • An analytical mind to looks for solutions to unexpected problems


Average salaries

Starting: £14,000

Experienced: £20,000

Managerial positions: £25,000 and £50,000.


Ground Crew


What does the ground crew do?

The ground crew form the support personnel that service the aircraft on the ground. These include roles such as ramp agents, customer service agents, and flight dispatchers.

Tasks can vary from day to day, and can include marshalling (greeting and pointing the aircraft in the direction of the gate in which they need to taxi), or complete a brief clean of the aircraft interior.

The ground crew can also be responsible for assisting with unloading and transporting bags, restocking food and beverage stores on flight, aligning the jet way for passengers boarding.



  • Responsible for clearing the runway and gate area of debris
  • Visually inspecting the tarmac and removing foreign items found, prior to the aircraft’s arrival and departure
  • Handles the loading and unloading of passenger bags
  • Direct landed aircraft to taxi spots
  • Provides other necessary services such as steps from the aircraft to allow passengers to disembark
  • Marshalling the aircraft to their taxi location
  • Cleaning the interior of the aircraft
  • Aligning the jetway  
  • Performing tasks as necessary



Generally, ground crew members are expected to have completed secondary school and/or be a graduate from recognized university. Some agencies prefer those who are bilingual, but the most important factor is to have a pleasing personality with high customer service skills.


Average salaries

Starting salary: £15,000

Experienced salary: £20,000

Highly experienced: £25,000


Airline Customer Service Agent


What do airline customer service agents do?

Airline customer service agents act as the first point of contact for passengers boarding flights, and provide customer service to passenger’s desiring to travel. They are vital for ensuring that passengers, as well as their luggage, board the correct aircraft at the right time. Expect to work on a shift system and at the airline check in desk. They are critical for maintaining positive relationships customers to ensure the success of the airline. Their role encompasses checking in and ticketing passengers, and escorting them, if necessary.



  • Assist passengers with checking in
  • Issue boarding passes
  • Deal with enquires regarding flight arrival and departure
  • Look after the needs of particular passengers (those with special needs, young children, the elderly)
  • Help first time travelers through immigration and customs
  • Escort passengers with connecting flights, and occasional unaccompanied minors
  • Weigh bags and deal with excess weight charges
  • Check passengers’ travel documents are all in order
  • Inquire into passenger seating preferences
  • Issue labels for hand luggage



To qualify to be an airline customer service agents, you’ll need GCSEs in subjects like English and maths at grades (A* to C). It may be useful to have experience in a customer service role, and a second language may also be required by the airline agency.



  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Strong communication skills, both spoken and written
  • A polite and professional approach
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • The ability to deal tactfully with upset or angry passengers
  • Good IT skills


Average salaries

Starting salary: £13,000 to £16,000

Experienced agents (those with supervisory roles): £16,000 to £22,000

Highly experienced agents: £40,000

Figures from the National Careers Service.


Aircraft Engineer


What does an aircraft engineer do?

Aircraft engineers are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing aircraft structures, engines, and other mechanical systems. They are also responsible for improving flight safety and fuel efficiency aboard the aircraft. Specialists, known as avionics technicians, handle the electronic maintenance of the aircraft. Aircraft engineers use instruments to measure wear and replace defective components of the aircraft, and are primarily concerned with improving overall flight safety, fuel efficiency, as well as addressing and reducing the environmental impact of air travel.



As an aircraft engineer, you will be expected to:

  • Regularly check that the engines, airframes, and mechanical systems of the aircraft are in working order
  • Replace faulty parts or systems of the aircraft
  • Test the parts and systems of the aircraft to ensure they work
  • Maintain and service the aircraft
  • Keep records of all aircraft repairs
  • Conduct pre-flight checks to detect any defective equipment



If you wish to establish a career in the as an aircraft engineer, you must undertake professional training leading to the appropriate qualifications and certification for the area you wish to specialise in.



Aircraft engineers must have:

  • Meticulous attention to detail to maintain the aircraft
  • A mathematical mind
  • Strong communication skills
  • The ability to work in a team
  • Strong problem solving skills
  • Computer proficiency
  • Dexterity


Average salaries

Starting salaries: £22,000 to £28,000

With experience: £28,000 to £40,000

Senior levels: £45,000 to £60,000

Figures from Prospects.


Aircraft Mechanic


What does an Aircraft Mechanic do?

To keep aeroplanes operating in peak condition, airline mechanics are responsible for performing scheduled maintenance, making repairs, and completing inspections.

Thus, Airline mechanics are the people who are responsible for aircraft repairs. They also perform scheduled maintenance on aeroplanes and helicopters and inspect aeroplanes and helicopters to ensure they conform to industry standard.

Mechanics are critical for ensuring the safety of airline customers and maintaining the reputation of the airline by ensuring the aircraft are on par with industry standards and run smoothly.



A job requiring a high level of complex technical ability, aircraft mechanics are expected to:

  • Examine the aircraft parts for defects
  • Diagnose mechanical or electrical problems that may arise on the aircraft
  • Measure aircraft parts for wear 
  • Read maintenance manuals to identify the best methods of repair
  • Repairs wings, brakes, electrical systems, and other aircraft components
  • Replaces defective parts 
  • Tests aircraft parts with gauges and other diagnostic equipment
  • Inspects completed work to ensure that it meets performance standards
  • Keeps records of maintenance and repair work



Similar to the qualifications for an aircraft engineer, to qualify to be an aircraft mechanic you will need to have attained a Level 3 Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance, which will enable you to work towards EASA Aircraft Maintenance License.

This qualification is accredited by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). This qualification is also and is included in the apprenticeship standard for Aircraft Maintenance Technician.



  • High attention to detail to maintain aircraft to their specific standards
  • High dexterity to use their hands to manipulate and work with a number of components
  • High level of technical skills
  • The ability to be able to read gauges, understand instrumentation and diagnostic tools when assessing and repairing aircraft
  • The ability to troubleshoot and find solutions for problems that arise with the aircraft
  • The ability to adhere to both industry regulations and the manufacturers’ instructions to impeccable detail
  • Excellent communication skills
  • The ability to work in an organized
  • Time management skills
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Technical skills



Average salary: £26,000-£27,000


Aircraft Design Engineer


What does an Aircraft Design Engineer do?

A job as an Aircraft Design Engineer falls under the broader career category of Aerospace Engineer, and because of the specialized nature of the field, duties vary.

Generally, this role requires applying the principles of science to create aircraft and their supporting equipment. They perform engineering duties in designing, constructing, and testing aircraft, and may conduct basic research to evaluate the materials and equipment used to create aircraft. they may even recommend improvements in testing equipment.



A job as an Aircraft Design Engineer requires a high level of technical skills. Generally, you will be expected to:

  • Formulate conceptual designs for aircraft products and systems
  • Direct and coordinate the activities of engineering personnel
  • Conduct experimental tests on aircraft prototypes
  • Write technical reports, such as handbooks and bulletins
  • Analyse project requests to determine feasibility, cost, and production time of aircraft products
  • Write technical reports or other documentation, such as handbooks or bulletins, for use by engineering staff, management, or customers.
  • Maintain records of performance
  • Coordinate activities concerned with resolving customers’ reports of technical problems with aircraft



The most common route to becoming an aircraft design engineer is to study aeronautical/aerospace engineering. However, those with degrees in computer science, software engineering, electronic engineering, mathematics, and physics may also be eligible.

There are a variety of graduate training schemes and entry-level positions the engineering field which require a good degree, with a 2:1 or above.



As an aircraft design engineer, you will be required to have a highly technical mind and skill set. You will be expected to have:

  • The ability to think creatively and innovatively
  • A strong technical knowledge of aerospace systems and manufacturing
  • Excellent problem-solving and analytical skills for dealing with repairs
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • methodical approach to work
  • General commercial awareness and knowledge of the aerospace industry
  • Strong communication skills
  • The ability to work well in a team
  • The ability to work to close deadlines
  • Strong organizational and time-management skills
  • the ability to cope with new demands and new problems to be solved


Average salaries

Starting salaries: £22,000 to £28,000

With experience: £28,000 to £40,000

At senior levels: £45,000 to £60,000


Airline Office Jobs


What does an airline office worker do?

The perfect job for an efficient administrator who wants to work behind the scenes, airline office workers are employed to provide administrative support in running of the business aspects of the airline.

Located in the corporate headquarters rather than the airport, airline office jobs involve bookkeeping, managing research projects, and prepping reports. They further are responsible for carrying out phone and administrative duties whilst representing the executive office.



Responsibilities vary from day to day but can include:

  • Handling correspondence
  • Directing calls
  • Necessary bookkeeping tasks
  • Making appointments
  • Filling out paperwork to meet industry compliance
  • Planning presentation for executives
  • Preparing reports



There are no hard qualifications for being an airline office worker, but previous office and administrative work may prove useful, as well showing understanding of the airline, its flight routes and culture.  



  • Good organization skills
  • Excellent time management
  • Good communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • The ability to stay calm under pressure
  • Discretion with the business details of the airline
  • Competency with various Microsoft Office packages (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)


Average salaries

Starting salaries: £19,000

With experience: £25,000