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Career Path Of An Airline First Officer

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In the life of the average pilot, there is a progression from achieving their first pilot’s license through the fulfilment of their dream to be a captain. Some pilots choose to join on with smaller airlines or charter companies, in which they are often the only pilots on the flight. While this option may work for some professionals who want immediate control over their own plane, there are other pilots who want to travel the longer route to the position of airline captain. This route can take a decade or longer but pilots who head from flight training to the ranks of captain find it incredibly rewarding.

The junior position in the airline cockpit is that of first officer, who acts as both an apprentice and co-worker to the airline captain. First officers are younger pilots who are just entering the airline industry and are looking to gain the experience necessary to succeed over the long term in the field. These young professionals are making a considerable sacrifice in terms of finances for the first few years of their career, as many airline pilots make around 20,000 pounds per year in their early professional years.

While the financial aspects of the first officer position are lacking for some professionals, the rewards are plentiful for the right candidate. The opportunity to work with a major airline is one of the best reasons for a pilot to work as a first officer. There is no substitute for major airline experience, no matter the career path of a particular first officer. As well, working side by side with experienced captains and flight crews can teach first officers about the culture of the airline. This knowledge, along with technical tips given by senior pilots, can be immensely helpful when it comes to applying for captain’s positions.

First officer positions can be a launching pad for the candidate with the right skills. A quick advancement within the field, whether it is to captain or another position within the airline industry, can happen for a first officer that shows high technical aptitude. A flawless record and the ability to avoid mistakes make for the perfect captain’s candidate. As well, a first officer that is able to demonstrate strong communications and organisational skills amongst their flight crew members can rise quickly in the airline ranks. Ultimately, the trajectory of a first officer’s career path is up to the candidate and their commitment to the job.

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