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Better career: mechanic or pilot?

Better career: mechanic or pilot?

Old Aug 9, 12, 3:25 pm
  #1  
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Better career: mechanic or pilot?

Hello all. I am 32, have a BA in math and am working on an MA in computer science. I work in an office, and don't know if I can handle 30 more years of this. Thankfully I get to look at FT at work though.

I want to get back into the aviation field. I have been a ramp agent, but I left mainly due to low pay. I am thinking about becoming an airline pilot or aircraft mechanic. Either way there will be school and expense involved. What are the drawbacks/benefits of either? I figure pilot can make more(eventually - the pay of a regional FO looks plain terrible), but it might be less stable. At least I could take the skills from the A&P to many other fields.

As a fallback, I should still get the MA. What do you all think? The opinions of any current/former pilots/mechanics would be great also.

Thanks!
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Old Aug 10, 12, 5:44 am
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Some other factors to consider would be training cost and and quality of life. I'm a student pilot, and to get a private license will cost me around $11k in the US. If I wanted to get the additional ratings needed to be a airline pilot, it would cost about an additional $90k. I don't know what an A&P license costs.

But being an airline pilot is not the only pilot job out there. Many pilots make a living doing flight instruction; working for bizjet or charter companies; doing sightseeing tours, agricultural work, surveying and many other things. Many of those jobs do not require as many ratings as an airline job and so would be cheaper to get into.

Another factor to consider is how much traveling you want to do. A pilot will be spending many days out on the road, while a mechanic will likely be sleeping in their own bed most nights.

Best of luck in whatever career you choose.
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Old Aug 10, 12, 10:09 am
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Pilots are notoriously poor. They are burdened with all kinds of student debts, and then terribly underpaid. Starting out even in the regionals nets roughly 22k per year. Many pilots have had to get onto social assistance to scrape by. The rates get better with seniority, but the process is slow. You won't make liveable wages for the first 15 years. Furthermore, they are more pilots than there are jobs..particularly at the airlines. This is part of what has driven pilot wages down. Many pilots have faced long periods of unemployment, or of completely different employment.

Mechanics are much more sought after and marketable, and will make better money out of the gate.
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Old Aug 10, 12, 11:09 am
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When I read the OP, I could not help but recall a scene from yesteryear.....

Back in the old days, race cars carried a mechanic along with the driver. Picture a muddy track, cars flying by, and Barney Oldfield's car stalls amidst the muck and flying mud....

Barney: "Get out and crank the sumb*tch, Ralph!"

Does that answer your question?
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Old Aug 10, 12, 3:44 pm
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The median salary for an A&P mechanic working on jets in the US is $76,372. You are highly unlikely to make that as a pilot until you've been flying at least 10-15 years.

The extra dough would let you do plenty of flying for fun.
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Old Aug 10, 12, 5:35 pm
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Mechanic is performance and production, unless you are in a good union shop..

Lot of it is skill

Pilots, military guys have got the edge...lot of bucks to pay on the outside.

At 30 hard to make it back from a cold start.
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Old Aug 10, 12, 5:36 pm
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Last edited by embla; Sep 18, 12 at 2:55 am
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Old Aug 11, 12, 9:13 am
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For a mechanic it depends on how you want to get your training: 2600 hrs of classroom/lab instruction at an accepted par 147 school, or 18/30 months of documented OJT working under a certificated mechanic (one or both ratings on certificate). The above includes 3 written tests and 3 oral/practical exams with an FAA designated examiner. Can incur some debt depending on how you get the training, but not as bad as flight training can be.

Hours and pay will depend on where you end up. GA and corporate can be good, but may be more driven on billable hours worked. Airlines are predominately an hourly position with a payscale that can be affected by union/non-union and the company size, and run 24/7. One drawback to airline work is you can, and most likely will, end up working in inclement WX condititions (rain/heat/cold/etc), and possibly sent to an outstation to recover a stranded plane.

I'll give my perspective as a regional mechanic: starting pay is poor compared to a mainline carrier, but has improved a little from when I started. Hours are shift driven, and new people will generally be on 3rd shift for a while (could be many years depending on how shifts are bid/awarded, and turnover in the company). Being mechanically inclined and liking to work with your hands is a help, but not always required.
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Old Aug 11, 12, 12:25 pm
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Originally Posted by aroundtheworld76 View Post
The median salary for an A&P mechanic working on jets in the US is $76,372. You are highly unlikely to make that as a pilot until you've been flying at least 10-15 years.

The extra dough would let you do plenty of flying for fun.
Exactly, well said.

With a BA in math and an MA in comp Sci, this guy could be out there making so much money he could afford be a recreational pilot. Private piloting is a well-off man's hobby due to the expensive nature of it, but if you have enough money and dream of piloting, it's the perfect hobby. Piloting is great, just so long as you don't try to make a living at it

I also understand the OP's reluctance to live in a cubicle for his working life. There are many ways out of the cubicle..ask any of the folks on FT, some of whom have more hours in the air than the crews that fly them.
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Old Aug 12, 12, 12:32 pm
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With a BA in math and an MA in comp Sci and a desire to work in aviation, why not look at avionics programming and trouble shooting?
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Old Aug 12, 12, 12:42 pm
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What allows airlines to fly?
Pilots? No.
Mechanics? No.

Data. Numbers. Metrics...In a word: Math.

You're already set up for a career in aviation. You just don't know it.
Most airline employees never touch an airplane.

Expand your field of fire a bit. Learn a bit more about the industry.
You might find yourself already positioned for an airline career you never even knew existed.
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Old Aug 12, 12, 7:51 pm
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Originally Posted by satman40 View Post
Mechanic is performance and production, unless you are in a good union shop..

Lot of it is skill

Pilots, military guys have got the edge...lot of bucks to pay on the outside.

At 30 hard to make it back from a cold start.


+1
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Old Aug 12, 12, 7:53 pm
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Originally Posted by airmotive View Post
What allows airlines to fly?
Pilots? No.
Mechanics? No.

Data. Numbers. Metrics...In a word: Math.

You're already set up for a career in aviation. You just don't know it.
Most airline employees never touch an airplane.

Expand your field of fire a bit. Learn a bit more about the industry.
You might find yourself already positioned for an airline career you never even knew existed.
+1
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Old Aug 13, 12, 1:39 pm
  #14  
 
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Originally Posted by pinworm View Post
Pilots are notoriously poor. They are burdened with all kinds of student debts, and then terribly underpaid. Starting out even in the regionals nets roughly 22k per year. Many pilots have had to get onto social assistance to scrape by. The rates get better with seniority, but the process is slow. You won't make liveable wages for the first 15 years. Furthermore, they are more pilots than there are jobs..particularly at the airlines. This is part of what has driven pilot wages down. Many pilots have faced long periods of unemployment, or of completely different employment.

Mechanics are much more sought after and marketable, and will make better money out of the gate.
That statement only applies to people who take the civilian route and pay for their own training. If one goes the military route, they make very solid pay as a commissioned officer during their time as a military aviator, and upon leaving the military one can go directly to the majors flying large aircraft. Ask me how I know.

Unfortunately, the OP is far too old to take this route, and borderline too old to even go the civilian route (unless he really had his heart set on it and was willing to foot the bill for the training and deal with the inevitable decade of being marketable to the majors).
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