Starting a career is difficult, no matter if you are a doctor, a lawyer, or a pilot. It all comes down to making choices – first employer, first country of work (staying at home or going overseas?), and so on. Today we have Kirsty Ferguson, an interview coach with 18 years of experience, who shares her advice for newly qualified pilots.

I’m a newly qualified pilot, what direction should my career take?

Instructor, General Aviation or Regional and Mainline Airlines are the usual choices for newly qualified pilots. 

There is no right or wrong choice as to the direction your career should take.

There are, however, positives and negatives to each path.

A great deal depends on what you, as the pilot, are motivated by on a day-to-day basis and the experiences you wish to cultivate.  I would encourage you to have a good think about that and write down your goals and core motivations as this will help you when making your decision about where to start your career.

My business, pinstripe solutions, has been supporting pilots for over 17 years worldwide, to reach their career goals and secure the roles they want.  I call on all of this experience to provide you with a few more facts that may help you with this momentous decision…

My new book will also help you to define those motivations and goals I spoke about earlier.  It’s inspiring and informative.

Keep in mind, most, but not all pilots strive for one key goal; to achieve their Jet Command on either a Narrow Body or Wide Body aircraft.

Let's look at each career path in a little more detail, keeping in mind that differences exist between regions and countries.


Many flying schools offer their graduates, Instructors roles, after they qualify.  I suppose it is a bird in the hand situation, why wait for an offer from an airline if you get straight into an instructors role and start building hours without the grueling airline recruitment process.  

Often getting that first job offer is difficult with, depending upon the region, hundreds of newly qualified pilots vying for GA or airline positions.  There is career progression in Instructing, usually through 3 stages culminating in gaining the highest level of Instructor Rating.  Opportunities to contribute to the ground school and theory syllabus add to the role.

Often ad hoc charters are part of the flying schools services, providing an additional level of experience and customer interaction.

What are the negatives? 

You may be limited to one region or airspace with most of your flying, therefore ultimately lacking some diversity in your experience.  Your student will be conducting most of the hands-on flying so this may restrict the speed at which your hours can be logged.  The aircraft at your disposal will be singles or twins thus no long-term progression to the large aircraft types.

Over my 18 years in the industry, I have noticed that it is a harder sell, coming from an instructor background when applying for the major airlines, even when they meet the minimum requirements.

General Aviation:

Again GA is highly contested, with hundreds of graduating pilots looking for a start, highly contested but certainly not impossible.  

What do I mean by GA? Well, they are smaller operators who run general charter or scenic flights, aerial survey, aeromedical and executive charter or search and rescue to name a few types of roles.  The aircraft will be single and twin-engine right up to the smaller turboprops and sometimes the smaller corporate jets.  Mostly single-pilot operations, some multi-crew, but pilots still need to build time to meet the minimum requirements for the larger multi-crew aircraft.