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Masters degree or start now?

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Active member
Dec 3, 2001
I was hoping to get some opinions on my best course of action.

My goal is to switch from my current career as a computer programmer to one in aviation, hopefully flying around in a jet and making lots of money.

I've got a BA Literature and I'm currently working as a computer programmer. My wife has another two years of college and I was thinking of waiting till she's done with school to attempt the change as I'm expecting a pretty big pay cut to start. I am working on a Master's degree (MIS, computer related) now hoping that will help me to stand out a bit. I've got a Commercial Single and Multi certificate as well as a CFII certificate (no mei at this point) and about 450 hours. I've been teaching part time, but the FBO here kind of stinks, there is nowhere to build multi time in town, and working part time I can get about 200 hours a year.

So my question is - How important is getting a start now? I've got the sense that seniority is everything in this business, but I'm not feeling too crunched for time as I'll turn 27 next year, and I don't think 29 or 30 is too late to start at aviation full time. Is the Master's a waste in the aviation world, or will it really help in looking for a job?
I'd go ahead and get the masters now. It might actually help you stand out, but not by much right now.

Getting a job in the current market is still a long-shot; especially with only 450 hrs. I'd look at getting a MS as a way to kill time until the market picks up again (it will, eventually).

When hiring picks up, an advanced degree will help you. When (or if) you get hired, the airline is investing in your training; if you don't make it through training, they've wasted a big wad of $$ on you.

An advanced degree will make you look "less likely to wash-out" during training because you will have demonstrated that you can learn (esp. at an advanced level), and don't give up.

And of course, if things don't work out, you'll be better off than you are now because an MS will get you an extra 20% or so money-wise in the IS field.
The MIS degree would make a good fall back during hard times, but it won't help you get a job as a pilot. The only situation I can think of where it might help is if you apply for a corporate job at a small company that wants you to do desk work when you're not flying. Even then, you'll be hired (or not) based on your flying qualifications. The degree would just be an added bonus.

When I applied to the majors last year, several didn't even have anything above a 4 year degree as an option on their application. They really don't care. I disagree that having an advanced degree proves you're trainable. If anything, having recently obtained advanced degrees in other fields may make people wonder about your commitment to aviation. Getting type ratings proves that you are trainable in aviation. That is the sort of thing that will help get you hired.

I got my master's because it was something I wanted to do, not because I thought it would help me get a job as a pilot. If you want to get the MIS degree do it, but don't do it because you think it will help you get a job as a pilot.

You've spent alot of time and money on the computer gig. Maybe you should get that masters degree, make some huge money in that business, and fly your own airplane for the fun of it.

The grass always looks greener on the other side. Before you make any decisions, pay attention to the industry, read the magazines and the web forums like this one. Talk to people. You are doing the right thing by asking here. Operating the machine and being an airline pilot are two separate issues. I would think carefully about both before committing. You will learn alot in this forum just by listening.

It will be a long hard road with no guarantees, but you just might hit the lotto. It would be nice to have a masters to fall back on too.
If you are trying to get into aviation for the money WHOOOOOAAAAAAAAAA.Just stop right here and get the master degree and stay in computers. I have been in aviation all my life because I love it. I fly big airplanes because I love it. I put up with a lot of crap because I love it. I spend days and months away from my family because I love it. I have a wife that puts up with it all because she knows I love it. I will make 95K this year as a captain but the is the most money I have ever made in my life in aviation. We still wonder if we would have been better off running a little FBO out in the country, living on the airport in a trailer and raising professional airport bums(our kids) My wife hasn't flown with me in 6 years, and none of my younger kids have flown in a small airplane. That is a lot of sacrifice for 95K when you think about it. I fly because I love it, just like a baseball player plays because he loves it, the money is just for the agents and the IRS.

You've spent alot of time and money on the computer gig. Maybe you should get that masters degree, make some huge money in that business, and fly your own airplane for the fun of it. "

Realize that the computer industry took a dive about a year ahead of the current airline issues.

I know plenty of people that were making big bucks as employee's or owners in the computer/internet industry last year that are now a striking resemblance to oddtood.

One guy I know just went from a networking job to selling real estate, so switching to the airline industry doesn't seem so bad if you want a desk in the sky vs. other options.

I'd stick with the Master's if only for the point of finishing what you started. I'm in the same boat. I'll finish mine in April while at the same time doing the part-time instructing thing. I don't have a family yet so the money may not be as major an issue (but definitely a minor one since engagement is probably soon).

Although the economy runs in cycles we should see a general upswing over the long-term just as we have for a hundred years. There are many, and I mean MANY retirements in the next ten years a growing corporate market and although most pilots here seem to agree that seniority is everything there should be enough positions flying jets or what have you for a long time.

I'd think that if you live in a generally urban area you could find substantial part-time work/income as a programmer and increase your flying to prepare for the next hiring period. And as some of the other posters have said, it is something to fall back on.

Although the other side of the fence maybe isn't always greener, I think those of us who have spent close to ten years flying a desk know that flying a plane of any type instead of a desk is better for our sanity. Good luck.

I'm a great believer in education and I agree with the others about starting what you finish. Moreover, an advanced degree is a heck of a Plan B in case aviation doesn't work out for you.

The truth of the matter, though, is all the airlines care about is you have a Bachelor's from an accredited school, in anything (I realize the debate rages on for aviation v. non-aviation degree). A computer background will train your mind to think in terms of technical issues. Aviation is chock full of technical issues.

I heard on news this morning predictions that the economy will start improving in the second half of next year. Aviation hiring is driven by major airline hiring. There won't be much of that for quite a while. Even if the economy picks up quickly, and don't hold your breath for that, it'll take a while for the majors to absorb all the pilots they recall from furlough. I've seen it before, during the last recession ten years ago. I don't think you're too young at all, but you might find yourself in your entry-level job for a couple of years, and you won't make much money during that time.

"Flint4xx" makes good points. Read up as much as you can on the industry and get plenty of advice. I made a career change from radio news reporting to aviation thirteen years ago and would do it again, but ended up leaving aviation and retraining for another profession. The grass does look greener on the other side. Just watch out where you step while walking those green pastures.

Lots of luck with your decision.
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