Our nation's transportation industries are among its largest, most visible employers. Perhaps the most volatile segment in recent years has been the airline industry, whose rapid growth stopped with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent recession. Air travel, airline fortunes, and employment plummeted, but the years since then have seen gradual recovery and a changing picture.
Legacy airlines have struggled to stay afloat as low-cost carriers have become big players. But people still fly and the job market is stabilizing.
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AIRCRAFT PILOTS, COPILOTS, AND FLIGHT ENGINEERS
Average salary: $143,950
Demand: Fairly good. While pay and benefits are often less than they were during airlines' boom years, good jobs are available with regional, business, and cargo carriers.
Qualifications: Commercial license and FAA instrument rating required, plus 250 hours (1,500 for airline pilots) flight experience, periodic health, vision, hearing, and written tests. Bachelor's degree increasingly important.
Average salary: $56,360
Demand: Good. Certified, experienced mechanics are needed by major airlines as well as regional and private companies and FAA stations.
Qualifications: Certification plus 18 months' supervised work experience; FAA exams. FAA-certified trade schools offer two- and four-year programs.
Average salary: $30,260 (school); $30,430 (transit and intercity)
Demand: Steady. More people are turning to mass transit for local and intercity travel, as fuel prices and traffic congestion problems increase.
Qualifications: Commercial driver's license; health and safety training.
Average salary: $56,150. Ranges from $15,000 to more than $90,000, depending on experience. International attendants earn more.
Demand: Fairly good. Many experienced attendants, however, leave the field as struggling airlines continue to cut pay and benefits. Regional airlines and private jets provide good opportunities.
Qualifications: High school diploma, plus customer service and communication skills. Psychology or education degrees are increasingly important; second language is a big asset.
Average salary: $36,310
Demand: Fair. With more people booking flights online, demand for travel agents has dropped considerably, but agents are still needed for booking cruises and tour packages.
Qualifications: High school required; college preferred.