Flight attendants are dedicated professionals responsible for enhancing the safety, comfort and satisfaction of aircraft passengers. A high school degree is sufficient to be a flight attendant; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that airlines increasingly prefer a college degree. What’s more, the BLS suggests that employment prospects between 2010 and 2020 will be best for college-educated applicants with customer service experience. Expect stiff competition when applying for a flight attendant job. For instance, American Airlines received over 20,000 applications for 1,500 new flight attendant positions in 2012, as reported by “CBS News.”
A flight attendant certificate from a reputable school may improve your chances of being hired by an airline. For example, Glendale Community College in California offers a 30 credit aviation and transportation certificate that focuses on the duties of flight attendants, air transportation and first aid. English is a prerequisite. Students in the certificate program also volunteer at local airports to gain first-hand experience with the airline industry.
O*NET indicates that 26 percent of flight attendants hold an associate degree. A specific major is not necessary. General education classes in communication, psychology, multiculturalism and sociology prepare aspiring flight attendants to work effectively with travelers from diverse backgrounds. According to Cypress Community College, airlines prefer at least two years of college and proficiency in one or more languages besides English. The CCC flight attendant program offers students the option of completing a certificate or an Associate of Science degree that teaches the essentials of airline operations, customer service, public relations and hospitality.
A college education with a liberal arts background can provide the type of skills needed to meet the needs of passengers. For example, flight attendants must have strong communication skills in order to explain safety equipment, answer ticketing questions and calm passengers in the event of turbulence or delayed departure. The BLS suggests that a major in communications or public relations may be advantageous when applying for a flight attendant job. Other BLS recommendations include coursework in hospitality or tourism.
Applicants must pass a physical and a criminal background check. Height requirements vary according to the size of the aircraft. Further, flight attendants must complete a three to six week training program upon hire and pass a proficiency exam as part of mandated Federal Aviation Administration certification. A valid passport, English proficiency and willingness to relocate may also be required. Some airlines will not hire applicants with visible tattoos or body piercings.
As with any educational program, it’s advisable to ask how many graduates have secured jobs in the field before making a decision to enroll. Also determine if the program is fully accredited. Because there are far more applicants than openings for flight attendants, you may wish to prepare for a different career in the travel industry that could provide an income while you gain skills that can strengthen your application. For instance, you may enjoy working in an airline reservations department or a travel agency.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: OOH: Flight Attendants Summary
- CBS: DFW: Competition Stiff for American Airlines Flight Attendant Jobs
- Glendale Community College: Aviation and Transportation Flight Attendant Certificate
- O*NET: Summary Report for Flight Attendants
- Cypress Community College: Airline and Travel Careers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: OOH: How to Become a Flight Attendants
- Sky West Airlines: Career Guide
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images