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 (BLS) indicates that airlines increasingly prefer a college degree. While there is not a specific flight attendant major or degree offered in college, some employers prefer majors related to communications, customer service or hospitality.
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, in 2017, Delta Airlines received 150,000 applications and fewer than 1% were selected to be flight attendants.
While colleges and universities may not offer a specific flight attendant degree, there are education requirements to be a flight attendant. 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.
Additionally, English as a first language is a prerequisite. Students in the certificate program also volunteer at local airports to gain first-hand experience with the airline industry. These hours are part of the flight attendant education requirements.
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, such as communications or customer service can provide the type of skills needed to meet the needs of passengers. This type of education background can also help you stand out from a crowd of applicants.
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 popular occupation, there are ways to increase your visibility and help you stand out. While English as a first language is a prerequisite, speaking a second language will give you an advantage especially for international travel. Airlines highly value bi-lingual flight attendants.
Being a flight attendant focuses a great deal on appearance so make sure you make a good first impression. Prepare for your interview with a put-together look. Insiders also suggest that you come across as friendly and approachable.
Lastly, 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. Fully accredited schools will make a better impression on your resume. Keep in mind that there are far more applicants than openings for flight attendants so 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.
Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.