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Ask Dave

Career In A Troubled Industry

Colin graduated college with $150,000 in student loans. He studied aviation and is only making $27,000 a year now. How does he begin to pay this debt off?

QUESTION: Colin in Los Angeles graduated college with $150,000 in student loans. He studied aviation and is only making $27,000 a year now. How does he begin to pay this debt off? Dave says if he stays in his career path, it’s going to take a long time to pay it off.

ANSWER: The thought that runs through my mind is don’t spend $150,000 to get a job that pays $27,000. That’s about six years too late, though. Twenty years ago, you could make $200,000 or $125,000 as a commercial pilot once you got some hours, but that’s not true anymore. The world has changed.

A Lear captain will make more than you’re making, but you’re going to have to get some hours and some training to get there that you don’t yet have.

I don’t have any great ideas other than you’re going to struggle for many years until you get your income up if you stay in this career path. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. That’s just the mathematical observation of where you are. If you go from $27,000 to $50,000 to $75,000, it starts helping this considerably. You can make that as a private jet charter first officer and captain—those kinds of things.

The commercial industry is gone, and the charter industry is almost dried up right now. It’s starting to come back. The jobs for the big jets and the commercial stuff…that’s really tough. You might be able to get on with some of these regional carriers. You would make less than you make now, which is hard to believe.

You’re in a troubled industry. It is a very narrow gap. You don’t have a lot of options, and I don’t have a good suggestion for you other than to just know that it’s going to take a while. A lot of your financial dreams are going to be on hold while your career dreams are starting to unfold gradually.

You’re in a big market where there are opportunities to get hours and maybe even side jobs flying. I’d probably get my name in the hat for fill-ins for charter flights. It will get you hours but also get you in line for hiring if they decide to bring some full-time people on.

You now know everything I know about your industry, which isn’t much, obviously. I’m not much help, Colin! I’m just not any help. It’s frustrating me because I can’t do anything to help you. It’s just a tough market for you, and it’s going to be a while before you make the money, and it may be that you never make the kind of money that justifies what you spent to get here.