First Officer

Serve as the second in command on an airplane.
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Quick Stats

Salary Range
$80,000 – $139,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do First Officers do?

A First Officer acts as a Copilot on a commercial or passenger plane, assisting the Captain during takeoff, flight, and landing. As the First Officer, you’re the second in command, and together with your Captain, you’re responsible for the safe transport of your cargo or passengers from one location to another.

You’re the right hand of the Pilot, and as such, you’re also a trained Pilot. Working up to the position of Pilot in a major airline takes years, and the position of First Officer is the last stage before Captain. You’re trained in landing planes, taking off, judging weather patterns, and stabilizing the aircraft when there’s turbulence. At any point, the Captain may call on you to take control of the airplane and ensure a safe flight.

If the flight goes according to plan, your main tasks include monitoring air traffic, keeping an eye on flight instruments, and maintaining radio communications. You’re the only other person on the plane besides the Pilot who understands all those knobs and buttons in the cockpit.

Laws restrict the number of hours First Officers can fly in a month to 85 hours. However, a certain amount of work occurs on the ground. For example, any mishaps require you to file reports with the airline and the government. Often, you’re also responsible for briefing the rest of the flight crew, especially before a long international flight.

Should I be a First Officer?

You should have a bachelor's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.

  • Also known as: Co Pilot, Co-Pilot

    How to become a First Officer

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