Case study

First officer — Katie Barnby

As an airline pilot, Katie's work can be both challenging and rewarding. Take a look at her top tips on how to get a place on a training course and how to succeed as a pilot

What degree did you study?

I studied for a BSc Natural Sciences at the University of Bath, graduating in 2014. I then went on to study for an MSc Medical Biosciences and graduated in 2015.

How did you get your job?

After university, I applied to a pilot training organisation and was accepted onto a course to complete the easyJet Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL). This consisted of 14 theory exams taken over six months, five months of light aircraft flying in New Zealand and then six months in the Airbus A320 full flight simulator. On completion of the training, I began my employment with easyJet, where you continue training on the job.

What's a typical working day like?

Every day begins by meeting the crew that you will be working with. You discuss the day's destination(s), routing and any other factors that may affect the operation, such as weather. The average day consists of two or four flights, so can be relatively demanding.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Although the overall aim of every working day is to be fundamentally the same, each day varies hugely and I love that. Working with different people, from all walks of life, in different conditions and with varied challenges every day keeps the job exciting.

What are the challenges?

Challenges vary from working with different teams every day, to the overall dynamic nature of the industry. Different weather conditions, following different procedures for landing at different airports and following air traffic control requests, for example, call upon your ability to think outside the box and effectively problem solve in order to get your passengers safely to their destination in a timely manner.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree is not something traditionally associated with this job. However, the transferable skills I acquired while at university were invaluable, both while training and when I started working.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

There are ample opportunities to develop daily. For example, working alongside different crews gives me the opportunity to learn new facts and strategies for operating the aircraft. It also exposes me to varied leadership styles and problem-solving techniques that I can then take on board and employ.

My ambition is to become involved eventually in the training side of the job. I thrive on the prospect of acting as a teacher and mentor for new pilots.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

My top tips are to think hard about the most enjoyable aspects of your undergraduate degree. What particular subject matter engaged you the most?

Also, think about what you hope to achieve from your postgraduate study. Do you simply wish to carry on studying a subject you love whilst developing your transferable skills? Or, do you wish to continue further study and work towards a PhD in the future?

The answers to these questions could influence not only your subject choice, but also whether you take a taught or a research Masters.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Be committed and passionate - you may have to undergo the application process several times. Don't let unsuccessful applications deter you; learn from your mistakes, work hard and you will succeed.
  • Have a few experience flights or trial lessons - gaining exposure to the flying environment is essential before applying.
  • Be prepared to work hard and be flexible - the training is a particularly challenging time but is also extremely rewarding. You just have to be prepared to make a few sacrifices along the way, particularly surrounding your social life.

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