So You Want To Be A Flight Attendant?

It's just about every traveler's dream to see the world for free, or better yet, to get paid to travel. The good news is there are a surprising number of jobs out there that require (and finance) travel. The not-so-good news—some of these dream jobs can turn out to be nightmares if you go in with the wrong expectations.

Travel jobs can be a lot of fun, but at the end of the day your job is the primary reason you're there. It's important to realize you'll be working—not vacationing—for much of the time. But for those driven by adventure, with a severe case of wanderlust, there are quite a few jobs that will pay for you to travel.

The flight attendant gig is just about the most quintessential travel job out there. The idea of investing a few hours working on a plane for the perks of worldwide travel has drawn many employees into the industry. Some look at the task of ensuring the safety and satisfaction of passengers as a quick cakewalk, well worth the reward. Others see it as slow torture, not worth the low starting wages.

Is this the right job for you?
It's important to know what you're getting into when becoming a flight attendant. The harsh realities—low base pay, a tough starting schedule and terrible passengers—could make the job a nightmare. If you're able to secure and maintain a job with a flourishing airline, though, the job could be a dream come true. Each year of experience comes with higher pay, more flexibility in the form of seniority and those few awful passengers might not get any better, but you'll be better at dealing with them. Stellar customer service skills are a must.

What qualifications do you need?
Each airline has it's own specific set of requirements. Industry-wide, applicants need, at a minimum, a GED and they need to be able to reach the overhead bins. Some airlines have specific height minimums and maximums and often they'll want to ensure that their employees are height-weight proportionate. In some cases applicants who have a college degree will have a better chance at employment. In all cases, those who can speak more than one language have an advantage. Again, patience and superb customer service skills are mandatory.

How much money do flight attendants make?
New hires deal with the worst pay and the worst schedules. Salaries can start as low as $16,000, though it's important to note that flight attendants don't have a typical 40-hour workweek and that they're also paid a bit of money while away from home to offset on-the-job costs. After years of experience, flight attendants could work their way up to earning around $75,000 a year, depending on the airline. Other perks worth taking into account include free travel and most airlines extend that perk to family members as well.

Where can you find a job as a flight attendant?
It's usually best to research and select the airlines you might want to work for and then apply directly to them.

How to Balance Your Passion for Travel with a Full-Time Job
7 U.S. Airports We Wouldn't Mind Being Stranded In
What Should You Do if Your Flight Gets Canceled?