Many aspiring flight attendants ask this question: What subject do I need to study to be cabin crew? Because, the truth is, becoming a flight attendant is not easy. With a focus on excellent customer service alongside safety, premium airlines offer competitive salaries and top travel benefits, attracting many more applicants for every job on offer.
So, how do you stand out from the crowd? And, if you are interested in starting a career as cabin crew, which subject should you study?
In this article, we’ll take a broad overview of the recruitment process. Looking at which degrees are relevant to the role, what degrees current cabin crew have, and take a look at the best subjects for aspiring cabin crew. Are degrees necessary?
Do I need a degree to be cabin crew?
No. While a degree certainly helps, there are relatively few employers that require cabin crew applicants to hold a degree.
However, having a relevant degree can certainly help you stand out from the crowd during flight attendant selection.
The numbers: Flight attendant degrees
As a career that spans the globe, and doesn’t necessarily require a degree, it can be difficult to estimate the exact percentage of cabin crew with degrees. However, flight attendant studies where participants education was recorded — such as this research paper into Future Skills of Flight attendants — show around 1 in 3 cabin crew have degrees.
Of those that have a degree, 71% percent of international cabin crew working in the USA have a Bachelors degree, with only 7% having a Master’s degree.
In the USA, the most popular cabin crew degrees are Business (23%), Phycology (9%) and Communications (8%).
Which subjects are the best to study?
One of the most popular career changes — in both directions — there is a significant overlap in both the people skills and knowledge obtained in nursing with cabin crew.
Aviation medicine (AvMed) forms a key part of cabin crew training, and with their strong background in first aid and caregiving, nursing forms an easy fit.
The link between the two professions is so strong, during the Covid-19 pandemic, when many cabin crew around the globe found themselves furloughed, multiple countries around the world ran fast-track nursing schemes to encourage cabin crew to take up nursing.
The NHS approached us with this unique opportunity as they recognise the value and experience our medically trained cabin crew and trainers will bring to the incredible Nightingale Hospital initiativeCorneel Koster, Chief Customer Officer at Virgin Atlantic
Languages / Communication
A cornerstone of the travel industry, excellent communication skills are highly valued. In the USA, approximately 9% of international cabin crew degrees are either in English or in languages, and another 13% are in communications. Airlines are keen to ensure they have a multitude of differing language speakers on popular routes.
Certain airlines require their cabin crew to be bilingual, and often airlines with an overseas base place a language requirement on their recruitment opportunities. Airlines rarely specify a degree as a certification for language requirements — instead offering in house testing or the widely used ICAO language testing scale.
However, some airlines have a degree requirement for their flight attendant applications. By obtaining a language degree, aspiring flight attendants can tick two boxes in one go:
- Widening available applications by learning a second language
- Maximising the airlines available to work for by attaining a degree
At its heart, the airline industry is a service-based industry. Flight attendants have extensive safety related training. However, the day job revolves around customer service. In fact, the bureau of labour statistics rated “service orientated” as the highest required skill for flight attendants.
Hospitality experience is valued differently by different airlines. However, airlines that offer an ultra-premium product — such as Singapore, Cathay Pacific and the Middle Eastern ‘Big three’ — hugely value this experience.
Many full-service airlines offer their crew hospitality courses, from silver service to etiquette training, so having a hospitality-based qualification can really make an applicant to full-service airlines stand out.
Business / Management-based
Titles vary, however on every flight, there are several cabin crew and one inflight ‘manager’ — often known as a Purser. With more responsibility and higher pay rewards, inflight managers are recruited directly or through internal promotion, depending on the individual airline.
Airlines are particularly keen on applicants with a management background for these roles:
- A Purser’s role regularly involve sorting out onboard customer issues, managing the onboard team on the day, and liaising with ground staff and pilots.
- Many airlines utilise Pursers and Cabin Crew Managers as more general management staff onboard and at head office
- At some airlines, Pursers can be rostered ground duty days, having teams of flight attendants under them, managing HR issues, queries, and catch-up sessions.
Even for those without aspirations as Cabin Managers, it’s clear to see why Business and Management degrees constitute the highest proportion of all cabin crew degrees. Nearly 25% of all flight attendants with a degree choose Business related degrees.
Monitoring, social perceptiveness, coordination, critical thinking and judgement are all classified as key skills for flight attendants, and this is one clear way of obtaining those skills and standing out from the crowd at interview.
Obtaining a degree to become cabin crew is not mandatory. In fact, most airlines will not specify any educational requirements beyond college (that’s high-school for the US readers!)— intensive safety and service training will be undertaken after the initial selection process.
However, it is estimated almost a third of cabin crew have degrees. Having a degree can help cabin crew apply for advanced roles, like cabin managers. If you select your subject wisely, a degree can also make potential applicants better equipped to deal with the training and customer service skills demanded, alongside securing faster promotions.
Highly recommended subjects for cabin crew revolve around problem-solving, communications and the service industry. As a result, Management, Languages and Hospitality degrees feature highly. Equally, the medical training and people skills achieved, means there is a large amount of overlap between nursing and flight attendants too!