Entry-level salaries in the aviation sector

What do skilled workers earn in the aviation sector? Get an overview of possible earnings and learn about the factors that have an effect on salary levels.

Aviation attracts talent with high salaries

Careers in the aviation and aerospace industries are some of the best-paid jobs, with an average annual salary of €67,578. According to the StepStone Salary Report 2017 that places the sector in third place. In terms of starting salaries, the aviation and aerospace sector is in fifth place, with an average salary of €48,274. Naturally, not every worker in the sector earns the same salary. There are certain factors which have a significant influence on salary levels: the nature of the job, the area of operation, the length of professional experience, the level of prior training and education, and the region can all give rise to large variations in salary. The size of the company also plays a significant role.

The role of job type and performed tasks in setting salaries

The level of salary depends on the area and nature of the role, including the type of job, the functions that are performed, and the additional qualifications that are obtained.

Pilots and air traffic controllers, for example, assume a great deal of responsibility and are compensated with correspondingly higher pay. Lufthansa pilots are currently some of the sector’s highest earners, but there is significant variation between salaries in the cockpits of different airlines.

The highest earners in the sector include jobs in the fields of manufacturing, research and development, and information technology, where the average starting salary is in the range of €45,000 to €50,000. Sales and procurement are in the middle salary range, with earnings of around €40,000 to €45,000. The fields of human resources and marketing attract some of the lowest salaries in the sector, between €30,000 and €35,000 annually. Salary levels are, of course, further determined by the level of education required.

In principle, engineers are some of the best-paid workers, whereby aerospace engineers are comparatively well rewarded. ABSOLVENTA reports that their average starting salary is around €45,000 annually. The range of variation, however, lies between €38,000 and €53,000. As such, they exceed the average initial earnings of engineers in other sectors, such as mechanical or automotive engineers. As career experience grows, so do incomes, with the promise of an average annual salary in the region of €60,000. 

The list of the top 100 engineering employers includes enterprises such as Airbus Group (ranked sixth), Lufthansa Technik (in ninth place), the German Space Agency, DLR (twelfth place) and ESA, the European Space Agency (ranked thirteenth) in the first 15 positions.

Education levels as a factor

A completed apprenticeship leads to lower salary levels, on average than graduation from a degree course. With further training following an apprenticeship to become an acknowledged master craftsperson or specialist, income rises accordingly. The average salary of those who have passed Germany’s First State Exam for their trade comes next in the list, followed by graduate salaries. The kind of degree has the greatest influence on salary: a holder of a master’s degree from a top university will, on average, have a significantly higher salary than a graduate from a vocational college or the holder of a bachelor’s degree. Earnings increase further if the Second State Exam has been passed, and further again if a doctorate has been obtained.An overview of average salaries depending on the level of education completed

Possible salaries by entry level in Germany (salaries are ranked by average gross annual income for professionals and managers including any variable compensation); data source: StepStone

The role played by aviation employers

Employers themselves represent a further, important factor in determining salary levels. In general, the larger the employer, the higher the salary. The StepStone Salary Report demonstrates that businesses with up to 500 employees pay an average of €7,000 less in salary than companies with over 1,000 employees. For example, Airbus, which has several thousand employees, offers its employees an average starting salary of around €48, 000 to €53,000, including holiday pay and Christmas bonuses.

Regions as a factor

It remains the case in practice that variable salaries can be paid in each of Germany’s federal states. The highest starting salaries are found in the Federal States of Hesse, Bavaria, and Baden-Württemberg with gross annual incomes of around €45,000. Federal states such as Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Thuringia, and Saxony score worst, with annual salaries around €36,000. Salary can vary even further depending on location.An overview of average salaries by region in Germany.

Average salary by region in Germany © data: StepStone Salary Report 2016; map: Wikimedia; CC-BY-SA-3.0

A comparison of entry level salaries in the aviation and aerospace sectors

CareerStarting salary/monthSalaray prospectsComments

Cabin crew


€7,000 monthly as senior cabin crew member

Varies between airlines; excludes training costs; Commission possible through duty-free sales

Aircraft mechanic

€2,000 - €2,400

€3,000 - €4,200 monthly

Regional differences; professional experience and training levels


€2,900 - €4,000

€130,000 - €250,000 annually as Captain (approx. 8-12 years after completing training)

High level of responsibility and high training costs

Aerospace engineer


€70,000 annually

Depends on role, region, employer and experience

Air traffic controller

€4,000 - €6,000

€130,000 annually

High level of responsibility, experience

You can carry out your own personal salary check with various salary comparison tools. It is important to keep things in perspective with the right basis for comparison. You should always ensure that you are comparing annual salaries that are calculated over 12 months and whether bonuses such as a thirteenth month of salary payment or special payments that are due as a result of collective bargaining are taken into account.

Salary undoubtedly plays a vital role in career choice. Nevertheless, it is more important to enjoy your job. If you also enjoy the kind of work you’re doing and the working atmosphere within your team, that’s half the battle.

I’d be delighted if you’re interested in a job in the aviation or aerospace sectors. Perhaps you already have a job of this kind. Let us know about your experiences in the sector: we’re looking forward to your e-mail.

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