Dear Joyce: I recently attended a seminar for airline flight dispatchers. An eight-week training course to produce FAA-licensed aircraft dispatchers is being offered at the cost of $2,200. The school promises to assist in entering this field but there are no guarantees. I am very interested but I don't want to throw away my money. Please, I need advice. -- D.W.
Dear D.W.: An aircraft dispatcher is a good job that's hard to get. It's one of the best available to high school graduates. The nation's airlines hire only about 1,500 of them and most hang in until they're old and gray, so the turnover is low. Dispatchers love their jobs, my sources say. The job pays well, offers job security and provides travel benefits. Jobs are concentrated at the airlines' headquarters so mobility is limited.
It may be possible to start as an assistant dispatcher, but it's common to hire on at an entry-level job and be promoted.
Flight dispatchers draw up flight plans, confer with pilots and make sure everything meets Federal Aviation Administration flight laws, as well as company rules. Dispatchers earn between $20,000 and $80,000, with many in the $30,000 to $45,000 altitude. Dispatchers must be FAA-certified. Certification requires previous related work experience or completion of an FAA-approved school, then passing a battery of tests.
The school approach -- whether a proprietary, on-site program such as you mention, a correspondence course or a one-year community college program -- is the easiest means of entry, although there are many other ways. Because the job is so elusive, the cautious plan would be to first get a job as a baggage handler, reservation agent or anything in an airline and study for the dispatcher job part-time or by correspondence.
For free FAA career and education materials, write to: Aviation Education Programs, Room 907F, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Ave. S.W., Washington, D.C. 20591; (202) 267-3471. Locally, you can call the FAA Flight Standards District Office.
Dear Joyce: I want to travel overseas but can't afford the cost. What about a courier job? -- R.J.
Dear R.J.: Cheap flights as a courier are fading into history as couriers are replaced by fax machines and overnight express mail, according to Travel Smart, a newsletter in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
Precious goods often go with bonded employees of the courier companies. Most international courier services are based in New York or another coastal city.
Now Voyager and Halbart Express in New York City and a very few other courier services still offer bargain round-trip fares to those who will baby-sit air package shipments. This means you are allowed only one carry-on bag because the air package shipments take up your allotment for checked baggage. If you're not discouraged, look under "air courier services" in coastal city yellow page directories.
Dear Joyce: My daughter graduated a few years ago from the University of California with a master's degree in fine arts. She has experience in video arts, radio talk shows and was a straight "A" student. She is starved for work. Why? What can she do -- go to a career consultant? -- V.B.
Dear V.B.: Yes. Or try a job search course at a continuing education program or a workshop at a community college. Your daughter's problem can be solved with very hard work. Time magazine recently forecast that all colleges and universities "will come under pressure to be less theoretical and more practical in preparing students for careers." Your daughter's case shows why.