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Advice for aerospace engineer considering a career change

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35 year old here considering a career change to rotor-wing aviation. Quick bit about me: I earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering and have practiced as an aerospace engineer for NASA for over 10 years. My area of expertise is heat transfer and thermodynamics, and my work has focused primarily on developing thermal control systems for spacecraft and aircraft (mostly spacecraft).

The pay and benefits are fantastic, but I dread sitting in front of a computer for 9 to 10 hrs each day. I dread the work 95% of the time and have lost nearly all motivation to put forth my best effort. This struggle has persisted for 4 years and I’ve done everything I can reasonably think of to find happiness in my career, but to no avail. Hating your job is a horrible way to live, and I’m simply ready for a change.

I understand the process of training then working low wage jobs for a few years (instructing and tours) before gaining enough hours to qualify for a position in EMS or fire, but I’m not deterred by it. Life experiences motivate me, not money. I don’t want for material things. I want a career that brings excitement to my day-to-day, gives meaning by helping others, and provides an environment in which I’m driven to excel and progress in. None of these exist along my current path.

My questions for the helicopter pilots and hiring managers out there:

  1. Would my professional background give me a significant leg on the competition when going for a job? As a hiring manager, how much value would my background provide? (Subjective and difficult to quantify, I know).
  2. Does your career provide any of the things I listed above (excitement, meaning, purpose)?
  3. Is there really a shortage of experienced pilots on the horizon, to the extent that insurance companies might actually reduce their minimum hourly requirements?
  4. Am I an idiot for considering giving up a six-figure salary and 4 weeks vacation to do this?

Thanks everyone -- I really appreciate any insights you folks have.

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