I can tell you about entry level cargo operations in the US, I hope that helps. When comparing a "checkhauler" freight airline versus a regional airline, both have similar minimum requirements; the regional will be two pilots, the freight job will be single pilot. The regional will pay about USD15K/year for a turboprop, maybe 20K if you get straight into a jet, and you will have to work long hours with 3-5 day trips. The freight airline I worked for (Airnet) started everyone at USD22K/year, with overtime pay. My run was 13 hours/day duty with 5.5 flight time, I was making 35K/year flying a Baron, and I was home every day. A freight job flying a turboprop or biz jet will easily pay better than most of the regionals. Supply and demand, everyone in the US wants to fly for the majors, and the best way to get there is through the commuters... I don't have first hand experience with the heavy jet freight airlines, but I'll give you my impressions. The schedule can vary quite a bit; charter airlines like Atlas or World can keep you on the road for 3 weeks or more; but a Fedex or UPS 727 crew will be live at an outbase and just fly to the hub and back every night. I think the pay will also vary quite a bit; some freight companies are very small, poorly managed, non-union, etc. The better ones compare favorably with the people haulers, especially after all the pay concessions at the people haulers lately. The presence/absence of pax/fa's depends on your personality, I guess. Personally I'm kind of anti-social, the fewer people the better. To each his own. US hazmat training only takes a few hours, don't know about EU or anywhere else. One more consideration is maintenance; only a few of the top level companies actually buy new freighters, (Cargolux, etc) most everyone else uses much older aircraft. (Except for Caravans) For example, popular freighters in the US right now are Metros, F-27, Falcon 20, Lear 20-series, 727, DC-8, DC-10. These are all good aircraft, in my opinion, but you want to do some research on the companies you apply to, make sure they run a professional operation, especially in the mx department. Upgrade can be faster at a freight airline, because many people use the freight job as a stepping stone to their dream job at the majors, even at the top end. Atlas loses a lot of 747 pilots, who presumably start in the 737 at UA
. Again, to each his own.