According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, pilots, copilots, and flight engineers rank #18 in a lineup of 20 jobs with the highest median annual salaries.
Explore this Guide:
- How much do pilots make a year?
- How much do pilots make in a month?
- How much do pilots make in a week?
- How much do pilots make an hour?
- Pilots’ pay by location
- Pilots’ pay by experience
- Pilots’ pay by airline
What Do Pilots Do?
Pilots don’t just fly planes, though that is their main job. But they also perform important checks before and after flights to make sure everything is safe and functioning properly. They also monitor flight instruments and weather patterns during the flight.
Pilots also must submit flight reports, make flight plans, and communicate and coordinate with air traffic control, ground control, and their fellow crew members.
Different Types of Pilots
Airline Pilots work for airlines to transport passengers and sometimes cargo. They work on a fixed schedule determined by the airline they work for.
Commercial Pilots are unscheduled pilots that work in aerial application, charter flights, aerial tours, or corporate travel. These kinds of pilots are also called corporate pilots because they are hired by companies and businesses to fly company executives.
Agricultural Pilots fly with and handle agricultural chemicals and pesticides. They often use their planes to more easily distribute large amounts of pesticides to crops via the air. Because of this, they often fly lower and have to be more aware of ground hazards like trees.
How to Become a Pilot
Becoming a pilot doesn’t require an exorbitant amount of schooling, but it does require a very specific type of training.
1. Go to School
The very first thing you’ll need to do to become a pilot is graduate high school or get your GED. A high school diploma is required for all pilots to be able to get their commercial pilots license, which is where all pilots start out.
But if you want to go on to become an airline pilot you’ll need to continue your education and get a bachelor’s degree too.
You can major in any subject in college because either way you’re going to need pilot training. Because of this your best option might be to find a college or university that actually offers an aviation degree. That way you can get your degree and start pilot training all at the same time.
2. Get Training
After or while you’re receiving your education you can start flight training or flight school. You’ll need to enroll in a flight school or program that is Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified.
At these schools and independent programs you will complete flight training with FAA certified flight instructors.
3. Get Certificates and Licenses
Every pilot needs to get a Commercial pilot’s license from the FAA so they can begin their pilot career as a commercial pilot. This is where you can receive the training and hours of experience you need to become an airline pilot.
Then you can get the FAA issued Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which will allow you to fly for airlines.
There is also a strong likelihood that before an airline will hire you, they’ll have you do their own tests, both psychological and aptitude, when you apply for the job. Many job interviews will have their own special requirements and tests the way pilot job applications do.
You can also become an airline pilot by becoming a pilot in the military and transitioning to civilian aviation afterwards.
Once you are a pilot, you will have to maintain your pilots license and receive regular updating in your pilot certifications and education.
How long does it take to become a pilot?
Including your time in high school, becoming a pilot can take 10 to 12 years.
Then there’s the time it takes to advance from flight engineer to copilot or first officer to captain. It can take 1 to 5 years to advance from flight engineer to copilot and another 5 to 15 years to advance from copilot to pilot or captain.
What Skills Do Pilots Need?
Communication Skills pilots have to effectively communicate with fellow crew members, passengers, and ground and air control. They also need good listening skills in order to take instructions.
Observational Skills there are a lot of things that pilots have to keep track of, monitor, and check, before, during, and after flights. They need to be ever vigilant in their jobs. They also need to be observant so they can make alterations to flight plans as needed and be aware of their surroundings and the condition of the plane and outside the plane.
Problem Solving pilots are in charge of the entire plane when in flight and may have to handle various situations on a case by case basis. Weather conditions might suddenly change, or there might be a malfunction with the plane, or a passenger might get sick and you might need to make the call for an emergency landing.
Decision-Making Under Pressure along with problem solving in their jobs, pilots also need to be able to handle high stress situations. They need a quick response time, not all scenarios are going to allow for them to mull things over. Need good judgement, need to recognize dangers and keep the passengers safe above all else.
How Much Do Pilots Make?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers actually made the top list of the 20 highest paying occupations in the US.
The BLS’s most recent census found that pilots make about $115,670 per year.
How much do pilots make a year?
But there is a bit of a difference in salary between what airline pilots and commercial pilots make.
For instance, airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers in the lower 10% income range make around $65,690 a year, they make a median salary of $140,340 a year, and the highest 10% of earners make $208,000 a year.
But commercial pilots tend to make a little less. The lower 10% make about $44,660 a year, the median earner makes $82,240 a year, and the higher 10% make up to $160,480 a year.
Meanwhile, job sites like PayScale say that pilots in general can expect to make an average $103,420 a year.
How much do pilots make in a month?
On average, pilots in the lower 10% range of pay can expect to make around $5,474 every month, pilots in the median range make about $11,695 a month, and pilots in the higher 10% make about $17,333 per month.
How much do pilots make in a week?
Pilots don’t always have very regular working hours the way other office jobs do. But, if a pilot is working a regular 40 hour work week they can make around $1,179 a week if they’re in the lower 10%, $3,268 a week if they’re in the median income range, and up to $9,143 a week if they’re working in the higher 10% range.
How much do pilots make an hour?
PayScale crunched the numbers with their many personal surveys and found that pilots in the lower 10% make about $29.49 an hour, pilots in the median range make about $81.72 an hour, and pilots in the higher 10% make up to $228.58 per hour.
Pilots’ pay by location
How much you make will also depend on which state you live and work in. For example, the highest paying states are as follows: Washington ($237,590), Nevada ($215,460), Colorado ($209,830), California ($207,080), and Texas ($195,480).
Pilots’ pay by experience
Your salary as a pilot will also get higher the more experience you have under your belt. So pilots with less than 1 year of experience tend to earn around $59,470 a year, pilots with 1 to 4 years of experience make around $68,517 a year, pilots with 5 to 9 years of experience make about $98,330 each year, pilots with 10 to 19 years of experience make around $121,445 per year, and pilots with 20 or more years of experience can expect to make up to $178,786 every year.
Pilots’ pay by airline
A unique aspect of a pilots job is similar to something flight attendants run into. People who work on airplanes are most often hired by the specific airline that owns the plane. So a pilot that works for one airline might make more money than a pilot who works for a different airline.
For example, pilots at United Airlines, Inc. can expect to make a rough average of $165,000 a year. Likewise, American Airlines’ pilots make around $135,000, Delta Air Lines Inc pilots make about $150,000, Southwest Airlines Co. pilots make $102,000, Skywest Airlines, Inc. pilots make $58,000, JetBlue Airways Corporation pilots make about $95,000, and Federal Express Corporation (FedEx) pilots make around $260,000 per year.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Highest Paying Occupations,” “Airline and Commercial Pilots,” “Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers.”