The world of aviation has always been a fascinating and adventurous field, attracting individuals with a passion for flying.

Becoming a pilot is a dream for many, but apart from the thrill of being in the cockpit, one crucial aspect that often comes to mind is the earning potential.

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics by BLS states that the average annual pilot salary recorded as of May ‘22 was $211,790.

About 18K+ openings for airline and commercial pilots are projected each year, on average, from 2021 to 2031.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the details of pilot salaries in the United States, encompassing various types of pilots and their income prospects.

From airline pilots to helicopter pilots, we will explore the factors that influence their earnings and discuss opportunities for career advancement.

Understanding Pilot Salaries in the United States

64% of pilots in the United States reported to Indeed that their salaries are enough for the cost of living in their area.

However, before we delve into the specifics of different types of pilot salaries, let's gain an overview of how pilot salaries are generally structured in the aviation industry.

  • Factors Influencing Pilot Salaries: The income of pilots can vary significantly depending on various factors, including experience, type of aircraft flown, geographical location, and the employing organization.

  • Types of Pilots: In the United States, there are several categories of pilots, each with its own unique set of responsibilities and earning potential. These include airline pilots, corporate pilots, helicopter pilots, and military pilots, among others.

  • Earning Structure: Pilots may receive payment based on an hourly rate or a monthly salary. Many pilots, especially in the commercial sector, are paid hourly for flight time, with additional compensation for other duties.

Also read: What are the skills required for an airline pilot?

Airline Pilot Salary

Percentile Annual Airlines Pilot Salary
10% $148,285
25% $165,401
50% $184,201
75% $205,301
90% $224,511

Airline pilots are often considered the epitome of the aviation profession, commanding large aircraft and serving thousands of passengers. Here's a detailed look at airline pilot salaries, with both pilot pay per hour and year:

  • Experience and Rank: The experience of an airline pilot plays a crucial role in determining their earning potential. Newly hired pilots usually start as First Officers, and with accumulating flight hours and experience, they may progress to the position of Captain, which comes with higher compensation.

  • Type of Aircraft: The type of aircraft an airline pilot operates can significantly impact their salary. Larger aircraft, such as wide-body jets, often offer higher pay due to the complexity and responsibility involved.

  • Airline Size and Reputation: The size and reputation of the airline also influence pilot salaries. Major airlines with global reach typically offer higher pay scales and better benefits compared to regional carriers.

  • Union Representation: Many airline pilots in the United States are part of pilot unions, which negotiate collective bargaining agreements with airlines to secure competitive pay and favorable working conditions.

Now take a look at this further breakdown of airline pilot salary into commercial pilot salary and cargo pilot salary:

Commercial Pilot Salary

Experience Average Hourly Pay Average Annual Pay
0-3 years $17 $35,500
3-5 years $24 $50,643
5-10 years $28 $58,500
10+ years $37 $76,000

Cargo Pilot Salary

Experience Average Hourly Pay Average Annual Pay
0-3 years $42 $85,567
3-5 years $51 $103,899
5-10 years $60 $121,058
10+ years $68 $136,681

Also read: What are some popular roles under United Airlines careers?

Helicopter Pilot Salary

Helicopter pilots have a distinct role in aviation, performing tasks such as aerial tours, medical evacuations, and law enforcement support. Here's an overview of their earning potential:

  • Type of Missions: Helicopter pilots engage in diverse missions, ranging from tourism to firefighting. Salaries can vary based on the complexity and risk associated with the tasks.

  • Industry and Location: Helicopter pilots may work in industries such as tourism, energy, or emergency medical services. Their income can differ based on the industry and geographical location.

  • Experience and Certifications: Like other pilots, experience and additional certifications in specialized missions can positively impact a helicopter pilot's earnings.

  • Average Salary: The helicopter pilot salary in the United States ranges between
    $88,009 and $133,403, with the average annual salary being $103,769.

Experience Average Hourly Pay Average Annual Pay
0-3 years $42 $88,009
3-5 years $50 $103,769
5-10 years $64 $133,403
10+ years $77 $160,384

Corporate Pilot Salary

Corporate pilots, also known as business aviation pilots, operate private jets for high-profile clients and corporations. Let's explore their earning potential:

  • Experience and Qualifications: Corporate pilot salaries are influenced by experience and qualifications. Pilots with significant flight hours and advanced certifications are likely to earn higher incomes.

  • Type of Aircraft: Corporate pilots may operate a range of aircraft, from small jets to long-range business jets. The complexity and size of the aircraft can impact their pay.

  • Company Size and Ownership: The size of the corporation and whether the pilot is flying for a single owner or a charter company can affect salary levels.

  • Perks and Benefits: In addition to their salary, corporate pilots may receive perks like flexible schedules, travel allowances, and accommodations during layovers.

  • Average Salary: The salary range for corporate pilots falls between $124,445 and $165,028, with an average annual salary of $142,088.

Military Pilot Salary

Military pilots serve their country and may operate various aircraft, from fighter jets to transport planes. Here's a glimpse of their earning potential:

  • Military Branch and Rank: Military pilot salaries are determined by their branch of service (e.g., Air Force, Navy, Army) and rank. Higher-ranking officers generally receive higher pay.

  • Flight Hours and Experience: Accumulated flight hours and experience are vital factors in determining military pilot pay.

  • Benefits and Allowances: Military pilots receive additional benefits, such as housing allowances, healthcare, and retirement packages.

  • Average Salary: The average military pilot salary is $86,984, but the range typically falls between $73,536 to $98,355 per year in the United States.

Also read: How is a military resume different from a civilian resume?

FAQs on Pilot Salary

What can you do with a commercial pilot license?

With a commercial pilot license, you can legally fly aircraft for compensation or hire, such as working as a pilot for airlines, cargo carriers, or charter operations.

How to become an airline pilot?

To become an airline pilot, you need to obtain a private pilot license, accumulate flight hours and experience, then complete the necessary training and examinations to obtain a commercial pilot license and an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license.

What degree do you need to be a pilot?

A specific degree is not required to become a pilot, but many airline pilots hold a bachelor's degree in aviation, aeronautical engineering, or a related field, although some airlines may accept other degrees or military experience as an alternative.

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