Commercial Pilots: Salary Overview
Commercial pilots fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters, and other aircraft.
They are involved in unscheduled flights, such as aerial tours, aerial application, and charter flights.
Some of them are also involved in arranging maintenance for the aircraft and loading luggage.
Like all pilots, commercial pilots have to check the condition of the aircraft before and after flights and to ensure that the aircraft is balanced and below its weight limit.
They also prepare and submit flight plans to air traffic control, monitor fuel consumption, respond to changing conditions, and use instruments and visual references to navigate the aircraft.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for commercial pilots was $86,080 as of May 2019.
Salaries vary widely based on a range of factors and, as a commercial pilot you can earn anywhere between less than $45,000 and more than $179,000 a year.
Some of the factors that determine how much a commercial pilot earns each year are experience level, the industry of employment, the region, and the number of flight hours.
The maximum work hours and rest hours between flights are regulated by federal regulations.
Commercial pilots may have irregular schedules and may work nonstandard hours.
Commercial Pilot Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, commercial pilots held about 40,700 jobs in the United States in 2018, most of them being employed in the field of nonscheduled air transportation, for technical and trade schools or for companies that provide support activities for air transportation.
The report published by BLS shows that, on average, commercial pilots employed in the field of nonscheduled air transportation earned $90,290 a year.
In the field of other ambulatory health care services commercial pilots reportedly earned $85,220 per year on average.
Commercial pilots employed in this sector usually work on an EMS helicopter and specialize in responding to emergencies in remote areas or to transport patients between hospitals.
The average annual wage was $83,810 for commercial pilots who worked for technical and trade schools and $90,460 for those employed in the field of support activities for air transportation.
Commercial pilots who worked for companies that provide support activities for crop production reported an average annual salary of $86,610.
The highest-paying industry for commercial pilots were navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturers.
Pilots employed in this sector earned, on average, $137,320 per year.
The numbers of years of experience are also important in determining a commercial pilot’s salary.
After earning some experience as a commercial pilot you can apply for a multi-engine rating and airline transport pilot certificate.
As an airline pilot, you will have better salary prospects.
According to BLS, the average annual wage for airline pilots was $147,220 (more than 70% higher than the median salary for commercial pilots) with salaries ranging between less than $74,100 and more than $208,000.
Newly hired pilots at regional airlines are usually required to have approximately 1,500 hours of flight experience while commercial pilot jobs usually require at least 500 hours of flight experience.
As an airline pilot, you can also advance to a first officer position after approximately 5 years of experience and you can become a captain after earning 5-15 years of experience (these numbers vary depending on the collective bargaining contract.)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for commercial pilots is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Jobs for pilots are projected to increase in a variety of industries, including ambulance services where they will be needed to transfer patients to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Entry-level pilots usually begin their careers in the field of nonscheduled aviation services because in these sectors entry-level requirements are lower for commercial jobs and the competition is not as strong.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Commercial Pilots. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.