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Career Profile: Commercial Pilots

Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft on nonscheduled air carrier routes, or helicopters. Requires Commercial Pilot certificate. Includes charter pilots with similar certification, and air ambulance and air tour pilots. Excludes regional, national, and international airline pilots.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 39,200 people employed as commercial pilots in the United States. The median annual salary is $93,300. Entry level employees earn approximately $47,570 per year and senior employees earn approximately $200,920 (or more) per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Obtain and review data such as load weights, fuel supplies, weather conditions, and flight schedules to determine flight plans and identify needed changes.
  • File instrument flight plans with air traffic control so that flights can be coordinated with other air traffic.
  • Check baggage or cargo to ensure that it has been loaded correctly.
  • Order changes in fuel supplies, loads, routes, or schedules to ensure safety of flights.
  • Plan flights according to government and company regulations, using aeronautical charts and navigation instruments.
  • Choose routes, altitudes, and speeds that will provide the fastest, safest, and smoothest flights.
  • Co-pilot aircraft or perform captain's duties, as required.
  • Coordinate flight activities with ground crews and air traffic control, and inform crew members of flight and test procedures.
  • Request changes in altitudes or routes as circumstances dictate.
  • Write specified information in flight records, such as flight times, altitudes flown, and fuel consumption.
  • Supervise other crew members.
  • Fly with other pilots or pilot-license applicants to evaluate their proficiency.
  • Rescue and evacuate injured persons.
  • Check the flight performance of new and experimental planes.
  • Instruct other pilots and student pilots in aircraft operations.
  • Teach company regulations and procedures to other pilots.
  • Perform minor aircraft maintenance and repair work, or arrange for major maintenance.
  • Conduct in-flight tests and evaluations at specified altitudes and in all types of weather to determine the receptivity and other characteristics of equipment and systems.
  • Plan and formulate flight activities and test schedules and prepare flight evaluation reports.
  • Pilot airplanes or helicopters over farmlands at low altitudes to dust or spray fields with fertilizers, fungicides, or pesticides.
  • Use instrumentation to pilot aircraft when visibility is poor.
  • Start engines, operate controls, and pilot airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight according to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.
  • Monitor engine operation, fuel consumption, and functioning of aircraft systems during flights.
  • Check aircraft prior to flights to ensure that the engines, controls, instruments, and other systems are functioning properly.
  • Consider airport altitudes, outside temperatures, plane weights, and wind speeds and directions to calculate the speed needed to become airborne.
  • Contact control towers for takeoff clearances, arrival instructions, and other information, using radio equipment.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
39,200
Annual Openings:
4,900
Increase in Openings by 2030:
11%
Annual Salary Range:
$47,570 - $200,920
Education Requirements:
High school diploma