Commercial pilots: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Commercial pilots are involved in unscheduled flight activities, such as aerial application, charter flights, and aerial tours. Commercial pilots may have additional nonflight duties. Some commercial pilots schedule flights, arrange for maintenance of the aircraft, and load luggage themselves. Pilots who transport company executives, also known as corporate pilots, greet their passengers before embarking on the flight.

Agricultural pilots typically handle agricultural chemicals, such as pesticides, and may be involved in other agricultural practices in addition to flying. Pilots, such as helicopter pilots, who fly at low levels must constantly look for trees, bridges, power lines, transmission towers, and other obstacles.

With proper training, airline pilots also may be deputized as federal law enforcement officers and be issued firearms to protect the cockpit.

Education Required
Airline pilots typically need a bachelor’s degree in any subject, along with a commercial pilot’s license and an ATP certificate from the FAA. Airline pilots typically start their careers flying as commercial pilots. Commercial pilots usually accrue thousands of hours of flight experience in order to get a job with regional or major airlines.
Training Required
Airline and commercial pilots who are newly hired by airlines or on-demand air services companies undergo on-the-job training in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). This training usually includes 6–8 weeks of ground school. Various types of ratings for specific aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 or Cessna Citation, typically are acquired through employer-based training and generally are earned by pilots who have at least a commercial license.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 4% (Slower than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Commercial pilots may advance to airline pilots after completing a degree, accruing required flight time, and obtaining an ATP license.
Those who are seeking a career as a professional pilot typically get their licenses and ratings in the following order:
Median pay: How much do Airline and Commercial Pilots make?
$105,720 Annual Salary

Careers for Airline and Commercial Pilots

  • Aerial crop dusters
  • Aerial hurricane hunters
  • Aerial photography pilots
  • Aerial sprayers
  • Agricultural pilots
  • Air ambulance captains
  • Air tour pilots
  • Aircraft pilots
  • Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
  • Airline captains
  • Airline pilot flight instructors
  • Airline pilot in command
  • Airline pilot second in command
  • Airline pilots
  • Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers
  • Airline transport pilots
  • Balloon pilots
  • Captains
  • Charter pilots (air transport pilot certificate required)
  • Charter pilots (airline)
  • Charter pilots (commercial pilot certificate required)
  • Charter pilots (commercial)
  • Commercial helicopter pilots
  • Corporate pilots
  • EMS helicopter pilots
  • Emergency medical service helicopter pilots
  • Emergency medical service rotary wing pilots
  • Executive pilots
  • Flight instructors
  • Flight instructors (commercial pilots)
  • Helicopter pilots
  • Pilots
  • Regional airline pilots

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