There are several enticing reasons to choose a career as an airline pilot. Some want the opportunity to see the world, some just love to fly, but most cannot deny the salary as another attractive benefit. Considering the cost of flight school is relatively small, especially when you think of the cost of traditional collegiate schooling, the paycheck made as a pilot offers more than a return on the investment. Most people may not be aware that an airline pilot is actually paid by the hour as opposed to an annual salary. Because of this, the amount of money a pilot makes varies greatly depending on several factors including the type of aircraft you fly, what airline you fly for, and your experience. If you are looking to become a pilot and want to know what is a pilot’s average salary, read on to find out more about what factors influence a pilot’s paycheck.
What Affects How Much a Pilot Makes?
To put it simply, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median airline pilot salary to be $160,970, but this number can be vastly different for each pilot depending on several factors listed below.
Ultimately, pilots are paid for the number of hours flown each year. However, you will need to consider a pilot cannot fly more than 1,000 hours each year for the safety of everyone involved by ensuring pilots are well-rested. Knowing this, you have some control over the money you make, as pilots who schedule more flights will end up making more money.
Your compensation offers will likely increase as you gain more years of experience. Typically, you will start as a first officer and work your way up to a captain, where you will see a significant jump in your hourly rate. Having more experience will allow you to apply for available captain positions. As a bonus that comes with seniority, you will be able to pick out your schedule each month, deciding the number of flights and type of aircraft you get to fly. This will ensure you get closer to the 1,000 minimum hours.
Type of Aircraft
It’s advantageous to get experience flying different kinds of aircraft, but as a rule of thumb, the larger the aircraft you fly, the larger the hourly rate. When picking your flights, choosing the largest flights available will let you earn more money.
Although two pilots in a similar position will earn roughly the same, salaries can vary if the pilots work at different airlines. When deciding what airline to work for, do your research to determine the pros and cons of different airlines, and prepare for interviews to get the job at the place you want.
Airline Pilot Benefits
On top of a good salary and excellent employment health and retirement benefits, there are a few other perks to flying an airliner. Although this may already be a huge influence on your decision making already, pilots can take advantage of free flights whenever there are empty seats, including bringing friends and family. This could be an invaluable benefit for someone who may want to frequently visit family who lives far away.
While flying, you may also receive a per diem to cover expenses needed while on trips, such as hotel and food costs. Most of the time, you will be able to claim the extra amount you do not use as additional income throughout the year.
Occasionally pilots may receive bonuses, either as a sign-on incentive to remain competitive or as a percentage of the airline’s profits.
What About Private or Commercial Pilots?
Becoming an airline pilot takes a lot of time, money, and effort, so what other careers are there outside of airline pilots, and how much do they get paid? If completing the necessary hours to become an airline pilot seems too daunting, you can always opt to become a commercial pilot or flight instructor instead. This way, you can save money but still earn a decent living or even start earning money on your way to becoming an airline pilot.
To earn the required flight hours for a license, some choose to work at a flight school and become an instructor, an excellent career choice for some if you continue as an instructor, you can expect to make around $45,000 to $75,000 a year. However, if you become a head flight instructor at your school, your salary may go higher.
If you decide just to earn your commercial pilot’s license, you still have a few job choices that do not require flying a commercial airliner. If you enjoy taking scenic rides with groups of people, tour guides can make around $50,000 a year. A more lucrative option would be a career as a crop duster, and while this can pay over $100,000, it does require more knowledge about agricultural practices. Another easy way to collect more flight hours while earning a license is to tow banners, which can pay over $20 an hour.
Begin Your Piloting Adventure with J.A. Air and J.A. Flight Training
Are you ready to begin earning your piloting license? If now is the time for YOU to start flight school, start looking at the next steps! J.A. Flight Training is conveniently based in Chicago’s western suburb, Sugar Grove. No matter which career path you follow, you can count on experiential learning with the most up-to-date equipment, flight simulators, and aircrafts available.
We are proud to offer world-class training that prepares our students for a successful future as a pilot through flexible classes and affordable programs. If you would like to receive more information about our flight training program, contact us today to get started on your new career path.