Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers
Airline and commercial pilots fly and navigate airplanes or helicopters. Airline pilots fly for airlines that transport people and cargo on a fixed schedule. Commercial pilots fly aircraft for other reasons, such as charter flights, rescue operations, firefighting, aerial photography, and crop dusting.
Pilots spend a considerable amount of time away from home because flights often involve overnight layovers. Those who fly international routes may experience jetlag. Many have variable schedules.
How to Become an Airline or Commercial Pilot
Many pilots learn to fly in the military, but a growing number have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a civilian flight school. All pilots who are paid to transport passengers or cargo must have a commercial pilot's license and an instrument rating.
In May 2010, median annual wages of airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers were $103,210, and median annual wages of commercial pilots were $67,500.
Employment of airline and commercial pilots is expected to grow 11 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Regional airlines and low-cost carriers will present the best job opportunities. Pilots seeking jobs at the major airlines will face strong competition.
Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of airline and commercial pilots with similar occupations.