Airline and commercial pilots fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters, and other aircraft. Airline pilots fly for airlines that transport people and cargo on a fixed schedule. Commercial pilots fly aircraft for other purposes, such as charter flights, rescue operations, firefighting, aerial photography, and aerial application, also known as crop dusting.
Pilots work primarily in aircraft. They may spend a considerable amount of time away from home because of overnight layovers. Many pilots have variable schedules.
Most airline pilots begin their careers as commercial pilots. Commercial pilots typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Airline pilots typically need a bachelor's degree. All pilots who are paid to fly must have at least a commercial pilot's license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In addition, airline pilots must have the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. Pilots may need to achieve an instrument rating and other ratings.
The median annual wage for airline and commercial pilots was $102,520 in May 2015.
Employment of airline and commercial pilots is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Low-cost regional airlines and nonscheduled aviation services will provide the most job opportunities. Pilots seeking jobs at the major airlines will face strong competition.
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Learn more about airline and commercial pilots by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.