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How to Become a Commercial Pilot

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Secure a Financial Future Doing Something You Love

If you have a sense of travel adventure and love to explore the world and serve others, a career as a commercial pilot could make you feel excited to jump out of bed in the morning. Unlike airline pilots, commercial pilots fly primarily unscheduled transportation flights and often serve high profile clients, including executives and celebrities. Hours can be a bit unpredictable, so securing reliable childcare makes this career possible for those raising young children.

Job Description

Commercial pilots are responsible for flying chartered flights, tour flights and other unscheduled flights. They schedule these independent flights, as well as airline maintenance and safety checks. Some commercial pilots must also help to handle luggage and tend to passenger needs, especially on a smaller aircraft. During the flight, the pilot operates the plane, monitors the controls and communicates with air traffic control and others in the airspace.

Education Requirements

Commercial pilots typically need a high school diploma to get started. Pilots must complete flight training with a private instructor or at a flight school, and then pass a test to obtain their commercial pilot's license. New employees must also complete six to eight weeks of ground school to comply with Federal Aviation Regulations. Commercial pilots who wish to work as airline pilots must have a college degree and obtain an Airline Transport Pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. Commercial pilots are also required to pass regular medical examinations and keep their skills fresh by routinely practicing and documenting maneuvers in the air.

The median salary for pilots of all kinds is $99,917, which means that half of all pilots earn more than this, while the other half earns less. The top 10 percent takes home more than $208,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent earns less than $65,000.

About the Industry

Pilots work in airports and aircraft at high elevations. They generally work in tight spaces and are in close proximity to others for many hours at a time. Some commercial pilots are able to fly out of smaller airports and regularly avoid the headache of hassling with large airports. Unlike airline pilots, commercial pilots are often able to fly out of the same airport and stay close to home. Hours can be unpredictable, and so reliable childcare or family support is a must in order for this career to work with small children in the home.

Years of Experience

Many commercial pilots are responsible for flying small jets, verses the large jets that airline pilots routinely fly. Pay for pilots of small jets increases with experience and time on the job. This is the typical income depending on how much experience you have.

  • 1-2 Years: $97,540-$107,898
  • 3-4 Years: $99,611-$109,711
  • 5-6 Years: $101,942-$111,651
  • 7-9 Years: $105,309-$115,842
  • 10-14 Years: $109,193-$120,678
  • 15 or More Years: $111,006-$123,257

Job Growth Trend

Job opportunities for pilots is expected to grow four percent over the next decade, which is slower than the average for other industries. Commercial ambulance pilot positions could increase a bit more, so think about the rewards of helping to transport patients to medical facilities for specialized care. Competition for commercial pilot positions is less steep than for airline pilots, so you may have an easier time finding work than some others in the field.