Airline and Commercial Pilots

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Annual Earnings Percentiles

Skill Scores

  • supported icon 99

    Supported

  • analytical icon 88

    Analytical

  • purpose icon 69

    Purpose

  • social icon 50

    Social

  • creative icon 16

    Creative

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College Majors

  • Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

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    What Airline and Commercial Pilots Do

    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.

    Work Environment

    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.

    How to Become an Airline or Commercial Pilot

    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.

    Job Outlook

    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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    Job Trends for Airline and Commercial Pilots

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    This occupation supported 104,000 jobs in 2012 and 119,200 jobs in 2014, reflecting an increase of 14.6%. In 2012, this occupation was projected to decrease by 0.7% in 2022 to 103,300 jobs. As of 2014, to keep pace with prediction, the expected number of jobs was 103,800, compared with an observed value of 119,200, 14.8% higher than expected. This indicates current employment trends are much better than the 2012 trend within this occupation. In 2014, this occupation was projected to increase by 5.1% in 2024 to 124,500 jobs. Linear extrapolation of the 2012 projection for 2022 results in an expected number of 103,100 jobs for 2024, 17.2% lower than the 2014 projection for 2024. This indicates expectations for future employment trends are much better than the 2012 trend within this occupation.

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