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How Much Do Helicopter Pilots Earn?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

In order to work as a helicopter pilot, you need to have a rotocraft license and a commercial helicopter pilot certificate. Earning these is expensive and time- consuming, but if you do, you can expect to be well-compensated for your work.

Expected Earnings

The average salary for a helicopter pilot in 2013 was $76,000 per year, according to a survey by, although the range can be significant. According to the website Helicopter Pilot, salaries range from $45,000 to $90,000 per year, depending your employer, your years of experience and the type of helicopter you fly. For example, helicopter pilots of sight-seeing tours and charters earn $40,000 to $80,000 per year; medical helicopter pilots, $45,000 to $85,000; aerial firefighting pilots, $80,000; and military helicopter pilots, $60,000 to $100,000.

Geographic Differences

According to the website Indeed, helicopter pilots in Honolulu, Hawaii, earned an average annual salary of $52,000 in 2013, compared to $89,000 per year for helicopter pilots from Nome, Alaska. Helicopter pilots in New York earned an average salary of $98,000, in Washington, D.C., $90,000 and in Philadelphia, $74,000. In the West, helicopter pilots in Salem, Oregon, earned an average of $68,000 per year and in Walla Walla, Washington, they earned an average of $63,000. In the Midwest, helicopter pilots' salaries averaged $52,000 in Boise, Idaho; $65,000 in Pierre, South Dakota; and $67,000 in Butte, Montana. In the South, helicopter pilots in New Orleans, LA, earned $66,000, while in Houston, the average salary was $80,000.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups helicopter pilots in the same category as airline and commercial pilots. It expects demand for pilots to increase by 11 percent through 2020, compared to 14 percent for other occupations. Helicopter pilots with the most training and education will fare best at job time. The website Aviation Schools Online suggests demand for helicopter pilots will increase because many seasoned pilots are approaching retirement age.

Pilots' Backgrounds Vary

You can get your training as a helicopter pilot through the military or as a civilian. To qualify for military training, you need to meet education, age and height requirements. Although training as a civilian may be faster, it tends to be more expensive, according to the website Midwest Helicopter. To earn rotorcraft-helicopter private pilot and commercial pilot licenses will require a minimum investment of 150 hours of flight time and $40,000 to $45,000, according to the website.

2016 Salary Information for Airline and Commercial Pilots

Airline and commercial pilots earned a median annual salary of $111,270 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, airline and commercial pilots earned a 25th percentile salary of $77,450, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $166,140, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 124,800 people were employed in the U.S. as airline and commercial pilots.