Naval Pilot vs. Civilian Pilot

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Navy pilots and civilian pilots both perform vital air transportation services and require extensive training, experience and solid credentials to do their jobs. Navy pilots, for instance, are required to hold at least a bachelor's degree plus a commission in the Navy prior to entering flight training. Civilian airline and commercial pilots also require comparable education credentials earned through flight schools, some of which are sponsored by airlines. Navy pilots are trained to operate and handle specialized combat and surveillance air crafts, while civilian pilots most often operate passenger and cargo planes for transportation purposes.

Navy Pilot

Navy pilots require comprehensive training to operate air crafts with combat and intelligence-gathering capabilities, specifically the F-18 Hornet jet and the SH-60 Sea hawk helicopters. Navy pilots must first have a bachelor's degree and be a commissioned officer prior to attending a highly competitive 18-month flight training program and eventually earn their gold wings. A Navy pilot's responsibilities include transporting military personnel and vehicles, tracking submarines, performing rescues and gathering intelligence through aerial photographs.

Civilian Pilot

Civilian pilots, including airline and commercial pilots, specialize in transporting passengers and cargo as well as other functions, such as crop dusting, sky writing and aerial photography. Airline and commercial pilots require at least an associate's or a bachelor's degree from a reputable flight school, plus a commercial pilot's license. In fact, many civilian pilots receive their flight training during military service. Although civilian pilots, particularly airline pilots, enjoy a strong and growing career demand, increased competition makes lucrative airline pilot positions more difficult to attain. However, pilots can gain experience and competitiveness through logging flight hours with lesser known passenger or cargo carriers.


Although both Navy and civilian pilots enjoy lucrative and fulfilling flight careers with competitive pay and security, Navy pilots experience a greater degree of competition to become pilots. Naval aviator candidates must not only be qualified on paper; but must also display outstanding character and leadership traits to be selected for flight training. Navy pilots also operate more complex combat capable air crafts and must master maneuvering techniques beyond what is commanded of civilian pilots. Civilian pilots, however, enjoy more freedom and flexibility in their schedules and do not typically work in combat operations. Navy pilots are government operatives while civilian pilots can be employed by airlines, freight and charter companies or individuals.


Navy and civilian pilots both operate air crafts capable of transporting passengers and cargo, as well as surveillance technology. Navy and civilian pilots engage in search and rescue operations, as well as intelligence-gathering missions. Both Navy and civilian pilots require degrees and comprehensive flight training. Many civilian pilots receive their initial training from the military and may have served as Navy pilots themselves prior to their civilian careers.

Airline and Commercial Pilots salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $208,000 ($100/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $160,970 ($77.39/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $80,920 ($38.90/hour)