Pilots may work for a variety of employers, such as national and international airlines, the government or hospitals. Depending on his level of training, a pilot may fly a plane or helicopter to transport cargo or passengers, or to perform duties such as crop dusting or spreading seed for reforestation. The amount of money a pilot makes on average depends upon his employer and industry.
The average salary of pilots in the United States who worked for airlines, including copilots and flight engineers, was $115,330 as of May 2010, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries ranged from less than $54,980 to over $139,330 a year. For commercial pilots, including those working as air ambulance and air tour pilots, the average was $73,490 a year. Salaries started at less than $34,860 a year and exceeded $119,650.
The largest industry for airline pilots was scheduled air transportation as of 2010, where the bureau reports a salary average of $116,930 a year. Others worked for the federal executive branch for an average of $99,640 or in nonscheduled air transportation for the average of $89,870. The majority of commercial pilots worked in nonscheduled air transportation for an average salary of $75,460 a year, while those working in technical and trade schools earned an average of $62,280 and those working in support activities for air transportation earned an average of $65,070.
The bureau reports that the highest paying state for airline pilots was New York as of 2010 with a salary average of $142,390 a year. Kentucky ranked second with an average of $138,670, and Hawaii ranked third with an average of $122,800. For commercial pilots, the highest paying state was New Hampshire with a salary average of $113,020 a year, followed by Connecticut with an average of $106,130 and New York with an average of $95,240 a year.
All pilots in the United States will see a 12 percent increase in employment between 2008 and 2018, reports the bureau. Those seeking work with regional airlines and carriers with lower fares will have better opportunities, while competition for pilot jobs with major airlines will be more keen. Because experience for pilots equates to higher numbers of flying hours, those with the most flying experience will have the best chances in the job market.