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Pilot Salaries

A Comprehensive Guide to Earnings in the United States

In 2023, the profession of a pilot, according to US News, once again ranks in the top 10 highest-paying jobs in the world, with all other specialties on the list related to medicine, requiring an average of about 10 years of education. In contrast, the path to a pilot career begins after just few years of training. Graduates of our school can expect earnings of up to $13 million over their career, with this amount anticipated to increase over the next 10 years against the backdrop of stable market trends.

We will explore the average salaries for these roles and highlight specific examples from major airlines such as Delta, FedEx, American Airlines, UPS, Southwest, and United Airlines. Additionally, we will examine the salary ranges, factors influencing pilot salaries, and the impact of experience, employer, and other variables.

How Much Do Commercial Airline Pilots Make?

The average salary of a pilot in the United States can vary depending on numerous factors, including experience, type of pilot, employer, geographical location, and other variables. Let’s explore the average pilot salaries across different categories.

Airline Pilot Salary:

Airline pilots, specifically those working for commercial airlines, often enjoy higher salaries due to the size and complexity of the aircraft they operate, as well as the demanding nature of their job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2020, the median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $148,210. It is important to note that salaries can vary significantly based on factors such as seniority, aircraft type, and the airline’s size and reputation.

Commercial Pilot Salary:

Commercial pilots, who fly aircraft for purposes such as charter flights, aerial tours, and cargo transportation, also earn competitive salaries. The BLS reported that the median annual wage for commercial pilots as of May 2020 was $88,890. It’s worth mentioning that the salaries for commercial pilots can vary depending on factors such as the type of operation, the region in which they work, and the level of experience.

Helicopter Pilot Salary:

Helicopter pilots, who operate rotary-wing aircraft for various purposes such as emergency medical services, tourism, and law enforcement, also enjoy attractive salary packages. According to the BLS, as of May 2020, the median annual wage for helicopter pilots was $80,540. However, it’s important to note that salaries can vary based on factors such as the type of employer (commercial, government, or private) and the level of experience.

Delta Pilot Salary:

Delta Air Lines is one of the major airlines in the United States, and its pilots enjoy competitive salaries. According to Glassdoor data as of 2021, the average base pay for a Delta Air Lines pilot ranges from $71,000 to $293,000 per year. It’s important to note that these figures represent base pay and do not include additional benefits, bonuses, or allowances.

FedEx Pilot Salary:

FedEx is a global cargo airline, and its pilots are highly skilled and well-compensated. According to Glassdoor data, as of 2021, the average base pay for a FedEx pilot ranges from $95,000 to $328,000 per year. Similar to other airlines, additional benefits, bonuses, and allowances are provided on top of the base salary.

American Airlines Pilot Salary:

American Airlines, one of the largest airlines in the world, offers competitive salaries to its pilots. Based on Glassdoor data, as of 2021, the average base pay for an American Airlines pilot ranges from $66,000 to $296,000 per year. It’s important to note that salaries can vary depending on factors such as experience, aircraft type, and seniority.

UPS Pilot Salary:

UPS Airlines, the cargo airline division of United Parcel Service (UPS), provides lucrative opportunities for pilots. According to Glassdoor data, as of 2021, the average base pay for a UPS pilot ranges from $89,000 to $265,000 per year. Additionally, pilots at UPS receive other benefits and allowances as part of their compensation package.

Southwest Pilot Salary:

Southwest Airlines, known for its low-cost model, also offers competitive salaries to its pilots. Based on Glassdoor data, as of 2021, the average base pay for a Southwest Airlines pilot ranges from $61,000 to $275,000 per year. Pilots at Southwest also enjoy additional benefits and profit-sharing programs.

United Airlines Pilot Salary:

United Airlines, one of the major carriers in the United States, provides attractive salary packages to its pilots. According to Glassdoor data, as of 2021, the average base pay for a United Airlines pilot ranges from $71,000 to $280,000 per year. Like other major airlines, United Airlines pilots receive additional benefits, bonuses, and allowances.

Factors Influencing Pilot Salaries

Experience:

Experience is a significant factor in determining pilot salaries. As pilots gain more flight hours and seniority, their earning potential typically increases. Senior pilots often have the opportunity to fly larger aircraft or assume leadership positions, which come with higher salaries.

Employer:

The employer plays a crucial role in determining pilot salaries. Major airlines tend to offer higher salaries and additional benefits compared to regional or smaller carriers. Cargo airlines, charter companies, and government agencies also have different salary structures.

Aircraft Type:

The type of aircraft flown can influence pilot salaries. Pilots operating larger and more complex aircraft generally earn higher salaries due to the increased responsibilities and expertise required.

Geographical Location:

The geographical location can impact pilot salaries due to differences in cost of living, regional demand, and local market conditions. Major metropolitan areas and regions with higher living costs may offer higher salaries to compensate for the expenses associated with living in those areas.