Global Travel Benefits

Becoming an airline pilot requires a significant amount of training and education, but the perks and payoffs are exceptional. While the job does require some long travel runs away from home, and there are nights, holidays and weekends to be worked, most would argue there are more pros than cons in this professional line of work. Pilots need, at minimum, a high school diploma, as well as a Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) commercial pilot’s license and FFA certification as an Airline Transport Pilot.

Pay Scale

Being an airline pilot can lead to a lucrative paycheck. While the average median salary for airline and commercial pilots in 2017 was close to $112,000, the more experienced and versatile a pilot is, the higher the potential earnings. In addition to work as a commercial pilot, some pilots take on charters or private plane services, which can boost earnings even higher. Some pilots also find side jobs working as flight instructors.


Most pilots, particularly those working for commercial airlines, receive a healthy set of benefits including health, life, vision and dental insurance, as well as a retirement plan. They also get paid vacation time, which increases incrementally based on years of service. Considering pilots often have a lot of downtime between flights - sometimes as much as two weeks of every month - that translates to a lot of free time for pursuing leisure activities or other business aspirations

Travel Opportunities

Pilots, by the very nature of their occupation, have the opportunity to travel the world. While much time is spent in airports, or sleeping to prepare for the next leg of a journey, a lot of opportunity abounds to see and learn about other lands and cultures. Additionally, pilots and their family members enjoy free travel perks, which means that they have the opportunity to travel for pleasure as well as for business. Many commercial pilots, in fact, get free or reduced travel, even after retirement.

A Unique Line of Work

Many pilots go into the profession for the sense of power and freedom it provides them. Very few other professions provide an opportunity to see the world from the sky, and as such, the role holds great appeal to those who have a sense of adventure, who enjoy seeing new places and experiencing new things, and continually meeting new people. Pilots are required to retire by age 65, which leaves ample time for pursuing a second career or enjoying retirement.

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.

The Highest Paid Pilots

Approximately 32 percent of civilian pilots worked as commercial pilots as of 2010, while the remainder worked as airline pilots, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to scheduled air transportation, pilots work for the federal government, businesses and flight training programs. Some pilots train through private lessons or flight schools. Others learn in the military before entering the civilian job market, where airline pilots receive the highest average pay.

Types of Pilots

U.S. military pilot wages range between $21,000 and $99,000 per year, according to AvScholars. Commercial pilots, who need commercial licenses, averaged $76,050 per year as of 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent earned $124,850 per year or more. Airline pilots, defined as having Federal Air Transport certification, received average annual wages of $118,070 in 2011, according to the BLS. The government does not provide a specific figure for top-earners, stating only that 10th percentile wages equaled at least $187,199 per year. The airline pilot survey included 68,350 pilots at the usual ranks of flight engineer, copilot and head pilot.

Highest-Paying Industries

The top-paying industry for airline pilots as of 2011 was also the one with the highest employment. Scheduled air transportation, or the airlines, had 58,630 pilots, and paid them average annual wages of $119,180, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. The second-best pay in the air transport license category went to pilots for consulting services, which paid its 140 pilots an average of $99,240 per year. The federal government had an additional 3,350 pilots and paid them average annual wages of $96,920.

Highest-Paying States

Three states had average pay of more than $140,00 per year for airline pilots in the 2011 BLS survey. Hawaii, with 650 pilots, topped the list, with average pay of $146,040 per year. In the state of New York, 4,980 pilots received average annual incomes of $145,080, the second-highest pay. In Kentucky, where employment numbers were not released, pilots averaged $142,870 per year.

Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas

The greater Dallas metropolitan area reported the highest annual wages among cities, with 1,500 pilots earning an average of $176,890 as of 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Louisville, Kentucky and Jefferson County, Indiana, combined region reported average wages of $153,180 for an undisclosed number of jobs. In third place, the greater New York City region reported average pay of $149,550 for 4,740 jobs. Honolulu, Hawaii, had 600 jobs for airline pilots in 2011, with average pay of $148,840 per year.


The number of positions for commercial pilots will grow by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, faster than for most types of work. Positions for pilots, copilots and flight engineers for airline jobs will increase by only 6 percent during the decade. Competition will be stiffer for positions with major carriers than for regional airline and commercial jobs. Employers will give preference to pilots with extensive experience.

Get a License to Be a Pilot in America?

Becoming a pilot is the dream of many young people in America. Yet many think that obtaining a pilot’s license can be challenging. In truth, getting a pilot’s license in America is not as cumbersome as some may think. With a pilot’s license, you can fly cropdusters or small charter planes. A pilot can also advance to flying commercial flights.

The First Steps

No special education is required before seeking out a pilot’s license. Prospective flyers start out at a local flight school. Finding a flight school or certified instructor can happen by doing an Internet search or inquiring at the local executive airport. After signing up for classes or instruction, a student can start flying and learning the intricacies of flying. In order to obtain a license, instruction must be from someone who is certified through the FAA or Federal Aviation Administration.

Getting Licensed

Upon completing training with a certified instructor, you’ll be ready for a solo flight. Time limits on the number of training hours you must undergo before flying solo do not exist. It is a decision that you and your instructor will come to. Although you do not need a special license to fly with an instructor, you will need a student pilot certificate before your first solo flight. Applying for a certificate involves passing a physical examination and being competent in the English language. Your instructor will endorse your certificate verifying that you are ready to fly solo. Now that you are flying solo, you can begin logging hours that will go toward getting your pilot’s license.

Decide on the Type of License

Various types of pilot licenses exist, and deciding on which one to pursue depends on your reason for flying. If you would like to simply fly for personal reasons, then a recreational flying license would be for you. This license requires completion of a training program and a knowledge test. The license is valid for flying close to the home airport, usually a 50-mile radius, without communication with air traffic control. Pursuing a license for monetary purposes involves logging more flight time and completing instrument panel instruction. In order to fly with cargo or passengers, a student must log at least 250 hours of flying time to sit for the written exam. This type of license is a commercial pilot’s license. A physical examination is required for this license. Those wishing to fly with an airline need to complete a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying while passing the required tests to obtain an airline transport pilot certificate.

Military Route

Attending flight school and working your way through the levels of flying certifications can take a number of years. Another route open to some Americans is through the military. Aviation divisions exist in both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force. Currently the military provides a large number of pilots to the commercial and private airline industry. Training as a pilot through the military will save you money since flying lessons and airplane rentals costs can be expensive. Prospective pilots will also log many hours of flight time while in the military, which puts them in a better position to fly for commercial airlines. It is important to note that although the military is a route to becoming a pilot, there are requirements that need to be met before entering the military. These include age, physical qualifications, and passing an education exam successfully. A candidate also has to prove himself capable of completing the flight training.


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Airline Career Pilot Program

Zero Experience to Airline Pilot in About Two Years

ATP's Airline Career Pilot Program provides the training and resources you need to go from zero experience to airline pilot in about two years – proven by thousands of graduates now flying for regional and major airlines.

  • Pilot Certification through Commercial and Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI — Multi, Single, Instrument)
  • Airline-Oriented Training from Day One
  • Fixed Cost in the Shortest Time Frame
  • Pilot Recruiting Events During Training
  • Guaranteed Instructor Job to Reach Airline Minimums
    Earning up to $42,000 annually with airline tuition reimbursement
  • Airline Sponsored Tuition Reimbursement

Get the Training Airlines Look For

As an ATP student, gain access to quality modern aircraft, nationwide locations, and job placement assistance. ATP has the experience, resources, and airline relationships to take you from zero time to airline pilot in about two years — proven by thousands of graduates now flying for regional and major airlines. 



With airline-oriented, total immersion training from day one, you will graduate from the Airline Career Pilot Programin 9 months (from zero time), earning your Commercial Multi-Engine pilot certificate with Certificated Flight Instructor certificates.


After graduating the program, you receive a guaranteed Flight Instructor job with ATP, where you can earn up to $42,000 annually with airline tuition reimbursement and gain the necessary flight experience to reach airline hiring minimums of 1500 hours.


Between 300-500 hours total time, interview with your airline. If you accept the airline's offer, they make a financial contribution toward your loan payment and you make a commitment to fly for that airline. Payments are $5 per flight hour, based on how much flight time you acquire each month.


After about 18 months as a flight instructor and with approximately $5,000 in airline tuition reimbursement received, you start new hire class with your airline. $500 monthly payments continue to supplement first-year airline pay for at least 12 months.

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Fly with ATP and experience an unsurpassed level of professional pilot training. Your Intro Training Flight will give you insight on what to expect during your future program and you can get started today with a free online module!

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Flight Training Timeline


With ATP's accelerated pilot training, you will complete the Airline Career Pilot Program in 6 or 9 months and can become an airline pilot in about two years. Click the timeline to see a description of your flight training milestones in the Airline Career Pilot Program.

Private Pilot

The first step towards becoming a commercial pilot is earning your single-engine Private Pilot Certificate. Keeping your end goal in mind — ATP's philosophy is to deliver airline-style training and flight experience at the very onset of a pilot's training career. This is accomplished through standardized operating procedures and training students to a high level of proficiency. In your primary training stage, you'll learn the fundamentals of flight before moving on to cross-country and accomplishing your first solo.

What's Included

  • Private Pilot iPad Home Study & Briefings
  • King Schools Courseware
  • Private Pilot Airplane Knowledge Test (PAR)
  • Single-Engine Flight Instruction
  • Single-Engine Solo Flights

Aircraft Flown

  • Cessna 172; or
  • Piper Archer

Certificate Earned

  •  Private Pilot (with single-engine privileges)