How Much Do Pilots Make? And How to Calculate Salaries

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 January 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working as a pilot involves extensive specialised training and the successful completion of practice exams. After completing the relevant qualification, you can look forward to an exciting career flying domestic and international routes. The pilot role comes with an appealing compensation package, so understanding the salary caps can give you the knowledge you need to determine whether to pursue this career. In this article, we discuss the pilot profession and how much pilots make with different airlines and various departments.

How much do pilots make?

To answer the question, "How much do pilots make?", it's important to consider their complete compensation package. The average base salary of a pilot is around $60,400 per month. However, this can range from $32,000 to $91,800 per month. This statistic includes all their housing and transport allowances.

The salary of a pilot varies depending on several factors. These factors include years of experience, location, job title, type of aircraft and whether you're flying domestic or international routes. Pilots fly and operate all types of aircraft for different purposes. Some airlines pay their pilots hourly wages, while others pay a full-time salary each month. The demand for pilots in your region can also affect the salary package employers may offer you.

Related: How to Negotiate Your Salary (Steps and Tips)

Salary estimates for different classes of pilots

Pilots fly and operate different aircraft for different purposes, including passenger commutation, cargo, aerial photography and many other roles. Hourly earnings vary from employer to employer, based on the level of experience and the type of aircraft operated. Below are summaries of the annual salary caps of pilots and how much each pilot earns in different departments:

Commercial pilots

Commercial pilots are the most popular class of pilots. They operate commercial aircraft. Most commercial pilots train as private pilots to learn the basics of flying before progressing to larger planes. Having a commercial pilot license allows you to fly for compensation or hire. A commercial pilot's salary depends on their qualifications, experience, rank, flight type, country and the airline they work for. The wages depend on your level of expertise. Long-haul captains get paid up to $79,000 per month, while junior first officers receive $25,000 per year.

Air force pilot salaries

Air force pilots work in the military air force. Their role involves undertaking surveillance, flights, troops and transporting necessary military equipment. Consider an airline cadet pilot program to obtain an airline transport license. Some airlines sponsor these programs and may guarantee your employment upon course completion. An air force pilot salary in Hong Kong is, on average, $48,000 per month.

Private pilots

A private pilot earns a private pilot license after covering all the theoretical and practical aspects of their training. This license allows you to operate a light propeller aircraft on your own with up to 4 passengers. A private pilot's salaries usually depend on the type of work, the employer, the experience and the plane's size. Unlike commercial airline pilots, they don't have a fixed schedule but work according to the needs of their employer or customers. A person working as a private pilot earns about $60,000 per month. A more experienced private pilot can command a higher salary.

Helicopter pilots

Helicopter pilots fly to helicopter-friendly destinations, taking family and friends on a special trip. These are private pilots with required licenses and certificates to fly a helicopter. The average salary for a helicopter pilot is similar to that of a private pilot. Still, the salary can vary depending on the level of experience and the employer.

Pilot allowances

Apart from the monthly salaries, pilots have access to the usual mandatory benefits, such as paid annual leave. These flying allowances of senior-most pilots account for a large percentage of their salaries. You can also enjoy other government-regulated wages and expense-related allowances available to everyone regardless of the employer. Here are common pilot allowances:

Accommodation and meal allowances

Pilots get accommodation and meal allowances depending on the flight schedule. You may earn an accommodation and meal package if the flight includes a layover. When having a layover that requires renting a vehicle, you can also receive a vehicle allowance.

Operating allowances

A pilot is given operating allowances when they work a roistered duty-free day. Most major airlines give their employees flight benefits, including the ability to travel for free on flights with open sears. You can also receive an operating allowance when you help load and unload aircraft and when you fly at night and wear night-vision goggles.

Other benefits

Pilots have access to other benefits, including a substantial amount of time off and additional bonuses for their flight hours. You can enjoy clothing allowances that are paid annually for excessive wear and tear while at work. You qualify for these allowances after signing the contract with any airline.

Related: What is an Annual Salary (Plus How to Calculate It)

Primary duties and responsibilities of pilots

A pilot has a license that allows them to fly an aircraft for domestic and international airlines legally. While the primary role of a pilot involves flying an aircraft, they have many other responsibilities. There are usually two pilots in the cockpit, with the most experienced serving as the captain. The captain supervises all other crew members while sharing duties with the co-pilot.

Here are some common everyday responsibilities of pilots:

  • Determining routes: Pilots determine what flight route is the safest and most efficient. They decide on a specific route to take based on weather, traffic and other factors.

  • Performing aircraft inspections: Pilots perform a series of pre and post-flight inspections to ensure the aircraft is mechanically sound. The inspection involves ensuring the cargo is on board, the aircraft has enough fuel and the weight is in balance.

  • Communicating with stakeholders: A pilot regularly communicates with the required agencies and personnel to ensure safe flights. They communicate with fellow pilots and air traffic controllers to confirm flight routes and fly safely.

  • Maintaining records: Pilots maintain detailed records about their inspections and flights. They keep accurate flight records.

  • Assessing risks: Pilots regularly assess the risk of certain actions while flying to ensure flights are safe and comfortable for the crew and passengers. They ensure the safety and comfort of everyone onboard the aircraft, including passengers and cabin crew.

  • Piloting the aircraft: Pilots control their aircraft and operate the controls while flying. They ensure the integrity of the aircraft.

How to become a pilot

There are several steps to follow if you want to become a pilot:

1. Complete flight school training

The first step is to get all the academic requirements. You can begin your training in a flight school that offers different pilot training programs. The academic requirement is a college degree with flight training from an aviation-related college degree program. You can choose a college degree in aircraft operations, aviation, aeronautical engineering or a related field to earn your pilot license. Pilot schools require completing at least two months of ground training to get hands-on experience. This training equips you with skills in aircraft operation.

2. Get a license

Acquiring a pilot's license is an important part of becoming a practising pilot. The license requirements include passing the pilot license theory exam covering aerodynamics, flight rules, navigation, meteorology and aircraft operation. You can also sit for the Air Transport Pilot License exam and flight test. Decide whether you want a private pilot license (PPL) or a commercial pilot license before specialising in one. An airline transport pilot license (ATPL) is the best if you want to work for an airline. It allows you to fly multi-engine and multi-crew aircraft.

3. Pass a medical test

You're also required to pass a medical test before you fly an aircraft. This helps the employer know whether you're fit for the job. You can visit a general doctor to get your medical certificate before flying solo. It involves an electrocardiogram, an audiogram, a specialist eye exam, blood lipids and a general medical examination. The extent of your medical exam depends on your age, as it becomes more extensive as you get older.

4. Apply for a job

Once you complete all the requirements for becoming a pilot, find an open pilot position in your area. You can use an online job search to find positions you're most qualified for based on your education and experience. It's important to have a well-crafted CV and a cover letter that highlights your qualifications and experience for the role.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles