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Commercial Pilots
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Description: what do they do?
Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-winged aircraft on nonscheduled air carrier routes, or helicopters. Requires Commercial Pilot certificate. Includes charter pilots with similar certification, and air ambulance and air tour pilots.
Also known as:
Helicopter Pilot, EMS Helicopter Pilot (Emergency Medical Service Helicopter Pilot), Captain, Check Airman, Line Pilot, First Officer, Commercial Pilot, Charter Pilot, Chief Pilot, Pilot

    What does this information tell me?

    This description is a quick overview of what workers in this career might do.

    "Also known as" shows other common names for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from an O*NET database. Learn more on the Help page.

Career video
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    Transcript: Flying a plane safely through the sky… with passengers or freight on board… takes more than excellent vision… airline and commercial pilots need quick reaction times and excellent problem-solving abilities. These pilots fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters, and other aircraft. Pilots run through detailed checks before every flight, including checking fuel supplies, aircraft weight limit, cargo balance, weather conditions, and aircraft condition. Tiny cockpits contain the flight crew for the duration of flight; strong teamwork and sharing of flight duties keep the pilot and copilot alert and rested. Pilots communicate frequently with air traffic controllers on the ground, from submitting their flight plan before take-off, to checking in during a flight, and receiving instructions for landing and handling storms or emergencies. Airline pilots fly public, scheduled flights. They may fly long-distance routes, and be away from home for extended periods. Those routes, along with mandatory rest periods between flights, cause pilots to have irregular work schedules. Pilots may be deputized as federal officers and carry firearms to protect the cockpit. Commercial pilots fly charter flights, rescue operations, firefighting missions, crop dusting flights, and take aerial photographs. They often have additional duties that include scheduling flights and aircraft maintenance. Those who fly at low levels must navigate hazards such as power lines. Commercial pilots typically need high school education, while airline pilots generally need a bachelor’s degree, the Airline Transport Pilot certificate, and thousands of hours of flight experience as a commercial or military pilot. All professional pilots must have a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Flight training usually begins at a flight school or with an independent instructor.
View transcript
Outlook: will there be jobs?
Image. Employment outlook for this occupation
New job opportunities are less likely in the future.


    What does this information tell me?

    Outlook information can tell you whether a career is expected to be in demand in the future—that is, whether there are likely to be job openings if you choose this career. Careers can have one of three outlooks:

    • A Bright outlook means new job opportunities are very likely in the future
    • An Average outlook means that a small number of new job opportunities are likely in the future (less than an 8 percent increase)
    • A Below Average outlook means new job opportunities are less likely in the future

    You can also view local job listings in this field by clicking "Find job openings" above. This can help you see if local businesses are hiring—another way of looking at demand.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET’s Bright Outlook occupations. Note this information is only available at a national level, so even if you selected a state, you’ll only see this information for the whole country.

Projected employment
N/A
2016 Employment
N/A
2026 Employment
N/A
Percent change
N/A
Annual projected job openings
United States
40,800
2016 Employment
42,300
2026 Employment
4%
Percent change
4,000
Annual projected job openings
N/A: We do not have employment projections in this state for this occupation.

    What does this information tell me?

    Projected employment shows how much employment is expected to grow in this occupation over a 10-year period. This can help you decide if this career is a good choice for future job opportunities. You can look at projected employment in your state, or in other states where you might consider living.

    You can see the total number of people employed in this occupation in 2016, the number expected to be employed in 2026, and rate of growth over those years.

    The projections are based on assumptions of unemployment rates and labor productivity growth rates.  While the projected numbers may not be exact, they are helpful to compare one career to another, or one location to another.

    What is the source of this information?

    State-level data come from Projections Central and each state's Labor Market Information office.

    National-level data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, 2016-26.

Typical wages

Annual wages for Commercial Pilots in United States
This graph displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
This chart displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
LocationUSUnited States
10%N/A$44,660
25%N/A$61,950
MedianN/A$82,240
75%N/A$115,280
90%N/A$160,480


    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you a range of how much most workers in this occupation earn per hour, in the location that you selected.

    You can select from three views of this data:

    • The Graph shows you wages at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Note that the lowest (10th %ile) wage shown is not necessarily a "starting wage." Instead it means that 10 percent of all workers in this career earn less that this amount, and 90 percent earn more. However, you can assume that you might earn close to the 10th or 25th %ile wages when you start out in most careers.
    • Select "Chart" to see a visual comparison between national wages and wages in the location you selected.
    • Select "Table" to see more wage data the national and local level.

    Please note that wage data are not available at the city or ZIP code level. If you selected a city or ZIP code, you will see wage data for the regional area.

    Also note that in this update, 21 detailed occupations found within the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) were replaced with 10 new aggregations of those occupations; read more about these OES changes.

    You can learn more about wages for this and other occupations by clicking “See more wages” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    The wage information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, 2018 data. For more detailed state wage data, please find the link to your state's wage data program in the Other Resources box.

Education and experience: to get started
People starting in this career usually have:
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • No work experience
  • 1 to 12 months on-the-job training

Programs that can prepare you:

    What does this information tell me?

    This shows you the typical level of education, work experience, and on-the-job training that most people have when they start in this career. Note that these are not requirements for entering this field, but the information can help you understand how qualified you might be.

    Interested in starting in this career? You can search for education programs in your local area by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Typical education
How much education do most people in this career have?
Chart. Percent of workers in this field by education level attained

    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you the range of education levels that people who currently work in this field have. You can use this to see if you fit in this range. Note that this includes ALL people who work in this field and not just those getting started.

    Interested in getting qualified for this career? You can search for programs that lead to the education needed, in your local area, by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Certifications: show your skills
Let employers know you have the skills to do well at this job.
Earning a certification can help you:
  • Get a job
  • Get a promotion

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find certifications" you'll see a list of national certifications that are related to this career. From there, you can learn how to achieve one of these certifications to help you enter or get ahead in this field.

    What is the source of this information?

    This collection of occupational certifications is collected and regularly updated by CareerOneStop. Learn more at Certification Finder Help.

Licenses: do you need one?
Some states require an occupational license to work in this career.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find license details in your state" you'll see the license name and contact information for the agency in your state that oversees licensing for this field. If you have not selected a location, you'll see a list of all state licenses for this occupation.

    What is the source of this information?

    Information on licensed occupations is gathered in each state by Labor Market Information units under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Learn more at License Finder Help.

Apprenticeships: learn on the job
Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job-training with classroom lessons.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find apprenticeship sponsors" you'll find information that can help you locate apprenticeship opportunities in your state:

    • If there are businesses that have sponsored apprenticeships in this field in the past, you'll find their name and contact information.
    • If there are related occupations that might have apprenticeship opportunities, you'll find links to that information.
    • You'll also see contact information for state and federal agencies that oversee apprenticeship programs.

    What is the source of this information?

    Apprenticeship information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeships, and from CareerOneStop. Learn more at Apprenticeship Finder Help.

Activities: what you might do in a day
  • Pilot aircraft.
  • Monitor engine operation or functioning.
  • Inspect aircraft or aircraft components.
  • Choose optimal transportation routes or speeds.
  • Communicate with others to coordinate vehicle movement.
  • Review work orders or schedules to determine operations or procedures.
  • Inspect cargo to ensure it is properly loaded or secured.
  • Resolve issues affecting transportation operations.
  • Plan flight operations.
  • Assist others during emergencies.
  • Coordinate flight control or management activities.
  • Record operational details of travel.
  • Direct passenger or freight transport activities.
  • Train transportation or material moving personnel.
  • Evaluate performance of applicants, trainees, or employees.
  • Arrange maintenance activities.
  • Maintain vehicles in good working condition.
  • Test performance of aircraft equipment.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical work activities that people in this career might do on the job. You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More activities” to see more detailed examples of activities for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these activities to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET’s Detailed Work Activities.

Knowledge
People in this career often know a lot about:
  • Transportation - Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Geography - Knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Public Safety and Security - Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of general knowledge areas that are most commonly required for jobs in the career. Knowledge is typically gained through education and related experience.

    This list can help you learn if you are prepared for a job in this career. It can also help you decide on education or training programs that could help you prepare for the career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Knowledge descriptors.

Skills
People in this career often have these skills:
  • Operation and Control - Using equipment or systems.
  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or display screens to make sure a machine is working.
  • Monitoring - Keeping track of how well people and/or groups are doing in order to make improvements.
  • Critical Thinking - Thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem.
  • Active Listening - Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one.
  • Active Learning - Figuring out how to use new ideas or things.
  • Reading Comprehension - Reading work-related information.
  • Speaking - Talking to others.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it.
  • Coordination - Changing what is done based on other people's actions.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list the work-related skills most commonly required for jobs in the career.

    This list can help you understand how well your current skills fit this career. It can also help you plan your education or professional development.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Skills descriptors.

Abilities
People in this career often have talent in:
  • Near Vision - Seeing details up close.
  • Far Vision - Seeing details that are far away.
  • Control Precision - Quickly changing the controls of a machine, car, truck or boat.
  • Problem Sensitivity - Noticing when problems happen.
  • Response Orientation - Quickly deciding if you should move your hand, foot, or other body part.
  • Inductive Reasoning - Making general rules or coming up with answers from lots of detailed information.
  • Oral Expression - Communicating by speaking.
  • Information Ordering - Ordering or arranging things.
  • Oral Comprehension - Listening and understanding what people say.
  • Deductive Reasoning - Using rules to solve problems.
  • Depth Perception - Deciding which thing is closer or farther away from you, or deciding how far away it is from you.
  • Speech Recognition - Recognizing spoken words.
  • Perceptual Speed - Quickly comparing groups of letters, numbers, pictures, or other things.
  • Speech Clarity - Speaking clearly.
  • Reaction Time - Quickly moving your hand, finger, or foot based on a sound, light, picture or other command.
  • Written Comprehension - Reading and understanding what is written.
  • Selective Attention - Paying attention to something without being distracted.
  • Multilimb Coordination - Using your arms and/or legs together while sitting, standing, or lying down.
  • Flexibility of Closure - Seeing hidden patterns.
  • Rate Control - Changing when and how fast you move based on how something else is moving.
  • Manual Dexterity - Holding or moving items with your hands.
  • Spatial Orientation - Knowing where things are around you.
  • Time Sharing - Doing two or more things at the same time.
  • Arm-Hand Steadiness - Keeping your arm or hand steady.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list of personal qualities that might influence work and are most commonly required for success in this career.

    This list can help you understand if your natural strengths and abilities are a good fit for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Abilities descriptors.

Interests
  • Enterprising - Occupations with Enterprising interests frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. Many involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.
  • Investigative - Occupations with Investigative interests frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. They often involve research and figuring out problems mentally.
  • Realistic - Occupations with Realistic interests frequently involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of work environment-preferences that are most commonly associated with the career. It can help you understand if your natural interests are a good fit for this career.

    Click "Take an interest assessment" for a quick 30-question assessment that can help you understand your interests and see careers that might be good matches for them.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Interest descriptors.

Typical tasks
  • Use instrumentation to pilot aircraft when visibility is poor.
  • Start engines, operate controls, and pilot airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight according to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.
  • Monitor engine operation, fuel consumption, and functioning of aircraft systems during flights.
  • Check aircraft prior to flights to ensure that the engines, controls, instruments, and other systems are functioning properly.
  • Consider airport altitudes, outside temperatures, plane weights, and wind speeds and directions to calculate the speed needed to become airborne.
  • Contact control towers for takeoff clearances, arrival instructions, and other information, using radio equipment.
  • Obtain and review data such as load weights, fuel supplies, weather conditions, and flight schedules to determine flight plans and identify needed changes.
  • File instrument flight plans with air traffic control so that flights can be coordinated with other air traffic.
  • Check baggage or cargo to ensure that it has been loaded correctly.
  • Order changes in fuel supplies, loads, routes, or schedules to ensure safety of flights.
  • Plan flights according to government and company regulations, using aeronautical charts and navigation instruments.
  • Rescue and evacuate injured persons.
  • Choose routes, altitudes, and speeds that will provide the fastest, safest, and smoothest flights.
  • Co-pilot aircraft or perform captain's duties as required.
  • Coordinate flight activities with ground crews and air traffic control, and inform crew members of flight and test procedures.
  • Request changes in altitudes or routes as circumstances dictate.
  • Write specified information in flight records, such as flight times, altitudes flown, and fuel consumption.
  • Supervise other crew members.
  • Instruct other pilots and student pilots in aircraft operations.
  • Teach company regulations and procedures to other pilots.
  • Fly with other pilots or pilot-license applicants to evaluate their proficiency.
  • Perform minor aircraft maintenance and repair work, or arrange for major maintenance.
  • Conduct in-flight tests and evaluations at specified altitudes and in all types of weather to determine the receptivity and other characteristics of equipment and systems.
  • Plan and formulate flight activities and test schedules and prepare flight evaluation reports.
  • Pilot airplanes or helicopters over farmlands at low altitudes to dust or spray fields with fertilizers, fungicides, or pesticides.
  • Check the flight performance of new and experimental planes.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical tasks that people in this career might do on the job.  You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More tasks” to see more detailed examples for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these tasks to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET‘s Tasks.

Other resources

    What does this information tell me?

    These are additional online resources related to this career. You may find different or more detailed information at these sources.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information is collected and maintained by CareerOneStop.