Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers
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Speciality
Overview
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Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo. Requires Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for specific aircraft type used. Includes regional, national, and international airline pilots and flight instructors of airline pilots.
Titles for this career often contain these words
PilotAirlineCaptainFlightFirstOfficerCheckAircraftInstructorAirmanCoCommercialFighterNavigatorAirForceLineTransportAirplaneArmyHelicopterAstronautCharterCommuterExecutiveFacilitiesInspectorInternationalJetMilitaryNavyRegionalSystems
Education
About 76% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by aircraft pilots and flight engineers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More aircraft pilots and flight engineers have bachelor's degrees than 83% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers, with 83,600 workers, form a larger workforce than 60% of careers.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers are expected to grow by 5%, and should have about 9,100 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers are less likely to be automated than 71% of other careers.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers earn.
$147K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Note: The salaries for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2019, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.
Gender
Women account for 6% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers -- that's a smaller percentage than 86% of other jobs.
Gender of aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For aircraft pilots and flight engineers, the median men's salary was 27% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 7% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers are minority, and 7% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of aircraft pilots and flight engineers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (7%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
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Benefits
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs?
Context: Employer offers health insurance
Context: Employer offers a pension plan
Context: workers are union members
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (100%)
  • Time Pressure (90%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (87%)
  • Exposed to Radiation (75%)
  • Consequence of Error (72%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (63%)
  • Exposed to High Places (58%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (57%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (48%)
  • Degree of Automation (47%)
SOURCES:
Salary and diversity
What do aircraft pilots and flight engineers earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries at the specialty level (airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers). This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers (BLS Salary Data)
$147K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$147K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Note: The salaries for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2019, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers. This view of salaries is only available for all aircraft pilots and flight engineers.
Distribution: Salaries for aircraft pilots and flight engineers (ACS Salary Data)
$89K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$89K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $86KAll jobs' median $45K$98K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers.
Employers of Aircraft pilots and flight engineers (ACS)
Private for-profit (68.9%)
Private not-for-profit (1.2%)
Local government (0.6%)
State government (0.8%)
Federal government (26.2%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.3%)
Self-employed not incorporated (1.1%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of aircraft pilots and flight engineers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of aircraft pilots and flight engineers, which combines the 2 specialties for this career.
$89K$97K$72K$80K$86K$76K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Self-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate for-profitAll
Note: The salaries for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2019, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.
Distribution: Salaries of airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$147K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000$250,000All
Note: The salaries for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2019, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Salary growth for aircraft pilots and flight engineers

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

Salary distribution
$92K$75K$41K$104K$106K$106K$120K$111K$60K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
05K10K15K20K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Aircraft pilots and flight engineers and gender

With 6% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 86% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
6%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Men (94%)
Women (6%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

The median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%, and the difference for aircraft pilots and flight engineers tops that, with the median salary for men 27% higher than the median salary for women.

$71K$90K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary for all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers have one of the more significant inequity issues, with the increase in men's median salary over women's median salary even higher than that for 76% of other jobs.

27%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Race and origin of aircraft pilots and flight engineers

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. There is a smaller percentage of minority aircraft pilots and flight engineers than for 99% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of aircraft pilots and flight engineers
White (93% )
Multiracial (2% )
Black (2% )
Asian (2% )
Other (1% )
Hispanic (0% )
American Indian (0% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
7%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
7%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for aircraft pilots and flight engineers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$54K$64K$72K$91K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KBlackAsianMultiracialWhite
Distribution: Salaries for aircraft pilots and flight engineers by nativity
$81K$89K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Aircraft pilots and flight engineers and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 17% part-time workers, this occupation has a higher percentage of part-time workers than 61% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
17%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

The salary distributions for full-time and part-time aircraft pilots and flight engineers is shown following.

$77K$89K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KPart-time workersFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education attained by airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as aircraft pilots and flight engineers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.

Details: Education and training recommended for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers

Airline pilots typically need a bachelor’s degree in any subject, along with a commercial pilot’s license and an ATP certificate from the FAA. Airline pilots typically start their careers flying as commercial pilots. Commercial pilots usually accrue thousands of hours of flight experience in order to get a job with regional or major airlines.

Commercial pilots must have a commercial pilot’s license and usually need a high school diploma or equivalent. The most common path to becoming a commercial pilot is to complete flight training with independent FAA-certified flight instructors or at schools that offer flight training. Some flight schools are part of 2- and 4-year colleges and universities.

The FAA certifies hundreds of civilian flight schools, which range from small fixed base operators (FBO) to state universities. Some colleges and universities offer pilot training as part of a 2- or 4-year aviation degree.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers

Those who are seeking a career as a professional pilot typically get their licenses and ratings in the following order:

  • Student pilot certificate
  • Private pilot license
  • Instrument rating
  • Commercial pilot license
  • Multi-engine rating
  • Airline transport pilot certificate

Each certificate and rating requires that pilots pass a written exam on the ground and a practical flying exam, usually called a check ride, in an appropriate aircraft. In addition to earning these licenses, many pilots get a certified flight instructor (CFI) rating after they get their commercial certificate. The CFI rating helps them build flight time and experience quickly and at less personal expense. Current licensing regulations can be found in FARs.

Commercial pilot license. To qualify for a commercial pilot license, applicants must be at least 18 years old and meet certain flight-hour requirements. Student pilots use a logbook and keep detailed records of their flight time. The logbook must be endorsed by the flight instructor in order for the student to be able to take the FAA knowledge and practical exams. For specific requirements, including details on the types and quantities of flight experience and knowledge requirements, see the FARs. Part 61 of Title 14 of the code of federal regulations (14 CFR part 61) covers the basic rules for the certification of pilots. Flight schools can train pilots in accordance with the rules from part 61 or the rules found in 14 CFR part 141.

Applicants must pass the appropriate medical exam, meet all of the detailed flight experience and knowledge requirements, and pass a written exam and a practical flight exam in order to become commercially licensed. The physical exam confirms that the pilot’s vision is correctable to 20/20 and that no physical handicaps exist that could impair the pilot’s performance.

Commercial pilots must hold an instrument rating if they want to carry passengers for pay more than 50 miles from the point of origin of their flight, or at night.

Instrument rating. Pilots who earn an instrument rating can fly during periods of low visibility, also known as instrument meteorological conditions, or IMC. They may qualify for this rating by having at least 40 hours of instrument flight experience and 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command, and by meeting other requirements detailed in the FARs.

Airline transport pilot (ATP) certification. All pilot crews of a scheduled commercial airliner must have ATP certificates. To earn the ATP certificate, applicants must be at least 23 years old, have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time, and pass written and practical flight exams. Airline pilots usually maintain one or more aircraft-type ratings, which allow them to fly aircraft that require specific training, depending on the requirements of their particular airline. Some exceptions and alternative requirements are detailed in the FARs.

Pilots must pass periodic physical and practical flight examinations to be able to perform the duties granted by their certificate.

Education attained by aircraft pilots and flight engineers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for aircraft pilots and flight engineers? Below we see the distribution of aircraft pilots and flight engineers salaries based on the education attained. You may have noticed in the dashboard and elsewhere that BLS top-codes salaries. ACS also engages in a form of top-coding, but by looking at the broader field of aircraft pilots and flight engineers and using the ACS, we are able to see some of the higher salaries and can give a better idea of the range of salaries for this field.

$66K$76K$79K$89K$105K$109K$124K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250KHigh School (5%)Some College (12%)Associate's/Cert. (7%)Bachelor's Degree (58%)Master's Degree (16%)Professional Degree (2%)Doctorate (0%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

College majors held by aircraft pilots and flight engineers

This table shows the college majors held by people working as aircraft pilots and flight engineers.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Percentage of Aircraft pilots and flight engineers with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers

With the following sankey diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. We hope this provides ideas for similar jobs and similar fields of study.

Aircraft pilots and fligh...Specialized ManagersAir traffic controllers a...Aircraft Mechanics and Se...Ship and boat captains an...General and Operations Ma...Postsecondary TeachersFirst-Line Supervisors of...Chief executives and legi...Customer Service Represen...Accountants and AuditorsFinancial ManagersFirst-Line Supervisors of...Wholesale and Manufacturi...Labor Relations Specialis...First-Line Supervisors of...Elementary and Middle Sch...Aerospace EngineersSpecialized EngineersSoftware DevelopersCivil EngineersMechanical EngineersArchitectural and Enginee...Retail SalespersonsLawyers, and judges, magi...Management AnalystsEducation and childcare a...Paralegals and Legal Assi...Industrial and Health/Saf...Project Management Specia...Electrical and electronic...Secondary School TeachersPolice OfficersProbation Officers and Co...Security Guards and Gambl...Correctional Officers and...Specialized Social Worker...Detectives and Criminal I...First-Line Supervisors of...PhysiciansRegistered NursesMedical and Health Servic...DentistsTransportation Sciencesand TechnologiesBusiness Management andAdministrationAerospace EngineeringGeneral BusinessPolitical Science andGovernmentMechanical EngineeringGeneral EngineeringHistoryCriminal Justice and FireProtectionMultidisciplinary or GeneralScienceAll other degreesThis jobTop 10 majorsEach major's top ten jobs
What college major is your best entry?

About 76% of people working as aircraft pilots and flight engineers have at least a bachelor's degree. Each dot represents a college major leading to these jobs, with the dots to the right representing the majors sending the most of their grads into this career. The dots at the top are the majors who earn the most working in this career.

Darker colors have a larger percentage with graduate degreesOverall median salary0.0%5.0%10.0%15.0%20.0%25.0%30.0%Percentage with this major$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000$140,000$160,000$180,000$200,000$220,000$240,000Median salary with this major
Switching Careers
The most common next careers for aircraft pilots and flight engineers

What jobs will most aircraft pilots and flight engineers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list? For aircraft pilots and flight engineers, there isn't a lot of action in this chart! This isn't a career that invites much moving around.

Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Lateral job transitions for aircraft pilots and flight engineers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies the one job which was held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as aircraft pilots and flight engineers as well as 1% of respondents after working as aircraft pilots and flight engineers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Prior and next careers for aircraft pilots and flight engineers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as aircraft pilots and flight engineers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all aircraft pilots and flight engineers, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.01.02.03.04.05.0
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for aircraft pilots and flight engineers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for aircraft pilots and flight engineers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all aircraft pilots and flight engineers, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Location-adjusted median salary for Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
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$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

How should the career similarity be computed?

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?