Career Development

Pilot Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Pilots are the professionals who fly planes, helicopters, and other aircrafts. They are trained to safely operate these vehicles, often under very challenging conditions.

Pilots are the professionals who fly planes, helicopters, and other aircrafts. They are trained to safely operate these vehicles, often under very challenging conditions.

Pilots are required to have a high level of expertise in a number of areas including aviation, meteorology, aerodynamics, navigation, and mathematics. They must also be able to quickly and accurately analyze situations and respond accordingly. Pilots must also be able to remain calm under pressure and make important decisions quickly.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a pilot and what it takes to become one yourself.

Pilot Job Duties

A pilot performs a variety of tasks, including:

  • Monitoring instruments, gauges, and other equipment on board the aircraft in order to properly maintain safety conditions during travel
  • Reading maps and charts to determine navigation paths
  • Communicating with air traffic control towers in order to receive guidance or authorization for takeoff or landing procedures
  • Controlling the speed of an aircraft by adjusting fuel flow, regulating engine power settings, or engaging autopilot controls
  • Anticipating and preparing for possible complications such as system malfunctions or inclement weather conditions that could affect flight safety
  • Reporting any mechanical problems that occur during a flight that could be potentially dangerous to passengers or crew members, including issues such as excessive vibrations, overheating engines, smoke in the cockpit, computer glitches, etc.
  • Informing passengers about any changes in their itinerary due to weather conditions or other factors that may affect a flight’s schedule

Pilot Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for pilots is $121,160. The highest earners make over $210,000. Pilots employed by air carriers are typically employed full-time and have more opportunities for advancement than independent pilots.

The employment of pilots is expected to grow at about the average rate over the next decade. Air travel is expected to increase in the coming years, so there will be an increased demand for pilots to fly commercial jets.

Pilot Job Requirements

The specific requirements for pilots vary, depending on the type of aircraft they fly. However, most pilots need to fulfill the following requirements:

Education: Most employers prefer candidates who have completed a bachelor’s degree in aviation, aeronautical science, or aviation management.

Training: Learning to fly an aircraft requires extensive training with an FAA-certified flight instructor. During their flight training, students also learn about passenger safety, emergency landings, navigation, weather conditions, and air traffic control.

Experience: Pilots are expected to have at least 1,500 flight hours before being hired at a major airline. Some certifications require more flight experience.

Certifications: Flight school training prepares pilots for their particular pilot license which is relevant to a specific type of aircraft. Certifications are also dependent on their flight experience. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is one of the most recognized bodies to obtain pilot licenses and certifications from.

Pilot Skills

A pilot needs to have the following skills:

Quick reflexes: Pilots must be able to react quickly in an emergency situation. This requires good hand-eye coordination and reflexes.

Stamina: The job can be physically demanding, requiring pilots to sit for long periods of time.

Math skills: Pilots need to be able to solve mathematical problems under pressure, often with incomplete information. They must also be able to read charts and graphs.

Mechanical aptitude: An aptitude for mechanical things is important because a pilot has to understand how an airplane works and how to repair it if something goes wrong. Pilots also need mechanical aptitude in order to fly different types of aircrafts. 

An ability to multitask: Pilots have many responsibilities during flight, so they must learn how to multitask. These responsibilities include communicating with air traffic control, monitoring the instruments on the panel, watching out for other planes, keeping track of their position over the ground, and handling any emergencies that may arise.

Teamwork skills: This is a team-oriented profession, so it’s important for pilots to work well with others.

Pilot Work Environment

Pilots may work for commercial airlines, charter businesses, private companies, or the military. Most pilots work an irregular schedule with several days of work in a row then time off. Pilots are often away from home for days or weeks at a time and are required to work most weekends and holidays.

The job can be stressful because of the responsibility involved. Pilots are responsible for the lives of everyone on board the aircraft. As a result, there is always pressure to make sure that all flight plans and safety regulations are strictly followed. This can be especially challenging during bad weather conditions and other circumstances. Pilots also regularly deal with unscheduled emergencies that require them to respond quickly and make decisions about an aircraft’s safety or destination.

Pilot Career Path

Getting Started

For new pilots, the early years are tough. While the first year’s income is usually low, pilot trainees make up for it with “the high” of flying planes. They are responsible for doing many of the maintenance chores themselves and should be prepared to work irregular hours along with working the least desirable shifts.

Five Years Out

Most airlines require at least five years of experience before they will hire a pilot as captain. A pilot who can command a Boeing 747 or Airbus A-320 will make significantly more money than one who commands smaller planes. Most pilots choose to specialize in either cargo or passenger operations.

Ten Years Out

At ten years, pilots have developed a reputation for skill, dependability, and integrity. Many pilots are beginning to spend less time away from home because they have reached seniority levels that allow them to “bid out” of undesirable flights. Salaries increase considerably after ten years in the field. Many pilots have received stock options from their employers by this time as well as bonuses for good performance. Some have retired from active flying and become FAA-certified aviation safety inspectors or private flight instructors.

Pilot Trends

Here are three trends influencing how pilots work. Pilots will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Globalization of Air Travel

Increased global travel and business opportunities have made it increasingly important for pilots to possess strong intercultural communication skills.

With many passengers speaking different languages, a pilot may struggle to communicate with passengers if the pilot is unable to translate or identify language barriers.

As such, pilots will need to develop an expertise in cross-cultural communication, as well as an understanding of different customs and norms across cultures.

Increased Value of STEM Skills

While some piloting jobs will likely always require hard skills, the rise of technology in the aviation industry means that it is becoming increasingly important for pilots to have strong technical skills.

For example, software designed to make planes more efficient and safer often requires a great deal of technological expertise, making it necessary for pilots to understand this information in order to use it effectively.

Drones and Other UAVs

As the world becomes increasingly interested in drone technology, especially as it relates to military applications, drones are likely to play a role in many industries, including aviation.

In fact, Boeing recently revealed that they are working on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for use by airlines, which could potentially reduce labor costs and boost efficiency. 

How to Become a Pilot

1. Planning Your Career

If you’re thinking about a career as a pilot, it’s important to understand the long hours and commitment that this job requires. Aspiring pilots must complete extensive training before they are able to fly commercially; the process involves learning about everything from how planes work to safety procedures and emergency protocols.

Pilots are responsible for the safe operation of an aircraft, so it’s important to have excellent navigational skills and the ability to multitask. Pilots must be able to manage stress in high-pressure situations, so they should work on their coping mechanisms before applying for a job.

Also, pilots are held to strict standards of professionalism and must adhere to many regulations regarding everything from flight times to personal conduct. They also work in close quarters with other crew members, so interpersonal skills are essential for success.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for pilots emphasize their knowledge of aviation, ability to work with others, and experience flying different types of planes. 

In terms of your work history, it’s important to describe your role in each position- in addition to simply listing what you did (such as fly a plane) list specific accomplishments that demonstrate your skills and abilities (such as handling emergency situations). If you have ever been involved in an accident or incident, be sure to provide a detailed explanation and discuss what steps were taken afterwards to prevent a similar occurrence from happening again.

3. Applying for Jobs

If you’re looking to become a pilot, the best way to start is by gaining experience in an area that will help you get your foot in the door. Taking flight lessons and earning your license is a must, but you can also look into jobs in flight schools or flight departments. Working in the areas of air traffic control or aircraft maintenance can also give you an advantage later on in your career. 

Also be sure to research which airlines you would like to work for. Most airline job openings are posted on their official websites; however, some airlines post on third-party sites like and 

4. Ace the Interview

The interview process for pilots will differ slightly depending on the type of flying you’re seeking. If you’re applying for a job at a major commercial airline, expect to go through a multi-step application and hiring process that can take several months to complete. Pilots are required to show a high degree of professionalism. Make sure this is reflected during your interview. 

Once selected for an interview, you will need to undergo an interview with human resources representatives and training captains. The airline’s management will conduct an investigation into your background and credentials. During the interview, the hiring manager is likely to ask questions related to your personality and character. They will also want to know about your technical qualifications, knowledge, and experience.

If you’re interested in becoming a pilot for a regional or charter airline, then the application and hiring process will be much quicker and less rigorous than with the major airlines. Both types of pilots will need to pass stringent medical exams that include vision tests and psychological evaluations. You will also be asked to complete a flight test. If you are applying for an airline position, expect questions about the type of work environment you prefer, your comfort level with your job, and whether or not you like to travel. Be prepared to discuss the challenges of weather delays, traveling abroad, and working long hours when necessary.


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