The Pilot Career

There’s an unprecedented pilot shortage creating a tremendous demand for new pilots. Over the next 20 years, reports indicate the need for more than 790,000 new pilots. As current pilots retire, the national and global need for pilots continues to increase at a greater pace than new pilots are currently being trained. The pilot career outlook has never been brighter or more exciting.

Aspiring pilots have a tremendous opportunity in 2019 and beyond.

“The shortage . . . is creating tremendous opportunities for many who’ve dreamed of a career with the airlines.”

– James Wynbrandt. The Pilot Shortage Trend is Creating Tremendous Opportunities,, September 14, 2017

The Pilot Career Opportunity

Salaries and Pay Increases

$50,000 to $60,000 annual starting salary at regional airlines

$117,290 median annual salary for airline and commercial pilots

$140,000 average annual salary for airline pilots

$200,000+ average salary for major airline pilots



Benefits and Bonuses

Signing bonuses over $22,000

Annual retention bonuses and group profit sharing plans

Monthly performance bonuses

Full health, dental, and 401k benefits

No desks or cubicles




Long Term Career Outlook

The demand for pilots is expected to increase as global travel demand expands and current pilots retire.

You can expect excellent job security both in the short term and over the course of your pilot career.

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Average Professional Education Investment


  • 4 years undergrad: required  (Approx. $50K at public in-state institution; approx. $140K at private nonprofit institution)
  • Master’s degree: optional (Approx. $40K average. Source:


  • 4 years undergrad: required  (Approx. $50K at public in-state institution; approx $140K at private nonprofit institution)
  • 3 years law school: required  (Approx. $81K at public in-state institution; approx. $130K at private nonprofit institution)


  • 4 years undergrad: required  (Approx. $50K at public in-state institution; approx. $140K at private nonprofit institution)
  • 4 years medical school: required  (Approx. 208K for public institution; approx. $280K for private nonprofit institution)

$ Earned per $ Invested on Education/Training


  • Average annual salary: $85,866 (source:
  • # of career earning years: 42
  • Lifetime career earnings: $3,606,372
  • Average hours worked/week: 50


  • Average annual salary: $91,873 (source:
  • # of career earning years: 39
  • Lifetime career earnings: $3,583,047
  • Average hours worked/week: 55-68


  • Average annual salary: $299,000 (source: Physicians Weekly)
  • # of career earning years: 34
  • Lifetime career earnings: $10,160,000
  • Average hours worked/week: 55-63

Pilot Jobs

There are Many Career Opportunities for Pilots

Many pilot career choices offer excellent salaries and benefits, along with unique and fulfilling job duties.
Here are a few great pilot career choices:

Flight Instructor

As a certified flight instructor (CFI), you will teach aspiring pilots, new pilots, and veteran pilots. CFIs can teach at flight schools, aviation colleges, airlines, or operate as a private flight instructor.

Salary: $20,000 to 85,000+ per year

Corporate Pilot

As a corporate pilot, you fly smaller, high end, business or personal jets for small businesses or corporations.

Salary: $100,000+ per year

Aerial Applicators

Also known as crop dusters, agricultural pilots, or ag pilots, aerial applicators are pilots who fly small aircraft at low altitudes to spray pesticides, fertilizers, and more on fields of crops.

Salary: $60,000 to 100,000 per year

Contract Pilot

Contract pilots often fly for charter companies or businesses on an as-needed basis. Many contract pilots are self-employed.

Compensation: $42,000 to $91,000 per year

Charter Pilot

Charter pilots flies fare paying passengers to specific destinations. Charter flights are often shorter than many airline trips, and most flights occur during daylight hours

Salary: $45,000 to $100,000 per year

Freight Pilot

Also known as cargo pilots, freight pilots fly a wide-body airplane full of cargo worldwide. They often complete their flights in early mornings and late evenings.

Salary: $100,000 to $290,000+ per year

Pilot Career Spotlight

Airline Pilot

Airline pilots fly passengers in large aircraft on domestic and international aviation routes.

In most career paths, your salary and benefits are based on a variety of factors, many of which are outside of your control. Your salary is usually determined by a hiring manager or supervisor, and it is affected greatly by location, your personality and negotiating skills, previous performance reviews, and many other factors.

For airline pilots, however, seniority progression means that as long you execute your job and remain in your job longer than others, your salary will continue to increase to the top of the scale. For major airlines, your annual salary can grow to $300,000+ per year.

Salary: $55,000 to $300,000+ per year

It’s MORE than a Career.



The pilot career is attractive for many reasons other than salary.

“Why do so many pilots love their work?
The main reason, I’d argue, is that flying is
simply FUN.”

– Mark Vanhoenacker. “Become a Pilot.”  May 31, 2016

Pilot Career Spotlight

"This month marks 10 years since my first solo flight in an airplane. A lot has changed throughout the years.

"Fun facts: The 172 I started in would fit inside the engine cowling on the Airbus. The bus weighs 89 times more and carries 188 times more fuel. Most of my pilot friends have a similar story to this, but for everyone else.

"A lot of people made fun of me, laughed at me, told me it wasn't possible. To the newest generation of high school graduates, don't listen to what anyone else says. Pick something you're passionate about, with some hard work, and a WHOLE lot of luck you can achieve anything!

"So as 234 of us cross this amazing country  ️ tonight, we will pass over Lincoln, Nebraska where it all started. Even though there is a much larger goal here of getting people safely to their destination (not Ted getting to fly around just for fun) I'll still reflect on what an amazing ride it's been so far! Can't express enough gratitude to everyone who has helped make this possible, and the friends I've made along the way!"

Ted Turbett, Lincoln, NE

What are you waiting for?

Create a personalized plan for your pilot career. 

MY PERSONAL FLIGHT PLAN™ can help set you up for success as you train for your pilot career. Our Pilot Academy in Lincoln, NE provides a superior learning environment that will help you achieve your goals. Learn more about the different pilot career opportunities and receive guidance to help you set goals and navigate each step of your professional flight training. 

Complete the form below to get started!

Pilot Career Next Steps

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As a Performance Aircraft student, you will join a great culture, gain access to quality instruction, modern aircraft, and job placement assistance.

We have the experience and airline relationships to take you from zero to flying for regional airlines in about two years, and from there on to the major airlines.

If you are interested in other pilot career tracks, such as charter, corporate, law enforcement, or agriculture, we can connect you with people in those fields.

When you choose Performance Aircraft, you can rest assured our focus will be to develop your character and skill capacity for success in your flying career.

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  • I did not expect that the sale would go quickly, in fact, I anticipated that I would have a couple of extra months to fly the plane as we waited for a purchaser to come along. The marketing that was done on my behalf created an immediate interest in the plane. This transaction was easy on me, as the Performance team produced amazing results in record time with very little input on my part. In my opinion, there is no better team to represent you when you buy or sell an aircraft.
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  • I would tell my friends they can trust Performance Aircraft to provide honest, ethical, and enthusiastic service. Bill found an aircraft that best suits our needs while staying well within our budget. The whole process was practically stress-free. And, the post-purchase training and follow-ups have been phenomenal.
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  • Your communication here is very good and I really appreciated your honesty. Your follow up is awesome. Bill knew the value of airplanes as well as anyone I have met in the industry and I have been flying for over 30 years. You guys did a great job communicating with me throughout the process and kept the plane moving to closing. I was very pleased with everything.
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