Aspiring pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and the general public have long been intrigued by one question: how much does a pilot make? Despite the widespread curiosity, however, there remains a significant amount of confusion and uncertainty around the salaries pilots receive. In this article, we seek to explore the financial realities of being a pilot and provide a comprehensive analysis of the various factors that influence pilot salaries.

The Financial Reality of Being a Pilot: How Much Do Pilots Actually Make?

It is essential to note that there is no straightforward answer to how much pilots make. The extent of the factors influencing pilot salaries is far-reaching and often depends on context-specific variables, such as the airline type, location, and experience level. For instance, an airline’s size influences salaries because salaries often equate to the airline’s profit margins: larger airlines tend to pay more than smaller ones.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for commercial pilots in May 2020 was $130,440. However, keep in mind that this is a median figure. To get a good idea of a pilot’s salary range, check the Airline Pilot Central website, which compiles and publishes pilot salaries for various airlines.

From Training Costs to Salary: Crunching the Numbers on Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Before even thinking about salaries, individuals interested in becoming a pilot must consider the expenses associated with pilot training. On average, the cost of pilot training ranges between $75,000 to $120,000, a significant financial investment for aspiring pilots. But, on the bright side, once certified, commercial pilots stand to make a considerable amount of money.

According to industry data, entry-level commercial pilots earn around $50,000 per year. However, as pilots gain experience, they also experience significant wage increases. This increase is due to the addition of more significant airplanes, increased responsibility, and an increasing ability to land the more desirable flying routes.

Is Being a Pilot Worth the Investment? A Look at the ROI for Aspiring Pilots

Deciding whether or not investing in pilot school is worth it can be challenging. After all, it is a big investment, both financially and temporally. One way of evaluating the prospective return on investment (ROI) is by comparing the cost of pilot training against the career earnings pilots stand to make. According to industry data, the ROI for a commercial pilot is positive, with the average payback period ranging between six to eight years.

Pilot Pay by the Numbers: Analyzing Average Salaries and Benefits

In addition to their salaries, pilots also receive a bevy of additional benefits, ranging from healthcare and life insurance to employee travel discounts.

When considering compensation, it’s essential to take a much broader view of what each airline offers its pilots. For example, Delta pilots receive an annual bonus of between 1.5% to 8.5% of their salary, while United Airlines employees receive profit-sharing and an annual $300 employee travel credit.

Breaking Down the Salary Structures of Major Commercial Airlines

While the average pilot salary is an essential point of reference, it’s equally important to understand how each airline’s salary structures operate. Unionization is also a significant factor in pilot salaries, as unionization allows for the ability to negotiate better wages at each airline.

For example, according to Airline Pilot Central data, Delta pilots at the senior captain level earn an average of $358,150, while United pilots earn an average of $343,161. Meanwhile, Southwest pilots earn an average of $231,304 annually, and American Airlines pilots earn $216,364 on average yearly.

Pilot Salaries Around the World: How Do Different Countries Compare?

It’s important to consider the costs of living, as pilot salaries vary significantly worldwide. For instance, pilots in the United Arab Emirates earned an average annual salary of over $170,000, while pilots in Canada made an average yearly salary of roughly CAD 78,000. Nevertheless, for aspiring pilots considering a career outside of the United States, research may show their investment will be worthwhile.


While there’s no surefire method for determining a pilot’s salary and benefits ahead of time, our hope is that this overview provides a clearer understanding of what factors affect pilot earnings. With careful research, aspiring pilots can make more informed decisions about financing, airline careers, unionization, and general expectations around compensation.

For aspiring pilots specifically, we encourage you to take a closer look at the different airline salary rates available via Airline Pilot Central while also considering the factors involved in pilot training and the subsequent ROI of your efforts.

By Riddle Reviewer

Hi, I'm Riddle Reviewer. I curate fascinating insights across fields in this blog, hoping to illuminate and inspire. Join me on this journey of discovery as we explore the wonders of the world together.

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