The salaries vary from the area of flying you are involved with, but as a general rule the salary is directly proportional to the size of what you are flying. It can range from $10,000 up to $250,000 a year. However the way the market is now the grand salaries seem to retire with the senior pilots holding them. The new top salaries are estimated to level around $100,000 a year for a senior captain with a major airline.
The estimated average salaries listed below are based on information collected from several companies and are not intended as absolutes. However they give a good picture of how much you can expect to make where. Also keep in mind that the lowest paid jobs are most often held by newly trained pilots seeking to gain the necessary experience to qualify for a better paid job.
As a newly trained flight instructor you should not expect the big money rolling in on your account. Fresh of the school bench an instructor usually make from $12 to $20 an hour. Most flight schools donít have a base pay so everything is commission based; if you fly you get paid, if not you get nothing. On average a flight instructor working full time make from $800 to $2500 a month.
Some larger flight schools have base pay for their instructors starting around $700 (to compensate you make less per flight hour) and career instructors, with several thousand hours instruction time, can expect to make from $25,000 to $50,000. This of course depends on the flight schoolís size, the instructors experience and the country the school is located in. Flight instructors in Europe tend to make slightly more then flight instructors in the United States.
Banner Tow, Power Line Inspection and Crop dusters
Many newly trained pilots start of banner towing, inspecting power lines or crop dusting farms. This work is usually paid per hour ranging from $12 to $20. These jobs are often seasonal and are better for hour building then as a living. However you do find some professionals in this area as well. Most of them own their own aircraft and make about $25,000 a year.
Small Freight/Cargo, Charter
A good place to start your career, or transition to after working as a flight instructor or banner tow pilot is the small freight companies. They operate larger single engine aircrafts and small twins. Depending on the company structure you can expect to make from $12,000 to $25,000. Some desperate pilots even pay the companies to sit in the right seat and log hours. This is done through first officer programs.
Commuters, Regional Airlines and Fractional Companies
Most major airlines recruit pilots from their commuters or associated regional airlines. The salaries range from $15,000 for a newly hired first officer to $30,000 for a captain with five years seniority.
Major Airlines, Cargo/Freight
This is where you find the big aircrafts and therefore also the big salaries. The salaries start at $25,000 a year for a newly hired first officer and range up to $250,000 a year for a captain with 25 years seniority. However the trend is that the big paychecks are retiring with the captains earning them. With the current market situation it is expected the senior salary in the future will be around $100,000 a year.
Military, Armed Forces
If you consider how much flight training costs and the living expenses for the period you build experience the military is far ahead of the rest. Not only is all flight training free, but you also get paid while still in school. An aviator in the armed forces can expect to make from $30,000 to $100,000 a year depending on training, seniority, rang and aircraft flown. Many ex-military start flying for the airlines ones their service time is up. Depending on the country a military pilot is bound to 8-12 years of service. This is to give back for all the expenses your country has had training you.