Pilot Pay: Higher starting wages, big bonuses and growing career earning potential
An aviation job market strained by a shortage of properly trained pilots has created a payday boom for those just starting their careers and flight school students aspiring to serve as a first officer or captain for passenger and cargo airlines.
Signing bonuses, higher introductory salaries and first-year anniversary awards have more than doubled pay up in recent years, changing a narrative that had long had pilots suffering from largely dismal wages at the start of their careers.
As in most professions, pay is key source of pilot development and retention, and figures show that the industry is trending in the right direction. Starting your training with a private pilot license at Crosswinds places you on the path to take advantage of the surge you’ll learn more about below.
Data from the Regional Airline Association, a trade group that represents 31 North American regional airlines and 280 associate, non-airline members, shows first year first officers are making about $57,000 per year. That figure, which was once as low as $20,000, climbs even higher when considering additional compensation payments such as per-diem, retirement benefits and health insurance contributions.
The pay improves more as first officers transition to captain and make career advancements from smaller regional airlines to national and international carriers.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported in 2017 that the median annual wage for pilots and co-pilots was $127,000, according to salary information from 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $65,000 and the highest 10 percent made more than $208,000, the statistics show.
The same reports state the median annual wage of all professions in the United States was roughly $37,000 per year.
The numbers are a positive sign across aviation career choices, and the industry is beginning to recognize the need for tuition reimbursement and other financial support such as loan repayments, according to a study from the University of North Dakota. Airlines are also acknowledging the need to develop clear promotion paths and to increase quality of life standards because of the job demands.
The RAA group report shows a remarkable return on investment for pilots, who earn $33 for every $1 they pay for in schooling and training. That is ahead of doctors and lawyers, who return $19 and $30 per dollar, respectively.
All those numbers aside, at Crosswinds Aviation we know it’s the thrill of flight that launches students’ interest and willingness to learn. The pay is an added incentive to accomplish your goals and take to the air.