What Does An Airline Pilot Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Airline Pilots

Airline Pilots pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo. Requires Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for specific aircraft type used. Includes regional, national, and international airline pilots and flight instructors of airline pilots.

Salary
$186870
Becoming One
Hard
Education
Bachelor's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Airline Pilots pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo. Requires Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for specific aircraft type used. Includes regional, national, and international airline pilots and flight instructors of airline pilots.

  • Work as part of a flight team with other crew members, especially during takeoffs and landings.
  • Use instrumentation to guide flights when visibility is poor.
  • Start engines, operate controls, and pilot airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight, adhering to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.
  • Contact control towers for takeoff clearances, arrival instructions, and other information, using radio equipment.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Airline Pilots steer aircraft along planned routes, using autopilot and flight management computers. They monitor gauges, warning devices, and control panels to verify aircraft performance and to regulate engine speed.

A typical day for an Airline Pilot will also include:

  • Monitor engine operation, fuel consumption, and functioning of aircraft systems during flights.
  • Work as part of a flight team with other crew members, especially during takeoffs and landings.
  • Inspect aircraft for defects and malfunctions, according to pre-flight checklists.
  • Contact control towers for takeoff clearances, arrival instructions, and other information, using radio equipment.
  • Check passenger and cargo distributions and fuel amounts to ensure that weight and balance specifications are met.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Airline Pilots also perform minor maintenance work or arrange for major maintenance. They may also respond to and report in-flight emergencies and malfunctions.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Airline Pilots order changes in fuel supplies, loads, routes, or schedules to ensure the safety of flights. They might also instruct other pilots and student pilots in aircraft operations and the principles of flight.

In addition, they evaluate other pilots or pilot-license applicants for proficiency.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them use instrumentation to guide flights when visibility is poor.

To some Airline Pilots, it is also their responsibility to conduct in-flight tests and evaluations at specified altitudes and in all types of weather to determine the receptivity and other characteristics of equipment and systems.

Freedom to make decisions

How much decision making freedom does this job offer?

No freedom
2%

Very little freedom
2%

Limited freedom
0%

Some freedom
27%

A lot of freedom
69%

Structured vs unstructured work

To what extent is this job structured for you versus allowing you to determine your own tasks, priorities, and goals?

No freedom
2%

Very little freedom
5%

Limited freedom
12%

Some freedom
26%

A lot of freedom
55%


Featured Schools


What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Average

74% said they were satisfied with their job and 53% said they found their job meaningful.


RyanAir

A typical day flying for Ryan air would follow this schedule: I would receive and review the flight plan long before departure, as well as review the weather at departure and destination airport. I’d then decide how much fuel would be required for the flight and possible weather and other delays. Brief the co-pilot and … Read More


An air ambulance service in Alberta

My name is Kate Tian. I hold a commercial pilot’s license for both helicopters and airplanes in Canada with 2000 hours of flying experience. I’m a Co-pilot on an air ambulance service in Alberta, and Aerobatic Pilot and owner at Thin Air Adventures in British Columbia. My typical day I work 15 days on duty … Read More


My Name is Brett Manders and I am an International Airline Pilot. The thing about working in Aviation is that no day is typical. We might see and deal with various common situations but it is always at different times of the day at different airports. Starting our day we review our flight plan and … Read More


A major European Airline

There is so much variety in schedules, destinations, teams you are working with…that makes each day very unique. I live and work in Austria. I have to say, that the pandemic changed my life quite drastically. Until a year ago my working base was close to my hometown, where I live with my family. This … Read More


One of the bigger commercial carriers

There’s a tremendous amount of variation here. Some pilots work punishing schedules at low pay; others enjoy fat salaries and long layovers in glamorous foreign cities. It depends on which company the pilot works for, which aircraft and base he or she is assigned to, whether he or she is a first officer or a … Read More


Pros

Suitable for people who like practical and hands-on work.

Suitable for people who want to work in a supportive work environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work both indoors and outdoors.

One of the highest-paid careers in the world.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to work with designs.

It is hard to get into this career. A considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Demand for this career is declining.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$186870 per year

Average hourly wage

$* per hour

Entry-level Airline Pilots with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $80,920 to $106,530 per year or $* to $* per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $208,000+ $*
Senior (Top 25%) $208,000+ $*
Median $160,970 $*
Junior (Bottom 25%) $106,530 $*
No experience (Bottom 10%) $80,920 $*

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Airline Pilots based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Scheduled Air Transportation $191340 $*
Management of Companies and Enterprises $161080 $*
Nonscheduled Air Transportation $131420 $*
Technical and Trade Schools $116830 $*
Support Activities for Air Transportation $115760 $*
Federal Executive Branch $113030 $*
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services $101290 $*
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $93990 $*
Other Ambulatory Health Care Services $ $*

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Airline Pilots work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Airline Pilots including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Scheduled Air Transportation 72290 $191340 $*
Federal Executive Branch 2990 $113030 $*
Support Activities for Air Transportation 1720 $115760 $*
Nonscheduled Air Transportation 1440 $131420 $*
Technical and Trade Schools 200 $116830 $*
Management of Companies and Enterprises 190 $161080 $*
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services 110 $101290 $*
Other Ambulatory Health Care Services 90 $ $*
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 80 $93990 $*

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
35%

40 hours
27%

More than 40 hours
39%

Working schedule

46%

54%

0%

Work with group or team

How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
0%

Important
0%

Very important
3%

Extremely important
97%

Deal with external customers

How important is it to work with customers in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
12%

Important
14%

Very important
25%

Extremely important
50%

Manage or lead others

How important is it to coordinate or lead others in completing work activities in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
0%

Important
14%

Very important
10%

Extremely important
76%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
62%

Every day
15%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
26%

Every day
53%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
5%

Every day
84%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
38%

Once a year
0%

Once a month
0%

Once a week
9%

Every day
53%

Frequency of conflict situations

How often are there conflict situations in this job?

Never
12%

Once a year
13%

Once a month
27%

Once a week
23%

Every day
25%

Dealing with angry people

How often do you have to deal with angry, unpleasant, or discourteous individuals in this job?

Never
0%

Once a year
34%

Once a month
50%

Once a week
2%

Every day
14%

Dealing with physically aggressive people

How often do you have to deal with physically aggressive people in this job?

Never
43%

Once a year
43%

Once a month
12%

Once a week
0%

Every day
2%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
2%

Slightly competitive
6%

Moderately competitive
34%

Highly competitive
29%

Extremely competitive
29%

Repetition in this job

How important is repeating the same type of task over and over in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
0%

Important
11%

Very Important
13%

Extremely Important
75%

Impact of decisions on co-workers or company results

What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the reputation or financial resources of your employer?

No impact
0%

Minor impact
0%

Moderate impact
12%

Important impact
2%

Very important impact
87%

Frequency of decision making

How frequently do you have to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the reputation of the company?

Never
0%

Once a year
0%

Once a month
2%

Once a week
0%

Every day
98%

Responsibility for others’ health and safety

How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?

No responsibility
0%

Limited responsibility
0%

Moderate responsibility
0%

High responsibility
12%

Very high responsibility
88%

Responsibility for outcomes and results

How much responsibility is there for the work outcomes and results of other workers?

No responsibility
0%

Limited responsibility
12%

Moderate responsibility
25%

High responsibility
18%

Very high responsibility
45%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
16%

Once a year or more
16%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
3%

Every day
65%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
65%

Once a year or more
12%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
5%

Every day
19%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
14%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
22%

Once a week or more
11%

Every day
54%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
70%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
5%

Every day
25%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Hard
You will need a considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require a Bachelor’s degree and several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training. Similar careers include Database Administrators, Chemists, Art Directors, and Accountants.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
2%

Post-Secondary Certificate
18%

Some College Courses
4%

Associate’s Degree or similar
4%

Bachelor’s Degree
61%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
12%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
0%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
0%

6 months to 1 year
0%

1 to 2 years
12%

2 to 4 years
25%

4 to 6 years
30%

6 to 8 years
11%

8 to 10 years
3%

Over 10 years
18%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
0%

1 month
32%

1 to 3 months
32%

3 to 6 months
0%

6 months to 1 year
4%

1 to 2 years
4%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
12%

Over 10 years
16%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Builder

People with this personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

The Builder
100%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
62%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
19%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
24%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
43%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
76%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

They also like following set procedures and routines. They like working with data and details more than with ideas.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
81%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
83%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
81%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
71%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
90%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
90%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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