About the Job Title "Airline Pilot"

Airline Pilot Job Description

As an airline pilot, you will fly passengers or cargo on long or short-haul flights for leisure, business or commercial purposes. Airline pilots will need a college degree.

Airline Pilot Job Profiles: This is a general writeup based on our research into Airline Pilot positions in the Pilot career area. For individual, real-life job profiles of actual people with this type of job, check out our job profiles page.

  • Career Field: Pilot
  • Salary Range: $102858 - $172207

What's it like to be a Airline Pilot?

Duties and responsibilities

As an airline pilot, you will fly passengers or cargo on long or short-haul flights. These flights may be for leisure, business or commercial purposes. Normally, airline pilots will work with other pilots and will take turns to fly the plane in order to avoid fatigue. The typical duties and responsibility of an airline pilot include:

  • Inspecting the plane, its control systems and its instruments before a flight
  • Checking the weather conditions are suitable for flying
  • Creating a flight plan, based on these weather conditions. This flight plan will determine the safest and most efficient route
  • Ensuring that the plane has enough fuel
  • Operating controls and instruments whilst the plane if flying
  • Ensuring passengers are safe and communicating with them through the public address system


Typically, all pilots start their career as commercial pilots and usually accrue thousands of hours of flying experience in order to get a job with a major airline. To become a commercial pilot, you will need a high school diploma and to complete flight training with an independent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight instructor or at a school that offers flight training.

To progress to become an airline pilot, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in any subject, along with a commercial pilots license and an ATP certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Skills and relevant work experience

As well as not being afraid of heights or flying, airline pilots need skills such as:

      • Interpersonal skills, as airline pilots need to build trusting relationships with passengers and other crew members
      • Teamwork skills, as airline pilots will work closely with the other pilot and the cabin crew
      • Communication skills, as airline pilots need to clearly communicate with lots of people, such as air traffic control
      • Observational skills, as airline pilots must observe numerous screens, gauges and dials to ensure that the systems are functioning correctly
      • Quick reaction time, as airline pilots must be able to respond quickly and with good judgement to unforeseen circumstances


Being an airline pilot is not your typical 9 to 5 job. Airline pilots will work full time hours, but the length of the day varies depending on the company the work for and the route. There are regulations in place surrounding the number of hours a pilot is allowed to fly per week.


According to salary.com the median annual salary for an airline pilot in the United States is $138,201. The bottom 10% can expect to earn less than $102, 858 and the highest 10% earn over $172,207 per annum.


Airline pilots are already really experienced pilots, there is little progression to be made. The more experienced pilots get, the more flexibility and control they have.

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