Aviation Job Outlook

Learn more about careers in aviation. Find information on aviation careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in aviation.


Aviation is an exciting field that can provide the professional with access to exotic and unique destinations. Aviation includes a number of positions including airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers. Individuals working in aviation require extensive training, certification and licensure to ensure that they are able to safely manage the aircraft and the transport of passengers. The duties of the pilot and copilot are primary focused on the operation of the aircraft. Takeoff and landing are typically the most challenging aspects of the flight. However, problems can arise if inclement weather is present.

Although most pilots are primarily responsible for the operation of the aircraft, changes in the airline industry over the last decade have created some adjustments in the scope of this position overall. For example, depending on the pilot’s place of employment, he or she may be required to address passenger issues and concerns. In addition to these responsibilities, pilots may also be responsible for handing passenger luggage, loading the aircraft and supervising refueling. Non-flight activities that are typically associated with aviation include: keeping flight records, arranging for aircraft maintenance and scheduling flights. Most pilots spend a considerable amount of time away from home. On average pilots spend 360 hours per month away from their home base.


Careers for aviation professionals vary based on the specific area in which the professional provides service and level of experience. For example, flight crews are typically comprised of pilots and co-pilots. In most instances, the pilot is the most experienced member of the flight crew. The pilot is responsible for navigating the plane. The copilot, on the other hand, is responsible for duties such as communicating with air traffic controllers and monitoring flight instruments. Flight engineers provide additional support which includes assisting the copilot and communicating with the cabin crew.

Careers in aviation also differ based on the type of aircraft flown by the professional. Commercial airline pilots work for organizations such as Southwest and American Airlines. Aviation professionals may also be employed as cargo pilots. These professionals are responsible for overseeing the transport of materials and packages, rather than passengers, from one destination to another. Some pilots may also fly smaller planes for crop dusting. These positions are vital for protecting agricultural supplies.


Salaries for aviation professionals differ based on a host of variables including: the specific position held by the professional, the type of aircraft flown and pilot’s years of experience. Generally speaking pilots that fly larger commercial aircraft will command higher salaries than those that fly smaller planes, such as those used in crop dusting. Salaries can also be influenced by the types of flights taken by the pilot. In particular, pilots that fly to international destinations and at those that fly at night will command higher salaries. In general, the average median annual salary for all aviation professionals was $111,680 in 2008. Those at the top of the profession made $150,480 annually while those at the bottom of the profession made $32,020. Most aviation jobs are full-time positions that provide the professional with access to benefits such as healthcare and paid vacation time. More than half of all aviation professionals are union members. The Air Line Pilots Association, International and the Allied Pilots Association are two unions that support aviation professionals.

Job Outlook

Overall, average job growth is projected for aviation professionals. Through 2018, growth in the profession is expected to be 12 percent which is commensurate with all other occupations. Even though job growth is average for the entire profession, there are specific areas in which professionals may find more job opportunities. For instance, growth in regional and low-cost carriers will increase demand for aviation professionals in these fields. In addition, aviation professionals with higher levels of experience and education will have more robust job opportunities. Competition for positions at large, full-service airlines will be intense as these organizations offer the best salaries and benefit packages. A number of the positions created in the industry in the coming years will be the result of older workers retiring from the industry. Airline pilots face a mandatory retirement age of 65. Thus, as the Baby Boomer population ages, the number of professionals retiring from the industry will increase, prompting the need for new hires.

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