A commercial pilot license gives a person the privileges of using her flying skills to make money. Specifically, commercial pilots work in non-airline positions as charter, cargo, air taxi, banner towing, aerial evacuation and crop application aviators. While experienced commercial pilots can earn six-figure salaries, inexperienced pilots must work their way up to higher pay scales.
The average salary of a "commercial pilot," which is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) category for all professional non-airline aviators, is $73,060 per year as of May 2009. This average includes all commercial pilots, including new workers and experienced professionals. Commercial pilots with fewer than one year of experience earn average salaries ranging from $25,000 to $51,204 per year as of April 2011, according to data from PayScale.com, an independent salary information website.
Benefits and Bonuses
Many entry-level commercial pilots, especially those flying for small or low-budget operations, do not receive health, vision and dental insurance, retirement plans or other work-related benefits. In contrast, more experienced non-airline commercial pilots receive health insurance, retirement plans and financial bonuses along with their yearly salaries..
Although commercial pilots start their careers at relatively low salary levels, they typically see fast increases in their salaries. Commercial pilots with one to four years of work experience earn average salaries of $30,017 to $58,958 per year, according to PayScale.com statistics as of 2011. Individuals with 20 or more years of experience earn as much as $187,000 per year.
Comparison With Airline Pilots
Non-airline commercial pilots typically earn higher salaries than their counterparts working for U.S.-based airlines. In fact, many regional airline pilots receive starting salaries of less than $20,000 per year, says an April 2008 article by Al Lee, Ph.D., a salary specialist with PayScale.com. This is significantly less than the average minimum salary for non-airline commercial pilots.