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COMMERCIAL PILOTS FLY AIRCRAFT AND ARE TYPICALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TRANSPORT OF passengers and cargo; in some cases, they provide other aerial services. They may be an airline pilot for a domestic carrier or a large cargo operation. They may pilot aircraft involved in rescue and service operations (e.g., ambulatory care or firefighting). Some commercial pilots may perform services such as crop dusting for agriculture or aerial photography. Crucial considerations for commercial pilots include navigation, fuel supply, weather conditions and other factors that contribute to the safe operation of an aircraft. They must also communicate effectively with air traffic control and often supervise other crewmembers.

The Workplace

Commercial pilots can work in various flight operations that include, but are not limited to regional or major airlines, private charter companies, cargo transportation companies, ambulance service organizations or the federal government.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, commercial pilots need at least a high school diploma and must have a commercial pilot's licensure earned by logging flight training hours and passing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) knowledge and practical exams. Some colleges and universities, as well as some two-year community and technical colleges, offer aviation programs. While not always a requirement for employment, many airline pilots do hold bachelor's degrees. Additionally, pilots in the airline industry often begin their flying careers as a certified flight instructor or military pilot.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for commercial pilots was $77,200 in May 2016, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $147,240. For airline pilots, the median wage was $127,820, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $208,000. Specific to Colorado, airline pilot salaries average $180,000 per year.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that employment for commercial pilots will grow about 10 percent from 2014 to 2024. Much of this growth will be in industries that provide ambulatory services and in support of air transportation. However, many airline pilots are reaching the retirement age of 65, and there is a growing demand to replace these individuals.



THE FIRST CLASSES WERE HELD AT AIMS COMMUNITY COLLEGE IN THE FALL OF 1967 FOLLOWING THE creation of the Aims Junior College District in January of that year. Today, the Colorado school has about 8,000 students enrolled annually at its four campuses--Greeley, Loveland, Fort Lupton and Windsor--and through online courses, early college and off-campus concurrent courses. Aims offers more than 200 degree and certification programs, and an educational alliance with Franklin University provides students with the opportunity to earn a bachelor of science.

Career Academy at Aims is a form of concurrent enrollment in which high school students can take outlined career and technical education (CTE) programs and earn certificates at no cost. CTE programs include agriculture, animation, audio and radio production, automotive collision repair, automotive service technology, graphic design, med prep, oil and gas technology, and welding.

As part of its career and technical education department, Aims offers an aviation program that certifies two-year associate of applied science (AAS) degrees for air traffic controllers, general aviation pilots and professional pilots. Related certificate programs range one to four semesters in length, encompassing private pilot certification, instrument rating, commercial pilot certification, multi-engine rating and flight instructor certification.

The general aviation pilot AAS includes 17 general education requirements (e.g., English composition, college algebra, physics, behavioral and social sciences, and arts and humanities). The program also demands students complete 36 credit hours in required aviation courses and seven aviation-related elective credits.

In addition to the general education course requirements, the professional pilot AAS demands 52 specific aviation credits, and only six elective hours. The required aviation courses cover topics such as private pilot ground school and flight, commercial pilot ground school and flight, air traffic control, aviation meteorology, crew resource management, flight deck crew management transition trainer, aircraft systems, regional transport transition and aviation management/economics.

Aims notes that the mission of its aviation program is "to provide a collegiate education that prepares motivated aviation students with the best training possible for demanding careers as professional pilots and air traffic controllers."

Aims Aviation is the only collegiate FAA-approved Part 141 flight school east of the Rockies in Colorado. The ground and flight courses include private pilot, instrument, commercial, multi-engine, certified flight instructor, and multi-engine instructor. Aims is also proud to have its air traffic control program certified by the FAA with the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative designation. It is also worth noting that the Colorado Office of Veterans Education and Training approves all of the Aims programs for veterans' education benefits.

According to data recently released, Boeing forecasts the need for 637,000 new commercial pilots from 2017 to 2036--not to mention, 648,000 maintenance technicians and more than 800,000 cabin crew ("Pilot and Technician," 2017). In consideration of these concerns, it becomes clear that programs such as the one at Aims will have an important role to play in helping to keep the aviation industry aloft, and the graduates of the program will have the opportunity to soar to success in demanding, but rewarding, careers.

By Susan Reese

Susan Reese is a contributing Techniques writer. Email her at


The Boeing Company. (2017). Pilot and technician outlook: 2017-2036. Retrieved from


For more information about the career of commercial pilot and the education and training it requires, here are some places to turn.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

Airline Pilots Association International

Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations

Federal Aviation Administration

National Agricultural Aviation Association
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Title Annotation:CAREER CURVE
Author:Reese, Susan
Article Type:Occupation overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2018
Previous Article:INSIDE ACTE.

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