Airlines Aren't the Only Places for Pilot Job

Airlines pilots may be paid more but there are other pilot jobs that can be more fulfilling or more fun. Check out these great pilot jobs you should consider!

Many people dream of being a pilot but are not necessarily interested in working for a commercial airline. In other cases, a new pilot might have difficulty breaking into the industry. Luckily, there are many other pilot jobs available outside of the major airlines.

It is true that pilot salaries tend to be higher at commercial airlines. But pay isn't the only consideration when choosing a job.

For instance, many pilots opt not to work for airlines to get more flexibility. Or, they may prefer flying smaller jets.

In any case, it's always best to explore all the options available before making a choice. Let's take a closer look at employment options for pilots outside of major airlines.

The Pros and Cons of Airline Pilot Jobs

First, let's look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of working for an airline. Understanding these features can help you determine which pilot jobs are best for you. 

First, the pros. Most airlines are fairly large companies, which means that they are able to offer competitive benefits packages. In addition to health insurance and paid time off, many airline pilots get travel vouchers for their friends and family. 

That said, many pilots feel that once they choose an airline to work for, that they must stay with it. This is because airline pilots are evaluated based on seniority. If a seasoned pilot moves to another airline, they may lose their seniority, and must essentially start over. 

Another negative feature of working for a commercial airline is the uncertainty of the industry. For instance, airlines suffered great financial losses after 9/11. They are only just starting to recover. 

Not to mention, many customers who fly on airlines do so for tourism. In a recession, trimming vacation expenses is often the first move folks make to save money. 

Other Options for Pilot Jobs

Looking at some of the negatives of flying for a commercial airline, it's easy to see why some pilots opt not to go this route. Here are some of the other jobs that these pilots take. 

Corporate Pilot

Many large companies hire pilots to fly their executives and other employees. The benefits with these jobs vary from corporation to corporation. At some companies, corporate pilots can make more money than they would at a major airline.

One of the drawbacks of working as a corporate pilot is a lack of consistent schedule. The pilot is typically on call and must be ready to fly to wherever the company needs to send its employees. This can lead to a tiring and unpredictable schedule. 

Another draw back of corporate pilot jobs is that they tend to not be advertised. This means that pilots must work their connections and professional networks to get one of these jobs.

Government Jobs

Several departments of the United States Government depend on regular air travel to do their jobs. In many cases, they contract their own pilots, rather than going through a commercial airline.

With these jobs, the pilot is a full-time government employee. This means that these jobs tend to come with generous health insurance and retirement benefits. The tradeoff is that the salary is lower than what you could make at a private company.

These jobs also tend to have a typical 40-hour work week. This can be a positive or negative, depending on your preferences. Some pilots prefer this consistency, while others like the excitement of a varying schedule. 

Flight Instructor

Teaching the next generation of pilots isn't just for folks nearing retirement. These are great pilot jobs for anyone who likes working directly with people and has a heart for teaching. 

Being a flight instructor is one of the few jobs that allows a pilot to work with smaller airplanes. Also, instructors tend to make their own schedule, which makes for flexibility.

That said, anyone who has taught a person how to drive a car can anticipate what some of the negatives of this job would be. Riding with flight students will definitely make for some bumpy rides. For that reason, this is definitely not a job for the impatient or the faint of heart.


There are many small companies that offer flights to tourists. For instance, there are pilots who fly planes for skydiving trips. In other cases, a pilot may give aerial tours of a particular scenic region.

If you enjoy working with people, flying for tourism could be a good option for you. These jobs are less common and are usually restricted to certain geographic areas. 

Charitable Organizations

If you are a mission-oriented person, you may enjoy flying for a charitable organization. For instance, these pilots may fly patients who are in need of medical attention and are not able to fly on a commercial airline. 

In some cases, these positions are not paid. Even so, they can be a good way to earn flight hours needed for a certification.

Determining What Certification You Need

The pilot career you're interested in will dictate what kind of certification you need. There are different levels of pilot certifications that will qualify you for different jobs. 

Sport Pilot

This is the easiest certification for a pilot to obtain. For that reason, it only grants holders permission to fly smaller aircraft at low altitudes. 

While this license has restrictions, it also only requires 20 hours of training time. This makes it a good option if you're still deciding if pilot jobs are right for you.

Commercial Pilot

A commercial pilot's license is required to be compensated for flying. So, whether you want to fly for a company or the government, you need at least a commercial pilot's license. 

Commercial pilots must meet certain federal regulatory standards to obtain their licenses. Also, they may be required to pass a medical examination. 

Airline Transport Pilot

An airport transport certification is necessary for anyone who wants to fly for a commercial airline.

This is the most difficult certification to obtain. Typically, a pilot must log at least 1,500 hours to qualify for this certification. 

Have you worked pilot jobs outside of commercial airlines? Which were your favorites? Let us know in the comments!