Portland Community College Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon


parked airplanes at an airport

After earning FAA Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates, most pilots build their initial flight experience as flight instructors. After about two years of work as a flight instructor, they may be eligible for many pilot positions such as:

  • regional airline pilot
  • charter pilot
  • helicopter scenic tours
  • helicopter oil rig support

An Associate of Applied Science degree increases your eligibility for many of these positions.

What will I do on the job?

The professional airplane or helicopter pilot is responsible for the safety of each flight. This includes airplane preflight checks to assure readiness for flight, flight route planning, weather checks and evaluation, and communication with flight control during flight. The professional pilot also manages aircraft speed, altitude and heading based on aircraft flight information. A pilot must make split-second decisions on aircraft control for safe take off and landing, and manage abnormal or emergency flight conditions that may occur in the course of the flight; a pilot must also oversee cargo or passenger loading and unloading, and resolve any related problems.

What skills will I use on the job?

instructor and student in a helicopter

A pilot must be willing to proactively take responsibility for the safety of the flight. Pilots will need to make sound judgments rapidly based on flight conditions. Problem solving as well as reading and interpreting technical data are required skills of the professional pilot. The pilot must be able to maintain concentration under demanding conditions for extended periods of time. Pilots need to adapt to new technologies, provide customer service and write concise reports related to flight activities.

Who will hire me?

Certified pilots have several opportunities available after building their initial flight experience. They may find work in regional airlines such as Horizon or SkyWest. Those who pursue a four-year degree at another school may find jobs in any of the major, international airlines. Pilots may also fly private or corporate aircraft or work as airplane life flight pilots. And those graduating with the Aviation Science degree specializing in helicopters can find both work in commercial flying or sightseeing, helicopter logging, oil rig support or construction. Graduates have found work both in the U.S. and in foreign countries, though foreign countries may require additional certification.

How much can I earn?

Wages and salaries for airplane and helicopter pilots vary depending on the career path selected, experience and time working for a specific company. Long-term potential for commercial pilots can exceed $100,000 per year.

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