Education and Training: Flight school followed by licensing with the FAA
Average Salary: $85,000
Job Outlook: Good
A helicopter pilot is a highly trained professional who may work in the military, state or federal government agencies, or for private companies or individuals. It is an exciting job and there are numerous opportunities in a lot of different fields.
Helicopter pilots can work for law enforcement agencies, or for agencies which conduct search and rescue operations, or for border patrols or forestry commissions. Some are aerial photographers while others work for offshore oil companies. There are also opportunities with radio and TV companies, sightseeing companies, or even firefighting.
The opportunities are almost endless, but it is a demanding career which requires a lot of training and it can cost a lot of money to complete the necessary flying hours which are often necessary to gain employment.
Education and Training Requirements
There are two routes to train as a helicopter pilot, and that is either through the military or as a civilian. If you are considering this profession then it’s probably worth your while visiting the armed forces to see the opportunities that are available. The armed forces have strict requirements regarding education, age, physical condition, height and eyesight, and many may find these prohibitive. However the training within the military is excellent but getting in one of their programs is quite difficult as there are a very limited number of positions available. The majority of programs will require you to obtain a four year college degree before being admitted to flight training.
Some people who apply for this program have already completed their civilian training as a helicopter pilot, and there is no denying that this does give them some advantage as long as they can meet all the other requirements. In return for this excellent training you will be required to give the armed forces a number of years of service, so it is quite a commitment if you don’t intend to make the military your career.
There are also aviation related college programs available which may be a more economical way of financing training as it can require a considerable investment and a lot of banks are unwilling to advance unsecured loans for this type of education. There are also numerous flying schools that offer training, and it may be possible to do this alongside an ordinary job which can help cover the cost of tuition.
All pilots must be licensed with the FAA, and have to undergo a strict medical to ensure they are in good health and have 20/20 vision. They must also pass a written test and have to demonstrate their flying ability to FAA designated examiners.
Getting the Job
Getting the job will be pretty easy if you complete your training through the military, but if you are applying for a job in the civilian world you’re probably better off trying to get hired by one of the airlines to gain experience, before applying for other jobs.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
Job prospects for helicopter pilots are reasonable, and it is likely that there will be good job growth for pilots due to the increased demand for air travel. The best opportunities are probably to be found at smaller more regional companies who tend to run commuter services. Experience gained here is likely to lead to better employment opportunities. Career development largely depends on the field chosen and some helicopter pilots choose to work as instructors to help top up their flying hours and to make extra money.
Working Conditions and Environment
Working conditions and environment are most likely to consist of flying helicopters, and while this can be stressful, noisy and dangerous, the majority of people who choose this career option find it exciting and thrive on the challenges it presents, and would not change their job for the world.
Salary and Benefits
The salary of a helicopter pilot largely depends on the type of work being done and the organization. If you choose to work for government agencies, as an Army pilot or a medical rescue pilot, or to work on offshore oil rigs you are likely to receive a decent salary. An average salary is around $85,000, but many will earn less or more than this amount. Benefits will also largely depend on the organization worked for, but generally a helicopter pilot employed by a reasonably sized company can expect the usual types of benefits including paid vacation, medical and dental insurance, and possibly contributions to retirement plans.
Where to Go for More Information
124 Village Lane, Ste. 511
Sandpoint, ID 83864
Helicopter Association International
1635 Prince St.
Alexandria, VA 22314