Pilot Jobs USA; What are the Options?

If you are curious about airline pilot jobs USA and need to know what the options are, then you are in the right place! The short version is, yes, there is a demand for pilots in the USA however there are some things you need to know.


To explain the status of pilot jobs in the USA and the options, we need to go back to go forward. Stay with me as we look at why. The aviation industry has and always will work in cycles. These cycles historically have been around 7-10 years for the rise and the fall, the feast, and the famine. The length and extent of the cycles vary due to how sensitive aviation is a business to many external forces. Wars, fuel prices, and of course you may have heard of the pandemic! As yaw is the secondary effect of roll, so is the result of restricted lives leaving people desperate to travel and businesses needing to catch up on face-to-face meetings where appropriate.

Even prior to the pandemic, the rumors were of an impending shortage of pilots worldwide, largely due to the training pipeline beginning to run dry. We are faced with a two-pronged snowball placing us right in the middle of a desperate grab for pilots with country-by-country companies switching to more attractive packages to entice current pilots to stay or foreign pilots to make the jump and move.


Are pilots in demand in the USA?

For a pilot, it is certainly nice to feel wanted; right now, pilots are a sought-after commodity in the USA. Just so we are clear, there are pilot jobs and pilots are in demand in the USA! The clues are everywhere. All the airlines are cutting their flight schedules, the major airlines are recruiting leaving regional airlines crying for pilots, and the biggest clue of all … the pilot recruitment roadshows are back on. The word on the street for pilots is that when airlines and aviation companies are doing roadshows and ‘woo-ing’ pilots, they cannot hide their concern about their pilot numbers.


“At American, we understand that being a pilot is about more than just the technical aspect of flying an airplane … it’s also about the joy of flying and the thrill of adventure.”

american airlines – aa.pilotcredentials.com
pilot jobs USA, american airlines
To get a job as a pilot in the USA there are a number of options however there are hurdles you must go through whether you are a US resident or a foreigner.

Can a foreigner be a pilot in the USA?

For a foreigner to take a pilot job in the USA, the options equate to supply and demand. Local pilots in any country feel very strongly about foreign pilots only being granted approval to fly if there is a genuine shortage. The concern is that foreign pilots may erode conditions. Currently, the US government has made it easier for foreign pilots to gain an employment visa opening up many pilot jobs in the USA. For example, Australian pilots are now able to attain an E3 (Certain specialty occupation professionals from Australia) Visa easier than before which allows them to work as a pilot for the company that sponsors them.


How do you get a job as a pilot in the USA?

To get a job as a pilot in the USA there are a number of options however there are hurdles you must go through whether you are a US resident or a foreigner. For starters, all pilots need to have the appropriate FAA ATPL license (Airline Transport Pilots Licence), a class medical certificate, pre-employment drug test, good driving record and need to have no criminal record to attain a government-issued ID and/or Known Crewmember status for participating airlines and airports. For non-US citizens, the additional step is to attain approval to work in the USA through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services department.

pilot jobs USA, pilot
Pilots are a sought-after commodity in the USA, especially now, post Covid

What are the different flying jobs in the USA?

United Airlines

United Airlines is showing signs of a healthy balance sheet seeking to capitalize on travel demand with reports the company is predicting the employment of 10000 more pilots by 2030. Being a supporter of Boeing in the replacement plans of the B737NG with the ‘corporate life lesson’ B737 Max also indicates a secure future and a choice for pilots.


Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines is an apples for apples comparison with United Airlines in size however the reports indicate that they have a need for another 1000 pilots throughout the next year. Projected out over the next 10 years this looks a lot like United. If these big two are the thermometer, it is a fast and dynamic operation and a hot market for pilots.


American Airlines

American Airlines, also being in the big three in the USA, looks like their plan to tackle the demand of travel by employing around 1300 pilots by the end of 2022. The numbers are great for pilots however this also means the training pipeline will be under a lot of pressure to get pilots online.


Southwest airlines

Any airline as big and successful in its class as Southwest is obviously run by shrewd bean counters looking at streamlining all costs, all the time. Southwest has reportedly said that the pilots needed for 2022 is still expected to be around 1200, down from an earlier prediction of a similar intake of American Airlines of close to 1350.



Hot airline of the moment! With JetBlue’s successful takeover battle in the bag, they are set to become the world’s fifth largest. For pilots, this means the airline conglomerate is progressive, healthy, and here to stay. This spells job security for pilots.


Alaskan Airlines

Alaskan airlines ooze the family feel vibe and inclusion. Sounds like a fun place to work. The inner circle at Alaskan has identified the pilot shortage and is one of the first airlines to embrace the multi-crew pilot license, low-experience pilot. A great opportunity to break into an airline and be guided all the way.


Frontier Airlines

Although Frontier Airlines lost the takeover race for Spirit, they appear in a healthy progressive state expecting to order 200 new aircraft. New aircraft orders are always a sign of a good financial position to face the travel demand. Frontier are recruiting while many other ultra-low-cost carriers were not, including supporting the E3 Visa program to attract Australian pilots and other flight crew.



Atlas has had an interesting journey navigating the pandemic providing extremely necessary freight movement during a time when many other operators were grounded. Pilots would have been in good supply for the demand and Atlas were lucky to have the upper hand on conditions. Now we see Atlas doing roadshows seeking qualified pilot in command candidates and other pilot positions. Wow! This is a sign of having to pivot to meet demand. Pilots’ conditions have improved leaving Atlas an attractive option. They are supporting E3 Visas and reporting as one of the world’s fastest growing operators.


Redwing Aviation

Redwing Aviation is definitely in the running as an option for a pilot job in the USA being the largest growing fleet in the private jet market. Partnering with Vista in what they call the Private Jet ‘eco system.’ A foot in the door to a jet with expansion happening now translating into pilot recruitment. Redwing Aviation is sending their recruitment net outside the USA.


Piedmont Airlines

Piedmont is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines, so it goes to say that it has a rather good backer. Piedmont is reported to be offering positions for direct entry Captains. A good gig for anyone seeking a move.


Corporate and Smaller freight aircraft

Of course, with the movement at the top, the secondary effect is a supply problem of pilots to fill the smaller end of the market. This means an opportunity for people, especially lower-time pilots. These links show examples of the current need to fill this pilot resource hole.



How many pilot jobs are available in the USA?

According to common predictions, the amount of pilot jobs expected in the USA over the next 10 years is at least 15000! This number of pilots means extra jobs. It also means that there is faster career progression as pilots are taken from regionals and corporate by major airlines/big freight companies, then regional airlines and corporate take from general aviation and general aviation takes from flying schools. The flow on effect is clear and present.

In addition to pilot jobs there will be positions for flight crew, as well as positions such as flight operations administrative assistant, other aircraft management duties, aircraft commander and many more positions.

pilot jobs USA, statue of liberty
Currently, the US government has made it easier for foreign pilots to gain an employment visa opening up many pilot jobs in the USA.

“The best pilots fly more than the others; that’s why they’re the best.”

Chuck Yeager

Are pilot jobs hard to get in the USA?

In the current climate, pilots’ jobs are getting easier to attain. This does not preclude having the right qualifications and right to work, and for sure you still need to be able to stack up in an interview. The basics are still important as the quality of the pilot job you get will be determined by how you show up. You need to have your CV and personal information organized and it would still be beneficial to seek out an interview expert to make sure you stand out, as well as send resumes to multiple airlines.

You could also sign up for latest job alert emails to keep on top of available positions.

pilot jobs USA, southwest
Southwest has reportedly said that the pilots needed for 2022 is still expected to be around 1200, which is down from an earlier prediction

How much does a pilot in America earn?

Pilot salaries are always a hot topic for pilots and curious bystanders! There are many variables to what a qualified pilot earns, Captains earn more than a First Officer, bigger multi engine aircraft usually attract higher salaries, whether it is a major airline or low-cost carrier model, how much overtime a pilot is willing to do, what agreements are in place between pilot unions and companies, and of course supply and demand and economic climate.

For ease of comparison, we will look at standard (no overtime) flying hours between the top 10 paying airlines between entry level as a First Officer and multi-year employed aircraft Captain. (Please note, these salaries are a guide only. Remember the truth is on your contract so please read it properly!)

CompanyEntry level First Officer USDMulti-year Captain USD
United Airlines$$75K-80K$305K-$310K
Hawaiian Airlines$70K-$75K$290K-$295K
Delta Airlines$105K-$110K$290K-$295K
American Airlines$75K-$80K$275K-$280K
Southwest Airlines$75K-$80K$255K-$260K
Alaskan Airlines$80K-$85K$235K-$240K
Frontier Airlines$65K-$70K$230K-235K
Other companies of interest for contrast/comparison  
Atlas Air$175K-$185K$250K-$255K
Redwing Aviation$45K-$50K$70K-$75K
pilot jobs USA, delta
The word on the street for pilots is that when airlines and aviation companies are doing roadshows and ‘woo-ing’ pilots, they cannot hide their concern about their pilot numbers.


If you ask around a pilot Crewroom, particularly the pilots of the ‘lifelines’ variety (meaning senior!), you will very likely detect a vibe of pleasure and pain. Long-time pilots will tell you that aviation is rarely linear, has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day, as you fly towards the sunset, the mystery is worth it! Right now, there are pilot jobs in the USA ripe for the picking. There are options out there and a perfect pilot shortage storm. Our advice is to choose wisely as what you jump into now may be the ideal place to stay before the next downturn occurs. This could be years away so what steps you take now are important. This also means that we all need to act like grownups and ALWAYS read the contract or get it explained to you before you sign. Your future will depend on it. 

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ken johnson


Ken is a passionate aviator, a professional pilot and flight instructor. He has over 17 years of flight experience across hundreds of aircraft ranging from recreational, aerobatic, historic, commercial and military aircraft, training hundreds of students along the way. Find out more.

Ken has 124 posts and counting. See all posts by Ken

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