It is almost irresistibly attractive - you get to wear a gorgeous white-clad uniform, you are regarded highly in the eyes of the public, you only need to make a few flights per day, and you get to enjoy a fat and generous salary on your payday. Yes, these are just some of the advantages of being a commercial pilot.
As such, a lot of people aspire to be one. The American Airlines for example pay rookie pilots a salary of 31,000 USD. The pay can go up to as much as 123,000 USD for experienced pilots (10th year in service). Delta and UPS reportedly pay their experienced pilots a salary of more than 200,000 USD.
It is definitely not easy to ignore those numbers. And getting to fly something like an Airbus Jumbo Commercial Plane is like a childhood dream come true. But why exactly are pilots paid premium? Here are some of the reasons:
Needless to say, the education attainment requirement for pilots is high. Especially for pilots that fly commercial planes, they are usually required to have at least taken advanced mathematics subjects. Aeronautical engineers normally have an advantage.
And while it is true that those with only an associate's degree or GED equivalent may be qualified as a pilot, most top brass airlines nowadays prefer those that have a 4-year bachelor's degree. If you have a 4-year bachelor's degree with a strong background in mathematics (engineering, physics, etc.), you can say that you have an advantage.
Flight Training Cost
This is what really turns down most aspiring pilots - flight training courses cost a lot! You have to rent the plane, pay the instructor, and provide other peripherals required. Most families cannot afford to send their children to flight training schools.
Another problem is the number of training hours required - aspiring pilots are required to have at least taken 250 hours of flight time. And this is surely going to cost a lot. With such a costly training, it is only natural commercial pilots are paid well.
A 2011 statistics shows a fatality rate of about 1 for every 1.6 million flights. This is relatively low compared to the previous decades. And most people only have to face that risk once in a while. But for a pilot, he/she has to face that risk almost every day.
And the risk is relatively higher when the plane takes off during a weather depression. It is also partly because of this risk that commercial pilots are paid better than most other white collar jobs.
Additional Skills Required
In some instances, a pilot is not only required to possess advanced mathematical knowledge and skillful piloting skills. Many airlines nowadays require their pilots to learn additional skills which may include among others the following: communication skills, fluency in several languages, proper etiquette, and such.
This is in order to improve customer relations. Passengers typically feel more at ease with a pilot who can communicate himself more efficiently and with more confidence.