Job Prospects... At a glance
Entry for graduates into this occupation is difficult and initial income is low in relation to the high cost of training. Although experienced commercial pilots command high incomes and have good job opportunities, the work is demanding. There is usually a reasonable turnover.
There are two main groups in this occupation: fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter pilots who fly and navigate aircraft; and flying instructors who instruct students in flying aircraft. Both require extensive training.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requires these occupations to hold particular aviation licences.
Their tasks may include:
To become a fixed-wing commercial aeroplane or helicopter pilot you need a Commercial Pilot Licence. To get this you must:
Helicopter pilots require additional study on topics such as the principles of helicopter flight.
|Graduate Diploma in Aviation|
|$46,800 over one year|
Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to feesfree.govt.nz. Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.
Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.
The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.
A variety of flight training organisations offer training as a pilot or instructor. These are outlined on the Careers New Zealand website. Massey University also offers flight training as part of a university undergraduate degree under a special Equivalence Approval from CAA.
There was an decrease in the number of students who completed aircraft operation qualifications in 2016.
Qualification completions chart
Source: Ministry of Education
In 2019, the average income for pilots was estimated to be $133,500.
|Estimated Average Income|
Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index
A pilot’s income varies greatly depending on their experience; from about $40,000 a year for entry-level domestic first officers to over $300,000 for captains on international flights.
For helicopter pilots, income ranges from $40,000 to $100,000.
A flying instructor’s income varies depending on their qualifications and experience; from a C-Category flying instructor who can expect to earn about $28,000 to $30,000 a year, to A-Category instructors who can earn about $60,000 to $80,000, and possibly up to $100,000 after many years of work.
Many flight instructors are employed on casual and part-time contracts or are paid only for ‘flight hours’. This can lead to them being paid much less than $28,000 a year.
Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Air and Marine Transport Professionals”.
Employment of pilots increased by 1.6% from 2006 to 2013. Employment growth for the air and marine transport professionals is projected to continue at 0.1% each year until 2023, and by 1.0% out to 2028.
The employment outlook for experienced airline and helicopter pilots is good, but entry is difficult and initial income is low in relation to the cost of training. Many pilots leave to work overseas, creating domestic opportunities for pilots. In addition, the workforce is ageing and retirement rates are likely to increase.
Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections
|Overseas||In further study||Receiving a benefit||In employment||Median Salary|
Source: Tertiary Education Commission
*Three years after completion of L5 or 6 Diploma - Aerospace Engineering & Technology.
Three years after completing a diploma in aerospace engineering and technology, most graduates were in employment or overseas, with a few in further study. The median salary was around $48,000 three years after graduating.
Pilots are not on Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists.
Immigration NZ, skill shortage list: skillshortages.immigration.govt.nz
Pilot vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites.
Pilot roles require a substantial investment in education and training.
Entry-level pilot jobs earn modest incomes but there are high rewards and opportunities for experienced pilots. You need to greatly enjoy flying to progress and succeed in this work. Normally, airline pilots begin their career as flight instructors.
People with commercial pilot licences take at least three years to progress to operational flying roles in major companies. In the interim they build up hours flying for smaller operations or instructing other pilots.
Qualified pilots can work as scenic pilots, or as flying instructors (on the same type of planes learned on). Additional hours and/or qualifications are needed to fly a helicopter, or as an agricultural pilot, or to fly bigger types of aircraft such as turboprops or jet-engine planes.
The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level pilots.
More information on pilots is available on the Careers New Zealand website.
Careers New Zealand: www.careers.govt.nz
The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.
The occupation of pilots has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:
2311 – Air Transport Professionals