© 2015 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


Average Salary: $87,350

Expected Lifetime Earnings: $3,297,000

Fighter pilots are trusted with ridiculously expensive aircraft and risk their lives basically every minute of every day, all while looking super cool in their aviator sunglasses, so it seems logical to some people that they would make way more money than pretty much anyone else in the Navy or Air Force. That's not exactly how it works, though. In the United States military, you earn money based on rank, not occupation.

Lieutenants going through pilot training only make about $30k before whatever housing allowances or other extras are allotted. Captains make almost twice that, between $55k and $65k roughly, but they obviously have a lot more experience, as befits their rank. Likewise, majors make upwards of $65k. In general, Generals don't fly jets.

There is such a thing as "flight pay," which pilots receive to separate them from other officers of the same rank, but it starts as low as $1,500/year, and that isn't really all that much money. You could make that much working two shifts a month at your favorite fast food joint. Flight pay increases each year until a pilot reaches his or her 14th year, though, at which point it maxes out at about $10,000 and starts to decrease yearly.