Experimental Test Pilot

Evaluate experimental aeronautical designs from inside the cockpit.

Quick Stats


Salary Range
$35,000 – $120,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor


What do Experimental Test Pilots do?

The closest that most people will get to flying a plane is with a remote- or radio-controlled airplane. Experimental Test Pilots, however, get to fly the real thing. In fact, they get to do one better than that: They get to fly the real thing before it’s actually a real thing.

That’s because the job of an Experimental Test Pilot is to fly experimental aircraft and aircraft prototypes—typically either for the military or for aviation engineering firms. When you’re an Experimental Test Pilot, your goal is to analyze and document the flight experience for Aerospace Engineers, who use your findings to improve the performance and safety of their designs.

Although your job isn’t physical—you spend most of it sitting in the cockpit, after all—it’s nonetheless a workout, as you’re expected to push aircraft to their limits in order to force issues and emergencies out into the open, where they can be solved prior to production. Among those issues: You conduct tests of aircraft’s structural integrity, strength, speed, performance, handling, reliability, safety, and suitability.

In addition to conducting tests—physically in prototypes, and virtually via flight simulators—you design them. You use your intimate knowledge of aircraft to set standards and create testing procedures for measuring against them.

Although Test Pilots, in general, have a reputation for being daredevils, the truth is: You’re a serious aviation professional. More meticulous than madcap, you don’t do it for adventure. Rather, you do it for safety—that of the plane as well as the Pilots and passengers inside it.


Should I be an Experimental Test Pilot?

You should have an associate's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.
  • Team Player: You're able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.

  • How to become an Experimental Test Pilot

    Experimental Test Pilots often have an Associate's degree or higher. Chart?chd=s:s9jraa&chl=no+college+%2814%25%29|certificate+%2846%25%29|associate%27s+%287%25%29|bachelor%27s+%2832%25%29||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,14,46
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