Best Helicopter Pilot Jobs in Florida

The best helicopter pilot jobs in Florida offer competitive salaries and benefits packages, as well as exciting, purpose-filled careers.

[Stock photo: Shutterstock]

It’s 2 a.m. Your cell phone rings, and a jolt of adrenaline runs through your body. There’s no time to waste, you’re the pilot in command for the Miami-Dade County Sheriff’s Office and there’s a lost child wandering in the Everglades. 

Public safety helicopter pilots respond to calls to protect lives and property, and it’s one of the best helicopter pilot jobs in the state of Florida. Below,  FLYING examines this Florida-based helicopter pilot job and several others in the Sunshine State that are in high demand and reward pilots with healthy salaries, and purpose-filled professions. 

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Quicklook: Best Helicopter Pilot Job Options in Florida

  • Best For Intrinsic Reward: Emergency Medical Service/Air Ambulance Helicopter Pilot
  • Best For Benefits Package: Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot
  • Best For Early Risers/Flex Schedule: TV/Radio News Helicopter Pilot
  • Best For Highest Pay Potential: Aerial Application Helicopter Pilot
  • Best For Adrenaline Junkies: Law Enforcement Helicopter Pilot

Best Helicopter Pilot Jobs in Florida

Boasting an average of 237 sunny days a year, it’s no wonder that Florida is known as the Sunshine State. All of this sunshine makes for a great work environment for helicopter pilots, and there are plenty of job opportunities for those willing to brave the humid Florida summers. In an informal assessment, FLYING discovered the top five helicopter pilot jobs in Florida. Read more about these helicopter pilot jobs below. 

Commercial Helicopter Pilot Requirements in Florida

Before you can consider working as a helicopter pilot in any field, there are certain requirements you must fulfill. To be a commercial helicopter pilot (one who is paid to fly a helicopter), you must first hold an FAA commercial helicopter pilot certificate. Certification and flight training can be expensive. Be sure to research available scholarships that may assist you with these costs. Following are the basic requirements for this certification. 

You must: 

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be able to speak, write, and read English fluently
  • Be able to provide proof of your identity
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Be medically fit/able to obtain a Second Class FAA medical certificate
  • Have earned an FAA-issued private pilot certificate

Furthermore, to attain a commercial helicopter pilot certificate, you need to have: 

  • Logged at least 150 hours of flight time as a pilot, with 100 of these at minimum in a helicopter
  • Fulfilled the FAA requirements for night flight, pilot in command, and cross-country flying
  • Passed a written and oral test
  • Passed a practical/flight test also known as a check ride

Earning an FAA private helicopter pilot certificate is one of the first steps to becoming a commercial helicopter pilot. The requirements to earn a private pilot certificate include:

  • 40 hours of total flight time, 20 of which are with an authorized instructor
  • Three hours of cross-country flight time in a helicopter, of which at least one cross-country trip is a minimum 50 nm (at night) 
  • 3 hours of night flight training
  • 10 takeoffs and 10 landings
  • 10 hours of solo time in a helicopter
  • Three hours of solo cross-country time; and at least one of these solo cross country flights needs to be a total distance of 75 nm with landings at three points, with one segment at least 25 nm
  • At least three takeoffs and three landings at a towered airport
  • Pass a written, oral, and practical/flight test (check ride)

What Is Helicopter Pilot Salary in Florida?

The pay for helicopter pilot jobs in Florida typically ranges from $81,000 to $122,000. Salaries vary based on location, job function and responsibilities, years of experience as a helicopter pilot, and additional skills/certifications, such as emergency medical technician certification for an air ambulance pilot, law enforcement training for a deputy sheriff helicopter pilot, or aerial application experience for an agriculture helicopter pilot. To recruit and retain skilled helicopter pilots, some helicopter pilot jobs in Florida will also offer sign-on bonuses and/or after-hours/weekend and hazardous pay differential. And, the salaries for chief helicopter pilots are usually greater, as these jobs include supervisory responsibilities. Contract-based helicopter pilot jobs may also offer higher wages, up to $240,000 a year (see below). It’s important to consider the benefits package (medical/dental/retirement) as part of your salary, as well, when considering what the best helicopter pilot job is for you.

Medical Service/Air Ambulance Helicopter Pilot

A popular abode for retirees and “snowbirds,” people relocating from colder northern climates to this palm-tree paradise, emergency medical service helicopter pilots are a top helicopter pilot job in Florida. Reportedly the country’s “grayest state,” with 19 percent of its population age 65 or older, according to the Pew Research Center, air ambulance helicopter pilots serve an important role here, transporting victims of heart attack, stroke, and other medical emergencies to hospitals.

Best For: Intrinsic Reward

Location: Throughout Florida with greater demand in counties with the largest populations, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Duval, and Orange. 

Salary: On average, emergency medical service helicopter pilots in Florida make $78,800 per year.  


  • Exciting, purpose-filled mission that saves lives
  • Typically includes a comprehensive health benefits package with medical/hospital coverage


  • High risk environment with possible exposure to blood-borne pathogens and viruses/bacteria
  • Lower pay and benefits than some other helicopter pilot jobs 

Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot

Are you looking to rescue boaters who have capsized, help stop and apprehend illegal drug smugglers, and protect our nation’s borders, the Coast Guard offers heroic helicopter pilot jobs that do all this and more. To become a Coast Guard helicopter pilot, however, you must first become a Coast Guard officer or graduate from another armed service’s flight academy. This requires earning a bachelor’s degree and meeting other military-hiring and training requirements, including an age restriction. If you are interested in this helicopter pilot job, speak with a local Coast Guard recruiter to learn more. 

Best For: Benefits Package

Location: With locations across the state (and the country), Coast Guard helicopter pilot jobs are available on both the east and west coasts of the Florida peninsula, as well as in Miami and the Florida Keys. 

Salary: On average, Coast Guard helicopter pilots earn $87,187, per year, according to  


  • A comprehensive government benefits package, including medical/dental insurance, and basic allowance for housing
  • Retirement pension (20 years or more) 
  • Rewarding and exciting career with multiple duty stations to choose from


  • High-risk environment, including criminal element and rescue operations 
  • Requires additional educational investment (bachelor’s degree) 
  • Military service/structure is not for everyone

TV/Radio News Helicopter Pilot

TV and radio news helicopter pilots transport reporters to the scenes of traffic accidents, fires and other newsworthy events. This helicopter pilot job helps news and radio stations inform the public in a timely manner and capture images of news as it’s happening. 

Best For: Early Risers/Flex Schedule

Location:  Throughout Florida with greater demand in counties with the largest populations, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Duval, and Orange.

Salary: Salaries range from $58,000 to $90,000, per year


  • A rewarding role that helps reporters capture live footage to inform the public of emergency situations


  • Demanding on-the-job flying times with a possible flex schedule (early starts/late finishes)
  • High-risk environment that involves flying and landing in and around potential hazards and urban obstacles
  • News organizations are continually cutting costs, which makes job reliability questionable for small news markets 

Aerial Application Helicopter Pilot

This helicopter pilot job in Florida helps farmers fight unwanted pests, and state and federal governments protect valuable forestland and aquatic habitats from invasive pests and non-native plant species. The job can be contract or employee-based.

Best For: Highest Pay Potential

Location: Throughout Florida (with potential travel to other states)

Salary: Salaries range from $80,000 to $240,000, and may include bonuses/commission


  • Competitive salary with commission
  • Potential to fly different types of helicopters, including Bell 206B/L, OH58, UH1H, and others  
  • Remote work opportunities


  • May involve long hours (up to 12-hour shifts), travel/time away from home 
  • Working with pesticides and other hazardous materials 
  • Some positions are contract-based and may not include a benefits package

Law Enforcement Helicopter Pilot

Law enforcement helicopter pilot jobs can be thrilling. The fast pace, adrenaline-pumping work often saves lives by ensuring that law enforcers on the ground locate and apprehend criminal perpetrators as quickly as possible. These helicopter pilot jobs may also deter and prevent unlawful activity and can assist in enforcing national laws, including safeguarding U.S. borders. Soaring above the city, helicopters offer a birds-eye view of criminal offenders as they attempt to commit crimes and/or flee and hide from authorities. Law enforcement helicopter pilots have multiple possible employers. They can work as a deputy sheriff for a county; or as an officer for a city police department, or a national organization, like the Border Patrol or the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Best For: Adrenaline Junkies

Location: Throughout Florida (and the country) with the greatest demand in the most populated cities and counties and along U.S. borders (in Florida: Miami, the Keys, and ports of call). 

Salary: Annual salaries range from $33,000 to $108,000, with the average salary hovering at $55,000 per year. Geographic location, hiring agency/employer, and skills/experience determine salary offers.


  • Typically, local and national governments offer a generous and comprehensive benefits plan, including a pension for eligible federal employees 
  • Job security  
  • Meaningful work that keeps law offenders off the streets and protects the general public and/or the national interest


  • High-risk environment including criminal element
  • Entry-level pay is lower than some other helicopter pilot jobs, especially considering the level of risk 

While a commercial helicopter pilot certificate is the basic requirement for helicopter pilot jobs, most Florida employers will also require a helicopter instrument rating, certified flight instructor (CFI) or certified flight instructor instrument (CFII) helicopter ratings, and/or an airline transport helicopter pilot certification. Additionally, you will need to have logged on average 500 to 2,000 total flight hours to find gainful employment as a helicopter pilot. Additional certifications, such as a turbine transition certificate, which allows you to operate more powerful helicopters with turbine engines, and an external load certificate, which is valuable for pilots who want to work in agriculture or construction, may also be required, depending upon the helicopter pilot job you seek. It’s important to research each job opportunity thoroughly to determine your eligibility. 

How Long Does It Take To Become a Commercial Helicopter Pilot? 

Depending upon the flight school, your training schedule, study habits/aptitude, and available funds, it can take from six to 14 months to complete all of the certifications and minimum flight hours (150) to become a commercial helicopter pilot. But you will still need to log additional flight hours before most employers will consider your application. Many helicopter pilots choose to work as certified flight instructors to gain these additional flight hours. However, there are other options for earning these hours, as well, including working as a helicopter tour pilot (300 hours required) or a tuna boat helicopter pilot (1,000 hours required).

What to Consider When Looking for Helicopter Pilot Jobs

There are several things to consider when looking for helicopter pilot jobs. Before applying for a position, first determine the qualifications and whether you have those that are mandatory for the position. Next consider these important factors:  

Job Security

Helicopter pilot jobs in Florida typically offer great job security. As a high-demand technical skill that takes years of training to master, helicopter pilots are naturally in short supply. Companies that are in need of helicopter pilots typically pay them well, in an effort to attract and retain top talent. However, there are some helicopter pilot jobs that are less necessary to a business’s bottom line and therefore, these might be the first jobs cut (because of the high costs associated with maintaining and operating helicopters) during a recession or business slump. Be sure to do your research on potential employers and their related industry/job field, if job security is a high priority for you.


Companies hiring helicopter pilots aren’t just interested in a pilot’s training but also in their safety record. It’s important to show that you put safety first. As a high-risk job, most businesses look for helicopter pilots who will protect the interests of their company. This includes its assets (helicopters and related equipment), its clients and their property, the general public, its employees (the helicopter pilot, passengers and/or crew). Safety is a No. 1 requirement for helicopter pilot jobs. Likewise, as an employee, you want to work for a company that properly maintains its helicopters and places safety in high regard—including the integration of a safety management system (SMS). While most businesses value safety, there are some who pay only lip service to it. Be sure to tour your potential employer’s hangar, acquaint yourself with its safety and maintenance practices/procedures, such as the SMS, and the helicopters you will be flying, and speak with its A&Ps. If the company doesn’t measure up to FAA-mandated and/or your personal safety standards, walk away from the opportunity. 


Salaries for helicopter pilot jobs in Florida run the gamut from roughly $68,000 per year to $240,000 a year, or more; however, the average salary for helicopter pilots in Florida hovers around $95,000, per year. You can increase your helicopter pilot job salary by advancing into management level positions. The average salary for a chief helicopter pilot in Florida, which generally includes supervisory responsibilities and requires five-plus years of experience, is $155,000.

Risk Level

Depending upon the helicopter pilot job, there may be more or less risk involved. Any helicopter pilot job involves some level of risk, given the fact that you can’t pull over to the side of the road if something goes wrong with your aircraft. However, law enforcement and Coast Guard helicopter pilot jobs, for example, add another level of risk—as you may be pursuing or surveilling a criminal with a high-powered weapon and a blatant disregard for authority. Before considering a helicopter pilot job, determine the level of personal risk that you are willing to take. 

Intrinsic Reward

While everyone needs to work in order to support their basic human needs, helicopter pilot jobs don’t only put food on the table and clothing on your back, they also satisfy intrinsic needs, such as the joy you get from flying. Most helicopter pilot jobs also provide some type of public service, from helping capture news and information for a local TV station, giving tourists an aerial view of a scenic area, and transporting the very sick and injured to the hospital to helping the police capture a criminal or the fire department fight a fire. Engaging in this type of public service can provide intrinsic rewards that you may value equal to or even more than the salary you earn. Consider the types of public service that you find most meaningful and choose a helicopter pilot job that best aligns with your personal values and brings you the greatest fulfillment. 

Is a Helicopter Pilot Job for You? 

Are you ready to pursue a helicopter pilot job? It takes a certain level of commitment and drive to become a helicopter pilot. The training alone can take up to a year to finish. And, then, you must work to build your flight hours, often as a certified helicopter flight instructor. Despite the upfront investment of time and money, the rewards of being a helicopter pilot are considerable, both monetary and intrinsic. Learn more about different helicopter pilot jobs, helicopters, flight schools, and all things aviation in FLYING Magazine. Subscribe today. 



What are the best helicopter pilot jobs in Florida?

The best helicopter pilot jobs are the jobs that most appeal to you. Above, FLYING lists five top helicopter pilot jobs in the state but there are many more

What is a commercial pilot?

A commercial pilot is a person who flies an aircraft and gets paid for doing so. An FAA certificate is required to work as a commercial pilot. 

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