Editor’s note: The following article is not intended to be a ranking, but is only to serve as a list of possible options. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.
The beautiful landscape and green fields of Montana may be coaxing you to enjoy the great outdoors and look for a new career in the state. Being a helicopter pilot in Montana can come with many perks.
Here, FLYING examines Montana-based helicopter pilot jobs that stand out as having high rewards and healthy salaries.
Quicklook: Best Helicopter Pilot Jobs in Montana
- Best for internal satisfaction: Emergency Medical Service/Air Ambulance Helicopter Pilot
- Best for adrenaline seekers: Helicopter Skiing
- Best opportunity for remote work: Aerial Application Helicopter Pilot
- Best for job security: Law Enforcement Helicopter Pilot
4 Best Helicopter Pilot Jobs – Montana
When choosing the best helicopter job for you in Montana, it is best to understand what kind of industry you are looking to get into, if this is a time-building stepping stone, and the size of the company. Once you have gauged these metrics, you can look into jobs that fit the bill. Here are our top picks for the best helicopter jobs in Montana.
Emergency Medical Service/Air Ambulance Helicopter Pilot
Emergency medical service helicopter pilots are a top job in Montana and those that do it are an essential part of the emergency service department.
Location: All major cities within Montana house an air ambulance division.
Salary or Per-Trip Price: On average, emergency medical service helicopter pilots in Montana make $83,000 per year.
- Most emergency service or hospital air ambulance divisions offer comprehensive health benefits packages with medical/hospital coverage.
- Average pay for a helicopter pilot in the state.
- Emergency medicine can bring an intrinsic reward.
- High stress
- High risk
Helicopter Skiing Pilot
A helicopter ski pilot is similar to a tour guide pilot but is different in the fact that the pilot will land and drop passengers high in the mountains for the purpose of skiing to the bottom. Helicopter ski pilots must take specific training courses to understand the safety and skill needed to land and drop skiers from high altitudes in snow. Most major skiing destinations have helicopter ski pilots on staff.
Location: Jobs for helicopter skiing pilots are located at all major mountain skiing destinations in Montana. The most well known are Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
Salary or Per-Trip Price: Depending on the ski resort you are employed with, pay for a helicopter ski pilot can range anywhere from $16.00/hr to $75,000 per year.
- Exciting career with multiple mountain stations
- National parks have great benefits
- Lower pay at some resorts
- High-risk environment in snowy conditions
- Additional training required
Aerial Application Helicopter Pilot
Montana’s 58.1 million acres of farm and ranch land ranks second in the nation behind Texas. This means there is plenty of opportunity in agriculture for aerial application (crop dusting) pilots. Some of the aerial application pilot jobs within the state are state-funded and come with great benefits.
Location: Throughout Montana (with potential travel to other states)
Salary or Per-Trip Price: On average in Montana, aerial application helicopter pilots make $77,000 per year with high earners making more than $150,000 per year.
- Opportunity for contract, employed, and government positions
- Opportunity for low-time hour pilots and time-building
- Work rotating weeks/months
- One of the highest fatality rates in aviation
- Working with pesticides and other hazardous materials
- Some positions may be seasonal
Law Enforcement Helicopter Pilot
Law enforcement helicopter pilots, similar to medevac pilots, are at the front line in emergencies. Being a law enforcement helicopter pilot is a highly skilled position that requires the ability to maneuver and land in tight metropolitan areas as well as mountainous terrain. Law enforcement helicopter pilots can be employed as a deputy sheriff for a county, as an officer for a city police department, or as an agent for a national organization, like the Border Patrol or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Location: Throughout Montana with high demand in metropolitan areas.
Salary or Per-Trip Price: On average in Montana, law enforcement helicopter pilots make $91,000 per year with high earners making over $140,000 per year.
- Great medical, vision, and 401K employer supported benefits
- Public service career
- Job security
- High risk environment with exposure to criminal activity
- Entry-level pay can be lower depending on the employer
Commercial Helicopter Pilot Requirements in Montana
To become a commercial pilot in the state of Montana you must:
- Hold a current commercial helicopter pilot certificate
- Be at least 18 years old
- Read, speak, write, and understand the English language
- Hold at least a second-class medical certificate
- Obtain a minimum of 40 hours of helicopter flight training and 10 hours of ground instruction
- Satisfactorily pass an FAA-required flight test
After all the requirements are completed, you may apply to helicopter jobs within the state.
How Long Does It Take To Become a Commercial Helicopter Pilot?
The timeframe it takes to become a helicopter pilot depends a lot on how much time you are devoting to training and where you complete your training. Starting flight training with no experience, to getting a commercial helicopter certificate may take six to 12 months, if you are attending training full time. For part-time student pilots, a commercial pilot certificate can take longer, up to 12 to 24 months.
What To Consider When Looking for Helicopter Pilot Jobs
When determining if a helicopter pilot job is right for you, there are several basic questions you should ask:
1) Does the company offer job security?
2) What are the safety protocols?
3) How much will you make?
4) What is the location of the position?
Choose the position that best meets your requirements in each of these areas before applying
Helicopter pilot jobs normally come with inherent job security due to the high-demand, and the technical skills the job requires, but it is important to understand your potential employer’s industry and operations. Job security is important to understand and take into consideration when applying for a helicopter pilot job because you do not want to be stuck looking for a new position, in cases of company closure, bankruptcy, or a recession. Look for long-standing companies that have years of experience hiring and training pilots. Ask current and former employees their opinions or look at reviews online to gauge job security.
It’s important to show that you put safety first in any aviation profession, but especially as a pilot. Safety in the aviation industry should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Companies that hire helicopter pilots should be dedicated to the safety of the pilot as well as the passengers. Research the safety protocols of the companies you apply to online or by asking current and former pilots. During your interviews, ask the hiring manager if there are any specific safety protocols you should be aware of before taking the position.
Salary is one of the most important metrics when applying for a new position. Set a guideline for yourself and your family and apply to companies and positions that meet those guidelines. If you are right out of flight school, do not have unrealistic expectations of salary, but find the best position to fit your needs in the short term. The more experience you get, the higher the salary you can ask for. Salaries for helicopter pilot jobs in Montana average between $77,407 and $117,350 a year, or more; however, the average salary for helicopter pilots in Montana hovers around $91,273, per year.
When searching for a pilot job, hone in on the area you want to live in. Whether that be Montana or another state, helicopter pilot jobs are everywhere, so choose a location you will be happy to live in for the long term.
The Open Fields of Montana
Applying to a new job can be daunting but in Montana you have options. Choosing the best helicopter job in Montana for you can be easy if you take into consideration the most important metrics, safety, salary, location, and job security. Learn more about helicopter pilot jobs and stay up to date on the top news in aviation by subscribing to FLYING Magazine.
A helicopter ski pilot is similar to a tour guide pilot but is different in the fact that the pilot will land and drop passengers high in the mountains for the purpose of skiing to the bottom.
Depending on the type of industry and your job priorities, the highest paying helicopter pilot jobs in California are helicopter transport and medevac pilots.
The average salary of a helicopter pilot is about $94,519 a year. On average, helicopter pilots make anywhere from $80,148 to $121,547 a year.