In order to become a test pilot, you must have the right aptitude and qualifications. Generally, you will need a bachelor's degree in engineering, science, computer programming, math or aeronautics, as well as extensive flying experience. A private test pilot school or a military program can also help you develop the skills needed for this career. Once you have the necessary skills, you can pursue employment with the FAA or other government agency, a commercial airline or an aircraft manufacturing company.
You will want to consider the salary of your potential employer when determining how much you should expect to make in this position. The salaries for a test pilot can range from $20,000 to $200,000, depending on the location and employer. A chief test pilot will earn close to the top of this pay scale.
Test pilots work long hours, as many as 40 a week, with one flight per day. They are expected to be very disciplined and have a thorough understanding of the technical details of their equipment. A test pilot must be able to communicate what they are experiencing in the air to the engineers and design team.
Typically, the more experience you have in this field, the higher your salary will be. It's also important to keep in mind the cost of living in your area, including housing, food prices, gasoline costs and medical insurance premiums, when considering how much you should be paid for this job.