Do you have a craving to feel the wind beneath your wings? Maybe thrill-seeking is an essential part of your personality. If so, think about a career as a professional skydiver. It’s been described as being “as close as a human can get to flying.” Although there are several considerations before deciding on this career, after in-depth training and long-term experience, you can actually expect to be paid for doing this electrifying job.
Your skydiving salary may vary, depending on the specifics of your job, including the types of jumps you do and the facility where you work. The various levels of skydiving professionals include, coaches, instructors, examiners and judges, and each of these classifications offers a different salary. If you’re a licensed skydiving instructor, for example, your average annual salary is about $30,000. If you work for the federal government as a firefighter "smokejumper," you will make more. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports wages for all firefighters, including smokejumpers, under one category, earning an average annual salary of $45,250.
Skydiving tends to be seasonal work, based largely on weather conditions. You jump out of planes, focusing on the proper body position. After jumping, you free-fall for about 60 seconds, traveling at close to 120 miles per hour. When you open your parachute, you’ll enjoy 100-mile views as you float to Earth. As a skydiving instructor, you’ll train people in harness holding, assisted deployment, static line and tandem jumping. Much of your work will take place Earth-bound, potentially requiring you to oversee coaches or serve as an examiner of the instructional rating program of the United States Parachute Association (USPA). You’ll spend a lot of time checking and rechecking your gear and that of your fellow divers, making sure all parachutes will function properly every single time they're activated.
What You'll Need
To become a skydiver, you'll need training in physical fitness. You’ll attend a skydiving school, undergoing hours of instruction in equipment, drop zones, airplanes, free-falls, canopy flights and landings. You’ll be required to earn a skydiving license, especially if you intend to be an instructor. You'll log at least 500 jumps and 3 hours of free-fall. A skydiving instructor also needs to earn one or more instructional ratings through the USPA. Companies and agencies that hire skydivers, such as the federal government, will require you to pass an annual physical examination by a licensed physician.
There are several types of training you'll undergo as a skydiver, including tandem, static line and Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) training. Tandem training, done with a qualified instructor, allows you to feel the excitement of skydiving without having to prepare for a solo jump. Static line is a conventional method of skydiving training used by both the military and sport parachuting. You’ll jump while being tethered to the plane, allowing you to experience falling a short way before activating your parachute. In Accelerated Free Fall, you’ll often spend a full day in training before your first jump. AFF training generally occurs in small groups with lots of individual attention. Your skydiving training will include intensive instruction from a parachuting expert.
Skydiving is a job in which safety is paramount, because it’s considered a high-speed activity in which you risk injury and death. If you have a history of epilepsy, obesity, heart problems or other conditions, you may not be able to work as a skydiver. To stay on top of safety details, you’ll need to skydive regularly, consistently and expertly perform all procedures, and maintain good judgment. Skydivers who are trained well, who stay current with safety precautions, and take a conservative approach to the job have very few accidents or injuries.
2018 Salary Information for Firefighters
Firefighters earned a median annual salary of $49,620 in May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, firefighters earned a 10th percentile salary of $32,670, meaning 90 percent earned more than this amount. The 90th percentile salary is $64,870, meaning 10 percent earn more. In 2018, 332,400 people were employed in the U.S. as firefighters.
- JobMonkey.com: Become a Skydiving Instructor
- CareerSearch: Skydiver
- Education Portal: Skydiving Instructor: Salary, Duties and Requirements
- US Fire and Aviation Management: McCall Smokejumpers: Frequently Asked Questions
- United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Firefighters
- Skydive Kentucky: Static Line First Jump Course
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Firefighters
- Career Trend: Firefighters
Michelle Reynolds has been writing about business, careers and art since 1993. She was the publisher of a newsletter, “Working Parents Monthly," as well as a graphic design guidebook. Reynolds also served as human-resources director at a resort/spa for eight years. She is an artist and promotes the arts and other artists through ElegantArtisan.com, a website she developed and maintains.