How Can You Become a Commercial Pilot?

Posted April 13, 2015 by
Portrait of a commercial airplane pilot smiling

Portrait of a commercial airplane pilot smiling. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Commercial pilots are licensed professionals who fly airplanes. They will often work for companies who take aerial photos or give aerial tours. They may also fly an aircraft charter for a single person or organization. Commercial pilots can also work for airlines transporting passengers and cargo on a specified schedule. Commercial pilots are required to have a high school diploma while most airline pilots need a bachelor degree. According to the bureau of labor statistics, the majority of commercial pilots earn $98,000 a year.

Basic Requirements

The very first thing you will need to do to begin your training as a pilot will be to obtain a medical clearance certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. In order to get this clearance you will need to be physically able to operate and aircraft, mentally stable enough to have people’s lives in your hands, and most importantly have vision that is correctable to 20/20.

After that, you can begin ground school, which will teach you the academic part of flying. You will learn about the mechanics of flight, air traffic control principles, and weather conditions that affect air travel. Once you take this course and pass the qualifying exam, you can become licensed as a student pilot. If you can get through ground school, then it might be a pilot’s life for you.

Pilot Licenses

Once you have 20 hours of flight time logged with a qualified instructor, you can get a sport license. A sport license will allow you to fly on your own or with one passenger. The next step is a private pilot license, which requires 40 hours of flight time in a multitude of different scenarios. These pilots can fly many kinds of aircrafts and carry passengers, but you cannot be paid for your services. Finally, a commercial pilot license will allow you to fly, carry passengers and cargo, and get paid to do it. This license requires 250 hours of flight time with an endorsement from a certified instructor, pass a licensing exam, and maintain requirements for medical clearance.

The cost of becoming a pilot

All of this training can be very time consuming and pricey – considering that an hour of instruction with a flight instructor can run about $80 in addition to paying for licensing, medical clearance, and ground school. In addition, most companies that hire pilots prefer at least two years of college coursework. However, there are government grants and loans that can be obtained if you qualify. Another way to become a pilot would be to join the US military. Most airline pilots do have prior military experience. The air force specifically trains pilots regularly and, upon completion of service, you would be qualified to receive a commercial license. However, again, just about every service branch requires pilots to have at minimum two years of college coursework.


So what about this college requirement? Well, it is by and large becoming the norm among pilots. There is no specific degree that is considered best among pilots, but there are some that will help with the process. If you are planning to go the military route for training and certification, then you’ll want to look into an ROTC program. Keep in mind that the physical requirements for the military are more stringent than those of the FAA. The Airforce prefers personnel with technical degrees like science, math, engineering, or technology. However, you can become a pilot with any degree. If you are not planning to join the military, then you will still benefit from a college degree. Many schools offer degree in aviation management or aeronautical science, but you could do just as well with a degree in liberal arts if that’s what you like.

There are plenty of ways how to becoming commercial pilot.

This informative post comes from Adagold Aviation, a private jet charter service in Australia. They regularly update their blog and aviation industry news on their site.

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