How to Become a Commercial Pilot

by | Mar 20, 2023 | Career Advice

Becoming a commercial pilot is a dream for many aviation enthusiasts. The opportunity to fly for a living and travel the world is an enticing prospect for those who love to fly. However, the road to becoming a commercial pilot can be long and challenging. This guide will provide you with the steps required to become a commercial pilot and help you navigate the process.

Step 1: Pilot Schools

Now that you’ve met the requirements and have the experience necessary to become a commercial airline pilot, it’s time to find and choose a pilot school. Pilot schools are private organization and universities that specialize in training aspiring pilots. Choosing the right pilot school is an important step because you want to make sure that it has the specific training and certification you need to succeed. 

When researching pilot schools, it’s important to look at their curriculum to ensure that they have the type of training that’s important to you. Some schools specialize mainly in private/general aviation flying, while others offer more comprehensive training that includes commercial airline simulator training and multi-engine aircraft. It’s also important to make sure the school offers the proper certifications to enable you to fly for commercial airlines.

Step 2: Medical Requirements

Commercial airline pilots must pass a medical examination before being accepted into a pilot training program. These exams are conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and check for vision, hearing, and overall physical condition. The FAA also requires commercial pilots to pass medical exams every year in order to maintain their flight license.

Step 3: Obtain a Private Pilot License (PPL)

The first step in becoming a commercial pilot is to obtain a Private Pilot License (PPL). This license allows you to fly small aircraft for recreational purposes. To obtain a PPL, you will need to complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight training, including at least 20 hours of flight instruction and 10 hours of solo flight time. You will also need to pass a written exam and a practical flight test.

Step 4: Obtain an Instrument Rating (IR)

Once you have obtained your PPL, the next step is to obtain an Instrument Rating (IR). This rating allows you to fly in adverse weather conditions and navigate using instruments. To obtain an IR, you will need to complete a minimum of 50 hours of cross-country flight time, including at least 40 hours of instrument time and 15 hours of flight instruction. You will also need to pass a written exam and a practical flight test.

Step 5: Obtain a Commercial Pilot License (CPL)

The next step in becoming a commercial pilot is to obtain a Commercial Pilot License (CPL). This license allows you to fly for hire and receive compensation for your services as a pilot. To obtain a CPL, you will need to complete a minimum of 250 hours of flight time, including at least 100 hours of pilot-in-command time and 50 hours of cross-country flight time. You will also need to pass a written exam and a practical flight test.

Step 6: Continue Learning and Training

As a commercial pilot, it is important to continue learning and training to stay up-to-date with aviation regulations and technologies. Attend training courses, read aviation publications, and seek out mentors who can provide guidance on these topics.

Step 7: Build Flight Experience

After obtaining your CPL, it is essential to build flight experience. Airlines and other commercial operators typically require a minimum number of flight hours before considering a pilot for employment. The exact number of flight hours required varies depending on the operator and the type of aircraft. To build flight experience, many pilots work as flight instructors, charter pilots, or in other roles that involve flying.

Step 8: Obtain an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)

The final step in becoming a commercial pilot is to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL). This license is required for pilots who want to operate as captains or first officers on commercial airline flights. To obtain an ATPL, you will need to meet certain requirements set by the aviation authorities in your country. In the United States, for example, you will need to be at least 23 years old, have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time, including 500 hours of cross-country flight time, and hold a Commercial Pilot License with an Instrument Rating. You will also need to pass rigorous written and practical exams.

Step 9: Pilots Exams 

Once you have selected a pilot school, you can start studying for the exams that you will need to take to become a certified commercial airline pilot. These tests include the Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) and the Aircraft Type Rating Exams. The ATP is a comprehensive exam given by the FAA that tests the knowledge and skills of pilots looking to become certified in commercial aviation. The Aircraft Type Rating Exams test the pilot’s knowledge of specific aircraft systems and procedures relevant to their aircraft type. It is important to remember that passing these exams is key to becoming a commercial pilot, so you will need to dedicate a lot of time to studying for them.


Becoming a commercial pilot is a challenging but rewarding career choice. By following the steps outlined in this guide and incorporating the additional tips, you can increase your chances of success in this field. Remember to stay focused, work hard, and never give up on your dream of flying. With dedication and perseverance, you can achieve your goal of becoming a commercial pilot.


What Are the Job Prospects for Commercial Pilots?

The job prospects for commercial pilots are generally good, with the demand for pilots expected to increase in the coming years. However, job opportunities and salaries may vary depending on the airline or company you work for, your level of experience, and the state of the industry.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect as a Commercial Pilot?

The salary for commercial pilots varies depending on a number of factors, including your level of experience, the airline or company you work for, and the type of aircraft you fly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for commercial pilots was $130,420 as of May 2020.

What Are the Biggest Challenges of Becoming a Commercial Pilot?

A: Some of the biggest challenges of becoming a commercial pilot include the cost of training, the high level of competition for jobs, the rigorous training and testing requirements, and the demanding schedule and lifestyle that comes with being a pilot.

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