How to Get a Commercial Pilot License – Step-by-Step - Pilot Institute (2022)

People become pilots for many reasons, but if you intend to make a living as a pilot, you almost certainly need a commercial pilot license (CPL).

Sure, you can earn money with a private pilot license.

But your options are limited. Very limited.

For one, you can’t carry passengers or property for compensation, which you may as a commercial pilot.

Getting your commercial pilot license gives you access to jobs like flight instruction, corporate flying, and pipeline patrol.

After getting enough flight experience, it also gets you closer to an airline career.

So, how do you become a commercial pilot?

Let’s start with the qualifications.

But let’s get our terms right first.

What is a Commercial Pilot?

A commercial pilot is a person that holds a commercial pilot license (or certificate).

What’s a commercial pilot license? It’s an FAA-issued airman certificate obtained by a person after he or she passes the applicable knowledge and practical tests. It permits the holder to carry persons or property for compensation or hire.

How do you get it? Let’s find out.

Getting Your Commercial Pilot License

Here are the steps you need to follow to become a commercial pilot:

  1. Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements
  2. Get your medical certificate (second-class, at least)
  3. Enroll in a pilot school or start flying with a flight instructor
  4. Get through your ground training or home-study course
  5. Pass your commercial pilot written test
  6. Complete your flight training and earn the logbook endorsements
  7. Pass your commercial pilot checkride

Voila, but what are the requirements?

Let’s jump in.

Commercial Pilot License Requirements

Aviation English comprises an eligibility requirement for all airman certificates, including the commercial pilot license.

(Video) How To Become A Commercial Airline Pilot, Salary, Training, CPL, ATPL

So, you must be able to read, speak, write, and understand English.

As far as age, you must be at least 18 years old to become a commercial pilot.

Furthermore, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Hold at least a private pilot certificate.
  • Have at least a second-class medical certificate.
  • Receive proper ground instruction, flight training, and logbook endorsements.
  • Pass aeronautical knowledge and practical tests.

Getting your medical certificate is a simple process. You only need to complete a physical and an online application.

Obtaining a commercial pilot license also comes with a minimum flight time requirement, which we’ll discuss later on.

It’s worth noting that the instrument rating isn’t a requirement to get your license. However, it’s highly desirable by employers as most commercial operations involve instrument flight.

Now you know the requirements, let’s move on to the nitty-gritty of getting your commercial pilot license.

It’s learning the ropes.

Commercial Pilot License Training

A commercial pilot license course involves ground and flight training, both equally important to become a proficient pilot.

Ground School

The commercial pilot ground school expands on the knowledge you’ve obtained during your private pilot training. You start learning about advanced topics in meteorology, navigation, and communications.

Most notably, you acquire knowledge of night, high-altitude, and National Airspace System operations.

The structure of ground training depends on the type of school.

See, pilot schools operate under two different sets of regulations, Part 61 and Part 141.

How does the ground school differ between the two?

Simply put, Part 61 schools have no set number of hours. You can either complete a home-study course or take classes with an instructor.

However, Part 141 must include at least 35 hours of ground training in an FAA-approved course.

Some schools also offer online ground schooling to enhance the learning experience for students.

It’s a good idea to think about how you want to go about the training. You see, you can complete your ground school before starting the flight portion.

(Video) The Cheapest Way To Become A Commercial Pilot. $0?!

Or do both simultaneously, it’s up to what you feel is more beneficial.

Flight School

Compared to private, the commercial flight training introduces Commercial maneuvers, which include lazy eights, chandelles, and power-off approaches. Each requires a high degree of awareness, coordination, and precision.

How many hours to get your commercial pilot license?

Well, Part 61 vs Part 141 difference comes into play here too.

You must log at least 250 flight hours at a Part 61 school to obtain your commercial pilot license. In contrast, you only need a minimum of 190 flight hours in a Part 141 school.

The flight time in either type of school must include minimum hours of the following:

  • Training in a complex airplane, a turbine-powered airplane, or a technically advanced airplane (TAA).
  • Cross-country flights.
  • Instrument training.
  • Solo time.
  • Night flying.
  • Preparation flight for the checkride.

Moreover, you may credit a certain number of hours toward the total using a flight simulator or training device.

The duration of your training varies depending on the course.

You might take merely 12 weeks in an accelerated course, while zero to CPL courses can take 9 months or more.

Of course, the typical duration takes into account that you have around 70 hours obtained through your private pilot training.

If you build enough flight time, you can find courses that last only a week.

Ultimately, you become eligible to do your checkride when you’ve logged enough hours, passed the preparatory flight, and received an instructor endorsement.

Commercial Pilot License Tests

You must pass aeronautical and practical tests to get your commercial pilot license.

Aeronautical Knowledge Test

You may take the commercial pilot knowledge test at 16 years old.

But that’s two years before you can get the license.

You’re right, but the 24 months allow ample time for budding pilots with busy schedules to complete the training.

You must prove your readiness before taking the test, though.


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It’s called an authorization, which provides proof that you’ve received the required ground training. It can be a logbook endorsement, written statement, or a certificate of graduation.

Here’s what to expect on your knowledge test:

  • It consists of 100 multiple-choice questions.
  • Each question has 3 possible answers.
  • The allotted time is 3 hours.
  • The passing score is 70%.
  • Retesting is possible after getting an instructor endorsement.
  • It’s valid for two years.

It can be stressful having to worry about theory and flying tests at the same time. So, you’d be wise to pass the knowledge test before you start your flight training.

Practical Test (Checkride)

You have to overcome one last challenge before getting your commercial pilot license.

The dreaded practical test, or checkride.

How do you get ready for it?

You must pass the knowledge test, complete your training, and pass a preparation flight.

Only then your instructor can issue his endorsement, meaning that your knowledge and proficiency meet the standards.

Wondering what the commercial pilot checkride is like? Here’s a quick summary:

  • It’s conducted by an FAA inspector or Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE).
  • It consists of an oral and a flight, each lasting an hour and a half, on average.
  • Your examiner issues a temporary pilot certificate upon passing.
  • You receive a permanent certificate from the FAA after reviewing your qualifications.

Hopefully, you’ll pass the checkride the first time. But if you fail, retesting is possible after receiving further flight instruction.

What can you do with a commercial pilot license, though?

Commercial Pilot License Privileges & Limitations

Carrying passengers or property for compensation is your main privilege as a commercial pilot.

You have access to a few paid jobs outlined in Part 119 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, including:

  • Student instruction (after getting your CFI).
  • Nonstop Commercial Air Tours (subject to the applicable regulations).
  • Ferry or training flights.
  • Crop dusting, seeding, spraying, and bird chasing.
  • Banner towing.
  • Aerial photography or survey.

One more thing:

You can also work as a jump pilot flying skydivers, which can be a fun job that lets you meet new, interesting people all the time.

How much can you make with a commercial pilot license?

A tough question.

The commercial pilot’s salary depends on a host of factors, including experience, company, and flight frequency. Your annual income can range from $20,000 to more than $100,000.

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The primary limitation on a commercial pilot license comes into effect if you don’t have an instrument rating. Without it, your license will contain the following restriction:

“The carriage of passengers for hire in (airplanes) on cross-country flights in excess of 50 nautical miles or at night is prohibited.”

But you’re able to remove this limitation as soon as you get your instrument rating

You can’t legally work in an air carrier that requires Part 121 or Part 135 certificate. The restriction encompasses domestic (both national and regional), commuter, and on demand operators.

You got to invest money to get the license, commercial pilot training isn’t for free. Well, for the most part.

Commercial Pilot License Cost

Commercial pilot training cost has a broad range depending on several factors, including the type of school, airplane rental, and your flight time.

If you logged close to the minimum flight hours required, a typical commercial pilot course costs from $5,000 to $10,000.

Additionally, most courses offer instrument rating, multiengine rating, or both as part of a commercial pilot course.

You probably want to get both as they’re essential for most commercial operations.

Taking this into account, you can pay $30,000 or more for your training.

You also need to budget $1,000-$2,000 for miscellaneous expenses, such as a headset, books, and study materials.

In summary, the cost depends on your circumstances, with your flight time being the main factor.

Final Thoughts

Why become a commercial pilot?

The training hones your precision, coordination, and handling.

Naturally, it makes you a better pilot.

But that’s not all.

A CPL opens the door for paid jobs as it permits you to fly for compensation or hire.

It also makes an airline career a possibility once you’ve logged enough flight time for an airline transport pilot license.

(Video) How to get your commercial pilots license in Australia (step by step how I did it)

If you’re wondering what it takes to become a pilot, then take a look at Pilot Institute’s free video guide. It explains the process through short, easy to follow videos packed with information.


  • What is a Commercial Pilot?
    • Getting Your Commercial Pilot License
  • Commercial Pilot License Requirements
  • Commercial Pilot License Training
    • Ground School
    • Flight School
  • Commercial Pilot License Tests
    • Aeronautical Knowledge Test
    • Practical Test (Checkride)
  • Commercial Pilot License Cost
  • Final Thoughts


What is the best way to become a commercial airline pilot? ›

How to become an airline pilot
  1. Earn an FAA-approved bachelor's degree. ...
  2. Obtain a private pilot license. ...
  3. Acquire an instrument rating. ...
  4. Obtain a commercial pilot license. ...
  5. Get a flight instructor certificate. ...
  6. Add a multi-engine rating. ...
  7. Gain experience and flight hours. ...
  8. Earn an airline transport pilot certification.
Oct 27, 2020

What is the easiest pilot's license to get? ›

A sport pilot is the easiest and least restrictive certificate a student can obtain. It's meant for those pilots who wish to fly in light aircraft only, at low altitudes in their local area.

How do I become a pilot with no experience? ›

The first step towards becoming a pilot with no experience is to get a private pilot license. Private pilots go to a flight school to undergo training, which includes 40 hours of flight time. A commercial pilot needs 250 hours of flight time, so you need to spend some time flying for free to reach that goal.

Do you need 20/20 vision to be a pilot? ›

What are the FAA standards for vision? Federal Aviation Regulations require that a pilot's distant vision be 20/20 or better, with or without correction, in EACH eye separately to hold a first or second class medical certificate. The standard for near visual acuity (16″) is 20/40 in each eye separately.

How many years do pilots go to school? ›

Even if you are presently only looking to become a private pilot, getting a complete education will prepare you best. Ideally, becoming a pilot should only take 3 to 4 years, the time it takes to get your Bachelor of Science in Professional Flight.

What is the height requirement for a pilot? ›

What are the height requirements to be an airline pilot? There is no height requirement to become an airline pilot, though specific airlines may have their own polices.

Will an airline pay for flight school? ›

Airlines offer aspiring pilots scholarships and tuition reimbursement programs that can help offset the high cost of training to become an airline pilot. While an airline won't completely pay for flight training, you can expect to save anything from a couple of thousand dollars to $30,000.

What should I study to become a pilot? ›

You must have studied MPC subjects [Maths, Physics, and Chemistry] along with English at the intermediate level. If you are a non-science student, you may pursue the required subjects through the National Institute of Open Schooling or as a private candidate from the respective state board.

What type of pilot pays the most? ›

The captains are the highest paid airline pilots and they earn from $234,000 to $269,000.

Is Tom Cruise a real pilot? ›

It's not just a stunt for Top Gun: Cruise is actually an experienced pilot who's been in possession of a professional license since 1994. In an interview with James Corden, Cruise mentioned that he has a flying license for several types of aeroplane, including fighter jets and commercial flights.

Do airlines train pilots with no experience? ›

United Airlines says it will train 5,000 pilots this decade, including taking on applicants with no flying experience, and plans for half of them to be women or people of color.

Do you have to be smart to be a pilot? ›

Do you have to be REALLY smart? No, you do not need to be a genius to be a pilot. GCSEs with A-C in Maths, Physics and English. You need good mental maths skills, the aptitude to be able to fly and be prepared to work hard.

Where is the best place to become a pilot? ›

Below we listed some of the best places to live as a professional and pilot.
  • Phoenix, AZ. This is certainly a city of transplants. ...
  • Chicago, IL. Chicago is one of the best cities for professionals, as it's a city with opportunities and a steady job market. ...
  • Denver, CO. ...
  • Los Angeles, CA. ...
  • Seattle, WA. ...
  • Houston, TX.
Feb 15, 2019

Can pilots wear glasses? ›

The answer is YES – you can wear glasses and be an airline pilot! Perfect uncorrected vision is not a requirement to be a pilot or an air traffic controller. Glasses, contact lenses and refractive surgery are all (with certain limitations) acceptable ways to correct visual acuity problems.

Do pilots need to be good math? ›

Pilots must understand geography and physics and must have good mechanical aptitude. The job also requires good math skills. Pilots use math on a daily basis. In addition to basic arithmetic, algebra and calculus, a thorough understanding of geometry allows pilots to do their job well.

Can you be a pilot with lazy eye? ›

A pilot's vision needs to be 20/20 or corrected to 20/20 with glasses or contacts. If you do not meet this requirement, you would need to apply for a Special Observation of Demonstrated Ability through your local FSDO.

How many hours do pilots work? ›

Airline pilots fly an average of 75 hours per month and work an additional 150 hours per month performing other duties, such as checking weather conditions and preparing flight plans. Pilots have variable work schedules that may include some days of work followed by some days off.

How many hours can a pilot fly? ›

§ 91.1059 Flight time limitations and rest requirements: One or two pilot crews.
Normal duty
(3) Flight Time For 1 PilotUp to 8 Hours
(4) Flight Time For 2 PilotsUp to 10 Hours
(5) Minimum After Duty Rest10 Hours
(6) Minimum After Duty Rest Period for Multi-Time Zone Flights14 Hours
2 more rows

Is becoming a pilot hard? ›

Becoming a commercial airline pilot requires considerable study and training, as well as many hours of flying time. It requires a lot of dedication, commitment and hard work to become a commercial pilot, but can be a rewarding career path for anyone who loves to travel and enjoys a challenge.

What is the weight limit to be a pilot? ›

At least in the US, there is no official weight limit that cannot be exceeded if you want to become a pilot. Instead, the focus is far more on the overall health of the individual and the abilities they have, they simply state that a person must be capable of performing the duties of a pilot.

Can pilots be overweight? ›

The prevalence of overweight among the pilots was 53.7% and of obesity was 14.6%. The probability of being overweight was highest among pilots working night shifts for 6–10 years and that had difficulty relaxing after work, where perceived morningness was a protective factor.

What is the weight required for pilot? ›

While the maximum and minimum weight mentioned the table is 46 kgs to 82 kgs. And when it comes to the age range, the age has some ranges starting from 15 years and ending at 48 years. But the required age for a pilot is 15-24 years staring from NDA to CDS, NCC entry and AFCAT entry.

How can I learn to fly for free? ›

Five ways you could learn to fly for free
  1. Exchange flight training with a service. You could exchange your services with flight training. ...
  2. Join the military. ...
  3. Apply for a scholarship. ...
  4. Get support from your employer. ...
  5. Cover the theory. ...
  6. Take a crash-flying course.
Dec 10, 2019

How do I become a commercial pilot with no money? ›

Ways to become Commercial Pilot at low cost/fees. This task can be accomplished by taking help of the IAF (Indian Air Force). Yes, all you need to do is get selected into the IAF, undergo Pilot training at IAF, become a Military pilot and later make the switch to Commercial Airlines sector!

Do banks give loan for pilot training? ›

Ample Nationalized Banks do furnish the student loans for commercial pilot training such as State Bank of India, Canara Bank, Corporation Bank and Punjab National Bank, ICICI, HDFC, and many other private banks at an attractive rate of interests.

How many subjects are in a pilot study? ›

described a well‐designed pilot study for the prophylaxis of thromboembolism. They judiciously chose to study 120 subjects to refine their protocols and maximize the chances of identifying problems that may arise in the larger multicenter trial.

Which entrance exam is for pilot? ›

There are three main Aviation Exams in India namely Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) Entrance Test, Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT) and Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Common Entrance Exam (AME CET).

Which country has the best pilots? ›

Greek pilots are frequently voted by their NATO counterparts as being the best in the world. It is recalled that Squadron Leader Anastasios Andronikakis was named NATO's best pilot in 2021. The 'best warrior', Andronikakis, is the one who NATO fighters would like to have by their side in a situation where necessary.

How much do Amazon pilots make? ›

The average first officer with maximum years of experience at an Amazon Air contractor earns $148 an hour — nearly $100 less than their peers at FedEx and UPS.

What's the highest paid job in the world? ›

The highest-paying job in the world, in a traditional sense, holds the number one spot in this article: anesthesiologist.

How much do Walmart pilots make? ›

The base salary for Airline Pilot in companies like Walmart Inc. range from $124,601 to $162,301 with the average base salary of $143,801.

What does a pilot wear? ›

A typical pilot uniform consists of a jacket which is usually decorated with the airline's wings to help identify the individuals as pilots. A name badge is also included along with stripes to indicate the rank of the pilots, says.

What is the difference between pilot and commercial pilot? ›

A commercial pilot is a pilot who can display a minimum level of skills and understanding to a licensing authority and has earned their commercial pilot license , which allows them to be remunerated for their services. They can also legally fly for hire.

Who is a famous pilot? ›

Wilbur and Orville Wright are arguably the most famous pilots in the history of flight. They ushered into the age of aviation on December 17, 1903, when they flew the world's first successful motorized aircraft.

What is a Top Gun pilot? ›

TOPGUN aims to elevate the games of elite Navy fighter pilots, so they can go out as teachers and pass along state-of-the-art skills and knowledge to other Navy aviators, thus raising everyone else's tactical performance, according to the U.S. Department of Defense's website about the program.

How much are private jet pilots paid? ›

The salaries of Private Jet Pilots in the US range from $17,873 to $480,848 , with a median salary of $86,553 . The middle 57% of Private Jet Pilots makes between $86,557 and $217,524, with the top 86% making $480,848.

What is pilot retirement age? ›

Because the international mandatory retirement age for pilots is also 65, if the age was raised in the United States, pilots 65 or older would no longer be allowed to fly overseas.

Can pilots have tattoos? ›

Can Airline Pilots Have Tattoos? Airline pilots can have tattoos, but they will need to be in places that are not visible. Any visible tattoos are highly discouraged in the airline industry, and they are often frowned upon, meaning that they can prevent you from getting a job as a pilot.

Why do pilots have to retire at 65? ›

Some pilots have for years called for extending the time that they can fly, but the issue had been opposed by a majority of pilots. The retirement age was seen as a way of ensuring that jobs existed for younger pilots in an era when flight crews were well paid and expected generous retirements.

What IQ does a pilot need? ›

As can be seen, pilots are on average quite intel- ligent, with Full ScaleIQ scores of 119.

Do pilots have a high IQ? ›

In most cases, pilots of any kind will have an IQ higher than 120. It is generally accepted that fighter pilots have an IQ higher than commercial pilots because of the demands of their jobs, and the impact that this has on their intelligence.

How much do rookie pilots make? ›

Starting Salaries

A regional airline pilots in the U.S. typically starts out making an hourly rate of $20 – $50 per hour, or about $20,000-$40,000 per year, depending on the airline, type of aircraft, and the pilot's experience level.

What is pilot school called? ›

charter school. (redirected from Pilot school)

What state do most pilots live? ›

Turns out, your chances are better in some states than others. Turns out, the median salary for the highest 10% of airline pilots in America is $110,000. Oregon is the best state for jobs for airline pilots, and Illinois is the worst.
1. Oregon.
Total Airline Pilot Jobs:17
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$162,000
3 more rows
Apr 6, 2021

What country is it easiest to become a pilot? ›

Which Country is Best for Pilot Training?
  • 1 U.S.
  • 2 United Kingdom.
  • 3 Greece.
  • 4 Philippines.
  • 5 Spain.
  • 6 Netherlands.
  • 7 Kenya.
  • 8 Maldives.

What qualifications do I need to become a pilot? ›

You'll need to:
  • be over 21 years of age.
  • hold a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
  • pass the Civil Aviation Authority medical before you can take a course - the medical includes tests on your fitness, hearing and vision.
  • pass enhanced background checks.

Is becoming a pilot hard? ›

Becoming a commercial airline pilot requires considerable study and training, as well as many hours of flying time. It requires a lot of dedication, commitment and hard work to become a commercial pilot, but can be a rewarding career path for anyone who loves to travel and enjoys a challenge.

How much does it cost to be a pilot? ›

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot? It costs $91,995 to become a pilot when starting with no previous experience or $71,995 when starting with a private pilot certificate. Both prices include the flight training and certification necessary to become a commercial pilot with flight instructor certificates.

What it takes to become a pilot? ›

Becoming a commercial airline pilot as a civilian will take at least two years of training as you pursue several different milestones. First, you will need to earn a private pilot certificate, which requires passing a medical exam, written exam and a minimum of 40 hours of flight time.

What kind of math does a pilot use? ›

The most common math skills pilots use are addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. For example, you'll need to add and subtract to calculate weight. Second, you should know basic geometry. This is so you can focus on shapes and spatial relationships between objects.

Which subject is best for pilot? ›

If you aspire to become a pilot in your life, you must first choose your Higher Secondary Course with subjects including Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. You must have scored a minimum of 50% in these subjects to be able to join an Air flying school.

What subjects do pilots need to study? ›

A Commercial Pilot's Licence (CPL) training involves the following advanced exams: Theoretical and oral radio licence exams; Aviation Meteorology; Flight Performance and Planning; Radio Aids and Communication; General Navigation; Instruments and Electronics; Aircraft Technical and General; Human Performance and ...

What is the hardest part of flight school? ›

1) Weather And Maintenance Delays. Just like being a professional pilot, weather and maintenance delays will affect your training. You will have plenty of flight lessons cancelled outside of your control, and that's a reality you'll need to get used to as a student pilot.

What is the hardest part of flying a plane? ›

Takeoff and landing are widely considered the most dangerous parts of a flight.

Is being a pilot fun? ›

Many pilots find the job to be very exciting, dynamic, and rewarding. There are numerous careers in the aviation industry that you can pursue following your schooling.

Will an airline pay for flight school? ›

Airlines offer aspiring pilots scholarships and tuition reimbursement programs that can help offset the high cost of training to become an airline pilot. While an airline won't completely pay for flight training, you can expect to save anything from a couple of thousand dollars to $30,000.

Which country is cheapest for pilot training? ›

The Philippines, which is one of the cheapest countries in the world for getting a pilot's licence, charges Rs 9-10 lakh. Australia offers a range of academies giving training for Rs 16-18 lakh.

Which country is best for pilot training? ›

So, here are the top 5 study abroad destinations to pursue aviation study programs:
  • The UK. Being home to the Royal Air Force, the United Kingdom has a rich history in the field of aviation. ...
  • The Philippines. ...
  • Greece. ...
  • The US. ...
  • Australia.

How much study is required for pilot? ›

You should be a graduate (Three Year Course) in any discipline from a recognised University (with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level) / BE / B Tech (Four Year Course) with a minimum 60% marks in aggregate.

What is the height requirement for a pilot? ›

What are the height requirements to be an airline pilot? There is no height requirement to become an airline pilot, though specific airlines may have their own polices.

How many hours is a commercial pilot? ›

Requirements. The FAA requires 1,500 hours to fly as an airline pilot, which can be earned in two years.


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