How to Become a Commercial Pilot

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If you're looking for a career that's literally up in the air, become a commercial pilot. Pilots enjoy a good salary, plenty of time off, travel all over the world and reduced rates on hotels and personal flights. If you love flying and want to make a living at doing it, your dream can come true when you meet all the requirements and become a commercial pilot.

  • Meet the basic requirements to be a commercial pilot: be over the age of 18, read, write and speak English, be in good physical condition and have a bachelor's degree in any subject (major airlines prefer to hire pilots with a four-year degree).

  • Attend flight school or aviation college. To become a commercial pilot, you must be well educated in the field of aviation.

  • Get a private pilot license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Log in at least 250 hours flight time (many commercial pilots have logged thousands of hours of flight time before securing a job at a major airline).

  • Obtain all the necessary certificates required to be a commercial pilot. These include a medical certificate, commercial pilot certificate and rating (depending on the type of aircraft you wish to fly) and an airline transport pilot certificate (ATP) for flying internationally.

  • Pass a required physical examination as well as a written examination for the rating you are pursuing. Pass a FAA-required physical exam each year as well as an annual company physical once you have become a commercial pilot.

  • Apply to major airlines to secure a commercial pilot job. This is a highly competitive field and many qualified individuals never become a commercial pilot.

Tips & Warnings

  • Enlist in the Air Force and get flight training while you get paid. This is not, however, a guarantee of a job as a commercial pilot after you leave the Air Force, and you may need additional training depending on the type of aircraft you are seeking to fly.
  • Consider seeking a commercial pilot position outside the United States. Many foreign countries are expanding their airline services and are usually seeking pilots.
  • Flight schools and aviation colleges are expensive and are paid out-of-pocket by the aspiring pilot.
  • Most flight schools are located in the South, as weather is better for year-round training. If you live in the northern part of the United States, chances are you will need to relocate to attend flight school.
  • Do not expect to become a commercial pilot overnight, even when all requirements are met. With thousands of applicants for each open position, it may take years to even get an interview at a major airline.

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