How Long Does It Take To Become A Pilot


The short answers:

It takes anywhere from 3 months to 3 years or more to obtain a private pilot certificate – it all depends on you and how much you commit to your flight training.  To do it as quickly as possible, you have to fly as often as possible (no less than 2-3 times per week).

But, if you mean “How long does it take to be an airline pilot?”  Or “How long does it take to be a professional pilot flying jets?”  – that merits a much longer discussion….

From the time you start your flight training, it will take anywhere from 4 years to 15 or even 20 years before you land that dream pilot job!

Why does it take so long?

Find out by watching the following video blog I did, or if you prefer to read…read on.

How long to become a pilot video

If your dream is to work for an airline, corporate flight department, or any job that flies technically advanced jet airplanes, you will need two things:

  1. A lot of flight time in your logbook
  2. A college degree (used to not be necessary, but realistically, to be competative this is a must)

[note: the military route to a pilot job will be different, this article deals with civilian pilots]

Getting a college degree is pretty straightforward – go to college, pick  a major, study, and graduate.  Getting enough flight time to qualify for a major airline or a good corporate pilot job, however, is much more tricky.

There are different scenarios that civilian pilots take to get their flight time.  Here I will show you the two main scenarios that I’ve seen.  Most other scenarios are a combination of these two:

Scenario 1

  • Years 1 – 4: Attend college to get a degree.  You can do some or all of your flight training during this time as well.
  • Years 5 – 6: Your First 250-300 flight hours.  Finish flight training to obtain your basic certificates (Commercial, Multi-Engine, Instrument, Certified Flight Instructor)
  • Years 6 – 10 and on: Your next 300-1500 flight hours.  Work as a full time Certified Flight instructor, banner tower, glider tower, scenic flight pilot, part 135 pilot, etc.  Obtain an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot certificate)  and start applying for your dream job

Scenario 2

  • Years 1 – 4: Attend college to get a degree.  You can do some or all of your flight training during this time as well.
  • Years 5 – 7: Your First 250-300 flight hours.  Finish flight training to obtain your basic certificates (Commercial, Multi-Engine, Instrument, Certified Flight Instructor)
  • Years 8 – 12: Your next 250-1200 flight hours.  Work as a part time Certified Flight instructor, banner tower, glider tower, scenic flight pilot, etc.
  • Years 12 – 15: Your next 1200-1500 flight hours.  Work for a part 135 company flying small twins and/or turboprops, either part time or full time
  • Years 16 – 20 and on: After your 1500 flight hours.  Obtain an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot certificate)  and start applying for your dream job

Notice how in Scenario 1 you’re working as a full time pilot (flight instructor) as soon as you can.  In Scenario 2, you are working only as a part-time pilot (flight instructor), presumably because you have a higher-paying full time job.

The new FAA rule

In the United States, regional airlines could legally hire pilots with as little as 300 hours to serve as co-pilots (only captains were required to hold an ATP).  Starting in 2013, this will no longer be an option.  In August 2010, Congress passed a law that will force regional

airlines to only hire pilots who have an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

This means that someone with very little flight time (less than 1,500 hours), will no longer qualify for a job with a regional.  If this worries you, you don’t have to panic.  Even when it was legal for regional airlines to hire low-time pilots, the truth is, they didn’t.  They still hired the best candidates, those with more experience….more flight time.

So, just because you won’t qualify, it doesn’t mean you had a realistic chance of getting hired by a regional with less than 1,500hrs anyway.  In other words, there’s really no effect on you – you will still have to work hard to get that flight time up to become a desirable candidate.  Do your best, get quality flight time, and have fun!

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  64 Responses to “How Long Does It Take To Become A Pilot”

  1. It’s great that I came across your article. I am 33 years old and planning to pursue a career as a professional pilot. I am currently a professional pharmacist at the moment and using this career to save up for flying lessons. I will be paying(of course) for my PPL and CPL and the cost is not a joke. My question is, do I still need to get an IR to get a pilot job? Which pilot jobs can I get with minimum (200 hours maybe) to earn more flight hours? I dreamed of being a pilot since I was 7 or 8 and I still dream of being one now. I know it will entail lots of time.. Any comment will be appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for your question! While an Instrument Rating is not required for some jobs, it will definitely limit your opportunities for pilot jobs. Some of the the jobs you could obtain with out it are:

    * Banner tower
    * Tow plane pilot
    * Parachute jump operations pilot
    * Sight seeing pilot
    * Ferry pilot
    * Pilot for photography operations
    * Traffic watch pilot

    With any job you obtain, you will be limited to VFR operations, which is why companies may be hesitant to hire you. But, since you are starting out a bit later than most, it is definitely key for you to start getting as much flight time as possible.

    Good luck!

  3. Hi, My name is Mohammad and I am 17 years old. I am in O’Levels IGCSE final year. Becoming a pilot is my dream since childhood and I want to become a commercial pilot. My question is how should i start my career as a pilot? What qualifications do i need to get an admission in a flying school and what are the requirements. Hope for your acknowledgment. Thanks

  4. Hi. Im 16 years old and i want to be a pilot working for the airline or airforce.
    My question is. When should i go to pilot school? Should i do it durning collage time or?

    • Yes, as soon as you can. If you want to start flying during college, make sure you have enough time. Otherwise, wait until you graduate and then focus on flight training to get it done quickly. The longer you take, the more it will cost.

  5. Hi…my name is jeremy from philippines and becoming pilot is my dream and i just want to ask how long the commercial pilot….i’m already 3rd year high school in my place its very early to inquire but im excited….and to know my mom how long does cpl..thank you

    • It all depends on you. If you work really really hard, maybe a couple of years. If you slack off, it will take exponentially longer. But, then you still need to build up flight time, and that will take another few years.

      • If u are already 37 and want to become a pro. palot or ATP will age be in ur favor?

        • Age is only in your favor if you’re a bottle of wine
          The sooner you start flying, the better. But, don’t let age keep you from pursuing your dreams…

  6. hello,
    im currently in year 11 in high school taking my gcses.
    i will hopefully be taking 4 a-levels including maths and physics
    i would love to be a female commercial airline pilot. i say female as a few people have said that its a guys job but i am determined to achieve!i was wondering how long it would take to be a commercial pilot and how old would i be when i have a full licence
    many thanks

    • Hello,

      Don’t worry, there are many female airline pilots now. Of course, it’s still mostly males, but that is slowly changing and all the male pilots I know are very cool and supportive of women pilots.

      One of my articles talks about how long it take to be a pilot, so make sure you check it out!

    • Yeah Iarea I know this is the basic reason that mostly girls didn’t want to take a challenge to become a pilot. I am also a girl and I also want to become a commercial pilot and I have the same question that how long it take to become a pilot?

  7. Hi, i am 19 and i am not sure which path is best for me. I have a few questions about how to become a pilot.

    -I recently got a job as a trainee mechanic in avionics, but my all-time career is to be a pilot. I’ve read countless times that a degree is practically essential to become an airline pilot, but was wondering if i was to achieve a B2 license, (which consists of 13 examinations and requires at least 5yrs experience) would that count. It’s not exactly a degree but it is a licence in aircraft maintenance which is still aviation related. I’m not sure if I should stay and achieve a B2 licence (as it is still aviation related and shows I have experience in aircraft maintenance) or leave and go to uni to get a 4yr degree.

    -Also I’ve read that the RAF is also a good way to become an airline pilot. Is that true? And how would I go about it?

    -Should I start with my PPL or are there other ways to start flight training?

    P.S. I live in Scotland and would much prefer to stay in the country if possible.

    • From my experience, a technical certificate does not count as a college degree, so you would be better off getting a degree if a pilot career in the airlines is your goal.

      The RAF is a good way to have the military pay for your flight training, but sometimes a pilot slot is not guaranteed so make sure you ask a lot of questions. Also make sure how many years they expect you to commit.

      A PPL is what most people start with, though I have heard of people going straight for their Commercial/Instrument.

  8. I am now studying in 10th…and my interrogation with you is I m female…so can females apply for this..and if yes what is the procedure for them…..? I hope the answer is positive..

  9. Hi My nameis Njabulo and I am 21 years old. I have obtain my diploma in IT(database administrator) Becoming a pilot is my dream since childhood and I want to become a pilot navigation. My question is how should i start my career as a pilot? What qualifications do i need to get an admission in pilot navigation schools and what are the requirements. Hope for your acknowledgment. Thanks

  10. Hi I’m 15 years old and in high school .
    I want to know where can I start to become a airline pilot

    • You can start by doing research and maybe visiting a flight school. Ask if there’s a way you could help out in exchange for some demo flights or flight time. It’s a great way to meet other pilots that can help you out along the way. Also, make sure you get good grades and maybe even join an aviation organization, like the Civil Air Patrol – you can learn a lot and get introduced to great opportunities.

  11. Hi,
    I’m 16 and want to become a pilot.
    I was wondering if I could take PPL training instead of doing A-levels/IB..
    I’ve just moved back to the UK after 4 years in Norway and have the next 7-9 months in which I wish to do this training and then I do 2 years of IB starting from the next academic year. Do you know if this is possible?

    • Hi!
      Great, congratulations! Yes, getting a PPL is totally doable in 7-9 months. You just have to study hard and fly often. Some people have done it in 3 months!

  12. Am studying flight operation will I be possible to do pilot training. Or not

  13. Do i have to get a degree in aviation first or could it be any other degree? Am 20 and third year student of engineering. Can i get a scholarship after graduating?

  14. Hi
    This is amaira…I want to be a pilot…I am studying in 10th and I dont know
    which subject should I choose in grade 11…and what course should I take after 12..
    it would be great if you would help me…thank you

  15. Currently I am in 8th grade .. Is it possible to start pilot training after 10 th grade??

  16. Hi, I’m Nathanael and I’m in 11th Grade. I have two questions. Why should I go to college if I decided to go to a flight academy/school just after my 12th grade? And why should I have to have another degree which is not related to aviation if my goal in life is to be pilot? Thank you!

  17. I am 17yrs and lives in Ghana. Pursuing my diloma course in nursing and is my dream to become an airline pilot.But how do I start it because I aim at becoming an international airline pilot if that’s.possible.And please is it necessary to start with a PPL. And please is it possible to go to any airline agency to try to fly for fun? Will take any comments tanks

  18. Hi
    I am Saif from Canada, I am 34 years old and I am a master degree holder in English Language.
    I would like to join one of the schools that offers all the licenses that a piolt needs to start his career.
    my question is: do you think choosing such job in my age is OK or I am going to waste my time and will not be able to get a chance to work for one of the major airline companies with a good sallary?

  19. Do you know of any aviation jobs that will pay a person to start from scratch? I do not care about getting an ATP rating. I would be satisfied with just a commercial/instrument rating and fly multi-engine aircraft.

  20. I Just go for education fair. Then they ask me to take pilot course at MCC(PHILIPPINE )IT TAKES 1.5 years to finish… then I can go for flight.. But u said is we have to get degree first only can go for flight … which one It’s true…

  21. name is Mohamed abdullahi.i am 20 years old.i finished o levels and went strait to do pilot course.i currently hold cpl certificate with multi engine and instrument rating.almost every company I go to asks me for college certificate.know my quetion is should I go to A levels or strait to university to get a good job in the future.thanks

  22. Hi ,I am 13 years old and I am hoping to get a job as a pilot one day so if any female pilot can help me out that will be very nice

  23. Hi I’m ilham.
    I have just finished my gcse ols and pending for my results..I would like to know how should I start my career to become a commercial pilot which was my child hood dream…what step should I take after my results..

  24. Hi
    Im 18 and live in New Zealand finishing high school. I have 0 experience in flying although I have always had a interest and passion in flying since i was a very young age. But I am not certain what the best route to my dream Pilot career will be.
    At the moment i am planinng to take a gap year to build up money, with a full time job in Courier Post that pays me 70k/year (quite a miracle) to fund for my PPL, which i hear should cost around 20k, its also I think a good opportunity for me to build a few contacts within for the Courier cargo planes delivering overseas and would just like to hear some opinions from you.

    I’ve also read some of this article, and I notice it says a university degree will play a huge part in the success rate of acquiring Piloting, so I would like to ask what subjects would be best to major in.


  25. Hi my name is Sergio, I am looking into being a Cermercial Airline Pilot . I am a jr in Highschool now I am not worried about the years it takes because I am very dedicated and will put in the time for it . My worry is how much will it cost? Is it very expensive ??

  26. I m stdng 2nd pu science with pcmb… i want to bcm a pilot… how can i????
    How many fees it want?
    Is job is guaranty or not?????

    • There are no guarantees in life…just follow your dreams.

    • Hi, my name is john and i would like to tell you that there is no guarantee for becoming a pilot,but you should keep throwing in a lot of commitment and hard work because you will find yourself there. Oh,and you should ask a flight school about the fees because it caries a lot. Remember, KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE! good luck

  27. hie my name is Beverly.l am 14.Being a pilot was always my dream.
    Can you be a pilot and a mechanical engineer at the same time?

    • Hi Beverly,

      Yes, you can do that…it might be tricky trying to find a position that allows you to do both. One option is to be a test pilot where you can combine engineering and flying.

  28. I am 14 years old. It’s my dream to became a pilot when I was just 3 gears old. I just want to know that how much time is required to complete the whole training or studies and how much minimum height is required for became a lady pilot??

    • Hi Tanya,
      What type of pilot do you want to be…if it’s an airline pilot, there is no minimum height requirement as long as you can perform all the duties of a pilot and reach all the controls and switches in the fight deck.

  29. Hi! I am an English teacher, and getting my PPL here in Mexico for hobby purposes. Anyway, one of my students, 17 years old, really wants to become a commercial pilot. I hope I did the right thing: I suggested he get a degree in Aeronautical Engineering while taking flight lessons if possible. Well, the kid is in the only programme of its sort here in GDL, studying Aeronautical Eng. I believe the family is gonna finance the lessons. Suggested that rather than go the military route (a real option here in Mexico), he go to one of the private schools AFTER college and AFTER getting his PPL. Your website super useful and it has encouraged me to finish what I started years ago in the States.

  30. I have a question, my son would like to become a commercial pilot. I have heard that the flight training (which could run 100K+) is an out of pocket cost. It cannot be through grants or loans as it is for college tuition. Is that the case, because the reality would be that we could not afford that for our son. Thank you

    • Hi Sheila,

      Yes, the education can run that high, but as long as your son is enrolled in an accredited school and the flight training is part of the curriculum, you can most certainly use grants and student loans to pay for it.

  31. Hello i ma diego im 16 and wanted to be a pilot what i want to know is it worth getting a bachelors in a carrer related to aviation or just any carrer.

    • Hi Diego,
      Any degree is great for becoming a pilot at an airline. However, depending on what type of pilot you want to be some degrees might be better than others…for instance, to become a test pilot, you will need an engineering or technical degree. Check out the FREE RESOURCES for more info…

  32. Hi! My name is John and I’m 18years old. I just graduated my high in Korea and recently I really wants to become a airlines pilot. But I don’t know that much about becoming a pilot. So I’ve got few questions to ask.
    - what is the first step?
    - How should I start?
    -’Should I start flying during college or after college?
    - How long(approximately) will it take to become a official airlines pilot?
    Special Thanks! It is a opportunity to pursue my dream. Thank u! ( send me an email pls )

    • Hi John – I answer a lot of your questions in some of the articles under the FREE RESOURCES tab. Check them out

  33. In order to become a Pilot, do I have to attend college or is a certification good enough?

    • It depends on the employer that you’re trying to work for. Most employers, especially airlines require a college degree.

  34. Hello
    I am 16 yrs old student of st.xaviers institution and its my dream to become a pilot not only just to fly but I want to make it as my career . I wanted to know that after my ISC examnation what I have to do ?In Which colledge it will be better to take admission ? And what aeronotical things I have to learn ? How much money will be needed for the whole aeronotical education?
    I will be highly granted if reply to all my queries and if you give me some good and kind advice that will help me since I am the junior most.
    Thank U…
    Email. –

    • There are several blog posts and articles answering your questions throughout this website…

  35. excellent blog I’m a huge aviation nerd from India

  36. Hello..
    I am 20 year old I am doing now .and I want to join aeronautic institute.
    But my height is short .can you tell me how much height is require for cpl?

  37. Hi,

    I’m 26 years old and working as a software engineer in an IT Firm. To become an airline pilot was my dream but due to some reasons and lack of knowledge I haven’t applied for training. Can you please guide, am I too aged to become a pilot? Am I too aged to become a pilot and land a job ? I want to fly high and fullfill my dreams.


  38. hi my name its alan. what type of job would i be able to get if get an instrument pilot licens. To be clear, i have no collge degree. i always thought i could fly with not college degree and still getting pay.


  40. Hi i am From Sweden. I am 19 years old, And flying for a major airline is my ultimate dream. I just finished my writing my final exams and I’m eagerly waiting for my High school diploma which I’m expecting to get around February 2016. I am Planning to Apply for Taylor’s University in Malaysia (Subang Jaya). My Question which I’ve been struggling to find an answer to is “Which College program should i enroll in inorder to achieve my dream. I was thinking of “English literature” since English is important when travelling around the world as a Pilot. Hopefully upon graduating from Taylor’s University and get my Bachelor’s degree what do i do next. Thanks you for giving me some of your time. My name Is Yusuf BTW????.

  41. Hi,
    I’m a currently in HSC 12th and would love to become a pilot. Im a girl and I would like to know more about the criteria physical fitness. And also what other job options will be available for me after i have a degree in aeronautical engineering ?
    Thankyou very much.

  42. Hello sir,

    Im in highschool and 15 years i live in Doha,Qatar.
    My dream job is to be a pilot working for any airways such as:
    Qatar Airways, or the American airways or something like that.
    Can i start flighing from now or do i need to be in a certain age?
    Because in here driving is from 18 and in the U.S its different

  43. im 17 year and study inter pre- eng so what i can start my career of pilot


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