How to Become a Pilot

A 7-Step Guide

If you’ve always wondered how to become a pilot, this guide is for you. Perhaps you’ve thought about this as a hobby, but becoming a commercial pilot is actually a great career choice. In fact, it might help to first understand exactly what defines a commercial pilot. Simply put, a commercial pilot is someone who has been approved by the FAA to charge for pilot services. So, what you might think of as a hobby has the potential to become a career.

While most people immediately think of commercial airline pilots flying passengers, the most common example of a commercial pilot, there are other possible careers in this field, even some that are unusual. For instance, cargo pilots, such as those flying for UPS and FedEx, are also considered commercial pilots. Other commercial pilot careers include being a corporate pilot, flying for a charity organization, such as Angel Flight, or even flying for the government, perhaps for the Forest Service. Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) are also considered commercial pilots, and with the current pilot shortage, there is a high demand for CFIs. Whether you become a captain for Emirates, a fighter pilot for the U.S. Air Force, or fly a corporate jet in India, the sky truly is the limit.

Check Your Pilot Training Eligibility!

So, what are the 7 steps?

Follow these steps on your path to becoming a pilot. If you are starting with no flying experience at all, don’t worry – this is how all pilots begin. We will walk you through the steps you’ll need to follow.

  1. Research flight schools.

    Find the flight training school that best suits your needs and has positive reviews from its graduates. This is a big step, and you want to make a good decision. After you apply and are accepted, there is more to do.

    Step 1 Research

  2. Get your medical certificate.

    All student pilots must pass an FAA third class medical exam with an Aeromedical Examiner (AME). If you plan to become a commercial pilot, you’ll need a class 1 medical certificate.

    Step 2 Medical

  3. Get your FAA Student Pilot certificate.

    This makes it official! You’ll apply for this through IACRA, and you will need it to fly with your instructor.

    Step 3 Student Pilot

  4. Begin Ground School classes.

    Private pilot ground school provides the practical knowledge you’ll need to know while for flight planning and flying.

    Step 4 Ground School

  5. Begin flight lessons.

    While in ground school, you’ll begin training in simulators and airplanes alongside a certified flight instructor (CFI). This lets you turn your knowledge into skills as you continue your pilot training.

    Step 5 Flight Lessons

  6. Pass the “written.”

    The FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test, known as the “written” to student pilots, assesses your knowledge of aviation in areas such aerodynamics, weather, flight instruments, weather, etc.

    Step 6 FAA Written

  7. Pass the check ride.

    The FAA Private Pilot Practical Exam, also known as the check ride, assesses your flying skills and knowledge of practical applications in the cockpit. Passing this is the final step. Congratulations, you’re a private pilot! This entire process takes approximately 3 months.

    Step 7 Checkride

What about international flight students?

There are many options for commercial pilots beyond flying for commercial airlines. Becoming a commercial pilot is a straightforward process. Once you determine your eligibility, you simply follow the training requirements established by the FAA. If you are not from the United States and want to become a commercial pilot in your home country, it is fairly simple to convert your FAA credentials to your country’s Civil Aviation Authority standards.

Although many pilots in the USA begin flight training while still in high school, most wait to learn how to become a pilot after 12th grade. Still, you can begin researching early. The best advice we can give is to find a professional flight school. Check the price, safety record, etc. Study hard, and soon you will climb into the plane and earn your wings! There are thousands of flight schools around the world, from America to India to Zimbabwe. Do your research, follow the steps, and we’ll see in in the skies!

Becoming a Commercial Pilot

This is one of our most frequently asked questions. You have already earned your Private Pilot License (PPL). This is the first step and allows you to fly single-engine aircraft under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), so you are already on your way to becoming a commercial pilot.

  1. Next, earn your Instrument Rating (IFR – Instrument Flight Rules). This allows you to fly in low visibility weather using flight instruments and takes approximately two months.
  2. The next step is to begin your Commercial Pilot training. You must be 18 years old and have a 2nd Class Medical Certificate.
  3. Complete training to earn your Commercial Pilot License (CPL). This includes taking your written FAA exam, logging at least 250 hours of flight time (including 100 hours as Pilot-In-Command (PIC) and 50 hours cross-country), and passing your FAA checkride. Congratulations, you’re a licensed Commercial Pilot!
  4. Additionally, you’ll want to earn your Multi-Engine rating. This allows you to fly multi-engine aircraft. Earning your CPL with multi-engine rating takes approximately three months. So, in a total of 8 months, you’ve gone from zero pilot experience to being a Commercial Pilot!

Becoming an Airline Pilot

This is the most common question we are asked! After earning your CPL, you can build hours toward your Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) by becoming a flight instructor. To become an instructor, you will need to take the CFI course. In the United States, you will need to have logged 1,500 hours before you can be hired by a commercial airline. If becoming a commercial airline pilot is your goal, working as a CFI is a great way to build hours toward that goal. Other countries require fewer logged hours to become an airline pilot. Epic offers complete training from zero experience to ATPL for both U.S. students and international students.

  1. First, earn your CFI rating. This allows you to teach and build hours.
  2. Next, earn your CFII (Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument) rating.
  3. Earn your MEI (Multi-Engine Instructor) rating
  4. Finally, log the hours you need to be hired by an airline

Are you wondering how long it takes and how much it costs?

You now know what to do, but you also need to know the money and time investment. The average student completes all training in approximately one year. This is if you have no experience at all. You will start with your Private Pilot License and go on to complete a Commercial Pilot License. Then, it’s up to you how far you want to go with it. Most pilots build hours by becoming a CFI or flying cargo. What a deal! You get paid to fly as you build hours! Once you’ve logged 1,500 hours, you can decide if you want to work for a commercial airline flying passengers. We encourage you to review pilot hiring requirements.

The total cost for training varies on how well students do in their courses. On average, most students go from having no experience at all to earning a CPL with instructor ratings in 12 months. The cost also varies depending on a number of factors. On average, the cost is approximately $70,000. This is a sound investment in your future considering the median pay for an airline pilot exceeds $140,000.

Are you ready to turn your dream into a reality and pursue a career as a commercial pilot?

You probably have more questions now that you’ve learned how easy it is to become a commercial pilot. We would love to answer any questions you have and help you navigate your aviation career path, so we encourage you to contact us and let us know how we can help.

Rather watch our 7-minute video on becoming a pilot?

28 thoughts on “How to Become a Pilot”

  1. Hi,I have,60000,USD,on my hand,and I wish to take avenue to cpl pilot carrier..and afraid of hidden costs,what can ,I do,and I like Epic alot?

    • Hello, Kazana! We disclose all costs so you can budget accordingly. The full program for international students costs approximately $40,000 USD (details here). This would leave you with $20,000 USD for housing and food. You can prequalify here.

    • Many pilots begin at your son’s age. If he is doing well in high school and can also commit to studying ground school lessons, he will probably do fine. He will first earn his Private Pilot License (PPL), which begins with a virtual academy and is followed by Ground School. He may prefer waiting until his summer break from school to make sure he can focus. We recently spotlighted one of our graduates who completed his PPL, IR, and CPL while attending school.

  2. Im George Emeck from Papua New Guinea. I’m very interested in this study programme but having problem with fees.please how can I apply for the loans.

  3. Hi I’m
    From Sri Lanka, and I don’t have any degrees or any university level of adulation, Just high school, and Im not very good at mathematics. I want to start from 0, Is it possible me to start from PPL to CPL with that education level?

    • Yes, you can start at that level. You do need to be able to do math. Our instructors are good at teaching the math you need, but you must commit yourself to learning.

    • Epic does not have a cut-off age to enroll. The International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) set the maximum retirement age at 65, and the FAA adopted this. However, other civil aviation authorities (CAAs) have extended that age to address a pilot shortage in their areas. So, knowing this will give you an idea of how long you can fly professionally based on your own age.

  4. I’m looking for a career change. An Airline pilot is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve got 20+ years in IT, 43 years old with a family.
    does this sound like an average recruit?

  5. Is there any way to get financial aid or loan for international students? Total course cost for CPL is quite expensive and 50% payment without aid or load looks reasonable for me,please help me out. I am a mechanical engineer and are there any additional prerequisites ?

  6. Do I have to pay differently for the “starting with instrument course” & “Starting with zero experience” or paying only one will suffice??

    • Hi, Mahdin,

      The amount you pay depends on whether or not you have previous flight training. If you have no experience, you would start at zero and go forward. If you already have your private pilot license, you can start with the instrument course, which is the next step to become a commercial pilot. All costs are shown here.

  7. I have Bsc degree in electrical and computer engineering ,I am from Ethiopia, so how can you help me to become professional,, commercial pilots


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