Become a Licensed Commercial Pilot: Step-by-Step Career Guide

If you love the open skies, then maybe a career as a commercial pilot is your calling. Learn about the training and education necessary to make this dream a reality. View article »

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)

Select a school or program

View More Schools
Show Me Schools
  • 0:02 Licensed Commercial Pilot
  • 0:26 Career Requirements
  • 1:22 Career Steps

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

Licensed Commercial Pilot

Generally, commercial pilots are responsible for flying an aircraft. In addition to fixed schedule flights, they can fly charter flights, crop dusters, emergency planes, and rescue operations. Job duties for this career include ensuring the plane is balanced, communicating with air traffic control, operating and controlling the plane, monitoring gauges, and navigating the aircraft.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; some commercial airlines require a bachelor's or 2 years of college
Experience Commercial pilots must be 23 years old and have a minimum of 1,500 flight hours logged
Licensure and Certification Must log 250 hours of flying time and pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) practical test for licensing; Certification required to work for commercial airlines
Key Skills Communication skills; excellent vision and physical health; aeronautical knowledge
Salary $102,520 (2015 median for airline and commercial pilots)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Commercial pilots train as private pilots, which allows them to learn the basics of flying before progressing into more complicated planes and situations. Private pilot training may include instruction from a certified professional and solo flight practice. Prospective commercial pilots must log at least 250 hours of flying time to become licensed. Within those hours, prospective pilots must complete required tasks and fly in a variety of settings. Pilots are tested on mental and physical strengths and abilities. Certification is required to work for commercial airlines. Key skills include communication, excellent vision, physical health, and aeronautical knowledge. In 2015, airline and commercial pilots earned a median annual salary of $102,520 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Now, let's check out the career steps for licensed commercial pilots.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Aeronautics, Aviation, and Aerospace Science
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Airline Flight Attendant
  • Aviation Management and Operations
  • Commercial Pilot and Flight Crew
  • Flight Instructor

Career Steps

Step 1: Meet Basic Requirements

In order to obtain a commercial pilot's license, applicants must be at least 18 years old and able to communicate effectively. They must pass a physical exam that involves a vision test, as well as have logbook endorsements from an authorized instructor to verify their level of experience and be able to demonstrate aeronautical knowledge.

Step 2: Train as a Private Pilot

Prospective pilots can train as private pilots initially to learn the basics of the process of flight as well as more about airplane operations and maintenance, airport communications, and maneuvering. Some flight schools offer recreational or private training courses as prerequisites for commercial pilot training. This enables students to progress through the required levels without attending multiple sessions.

Step 3: Log Flight Hours

They must spend 250 hours flying in various situations, including solo and as the pilot-in-command; complete instrument training; and pilot a plane with designated gear. Flying cross-country in both day and nighttime conditions, as well as completing a specified number of takeoffs and landings are also general requirements.

Step 4: Pass Required Tests

In order to become licensed, commercial pilots must pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) practical test, which is administered by a registered official. The test requires candidates to perform a variety of operational tasks, demonstrate their ability to meet industry standards, and exhibit proficiency in flying. They must also pass a written exam to demonstrate their knowledge of navigation, safety, and regulations.

Step 5: Pursue Additional Certification

Applicants will need to become licensed as an airline transport pilot in order to work for commercial airlines. They will need to be at least 23 years old, have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience, and pass FAA examinations. Individual airlines may require additional education and experience, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes can include a bachelor's degree or at least two years of college experience. The BLS' 2014-2024 employment outlook information showed that jobs for commercial pilots were expected to grow by 10%.

To recap, with private pilot training, flight hours, and licensure, a commercial pilot can earn about $103,000 a year to fly aircrafts for a variety of purposes.

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?