The 4 Steps to Becoming a Commercial Pilot

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
May 29, 2024 at 2:45PM UTC
So you're interested in the aviation industry and considering a job as a commercial pilot. But what exactly does a commercial pilot do, how can you become a commercial pilot and where can you find a job as a commercial pilot?

Here's what you need to know about becoming a commercial pilot.

What does a commercial pilot do?

A commercial pilot is responsible for flying different aircrafts. They may fly fixed-schedule flights, charter flights, emergency planes, crop dusters and/or rescue operations. A commercial pilot is in charge of ensuring that the weight distribution of the planes OK, they are in charge of communicating with air traffic control, they have to operate and control the plane, they need to monitor gauges and navigate the plane, and they'll have to execute emergency procedures if necessary.
You'll work with a whole team! A cockpit crew is usually made up of a captain, a co-pilot or a first officer.

"People of all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities have learned to fly," according to the Federal Aviation Administration. "It's fun, and from the beginning of your training, you get to do most of the actual flying! On the practical side — while flying isn't a difficult skill to learn, you'll have to be willing to stick with it until you meet all the requirements. Also, you should consider the cost of becoming a pilot — you'll have to pay for your physical exam and your lessons."
Be prepared, however, that commercial pilots work long and odd hours. They spend an average of 75 hours each month actually flying and another 150 hours on non-flight duties. Once you have seniority, you'll be able to choose preferred routes and hours and such.

How do you become a commercial pilot?

Here are four steps to becoming a commercial pilot.

1. Meet the requirements.

Commercial pilots need to be at least 18 years old or older. You'll need a high school diploma, as well, though many commercial pilots go on to pursue higher educations. (Airline pilots usually need a bachelor’s degree.) You also need to have clear communication skills and pass a physical exam that involves a vision test to prove that you're equipped to do the job. After all, pilots need to be in good health and physical shape in order to fly their planes properly! 
Finally, commercial pilots will need an FAA-issued Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate (more on that later!).

2. Get training and log your hours.

Get some training!
"All you have to do is find a flight instructor and sign up for an introductory lesson," according to the Federal Aviation Administration. "You don't have to have a student pilot's certificate or a medical certificate to take flying lessons. Of course, you won't be able to fly solo right away. That takes time and the paperwork described in this guide."
Getting training to learn the basics of flying, as we all all about airplane operations and maintenance, will go a long way. There are flight schools all around the country that will teach you how to fly recreationally or that will give you private training courses. You'll want to log your hours, as well, and keep them on hand for when you apply for jobs later on.
"There is no set number of lessons or hours of flight training," according to the Federal Aviation Administration. "Your instructor must make sure you have learned to perform certain maneuvers before allowing you to solo. These maneuvers include safe takeoffs and landings. You must use good judgment when flying and be able to keep control of the aircraft."

3. Pass your tests and get certified.

Once you go for training, you'll have to pass a test to get certified. The test is through the Federal Aviation Administration. It requires you to perform several operational tasks and demonstrate your ability to meet the industry standards. Once you complete your testing (and pass!), you'll be given the FAA-issued Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.
Remember, however, that there are several different types of pilot's licenses, from student pilots all the way up to airline transport pilot. Make sure you take the test for the certification that you want to have.

4. Apply for a job.

Once you complete your training and get certified, you'll have the credentials to begin applying for jobs. You can find commercial pilot jobs on most major job boards, including Fairygodboss' job board! You can also reach out to commercial airlines directly and send them your resume and certification details to see if they are hiring. 

How much can you make as a commercial pilot?

Commercial pilots can earn a lucrative salary, and they get to travel all over the country or all over the world for free. Commercial pilots earn, on average, $82,240, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The job outlook for commercial pilots from 2018 to 2028 is set to grow 6%, which is about as fast average.
"Most job opportunities will arise from the need to replace pilots who leave the occupation permanently over the projection period," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This means that there are tons job opportunities to become a commercial pilot (as pilots do not stay pilots forever, and there is always a demand!). So once you land one of those job openings, you can start earning a nice salary.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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