What it Takes to Become a Commercial Pilot | VT AAA

What it Takes to Become a Commercial Pilot

What it Takes to Become a Commercial Pilot is more accessible now than it ever was in the past. If you’ve ever considered becoming a pilot, now is the perfect time to start. Getting your pilot license is not only a career choice; it’s a way to pursue your passions while making a stable income. While airline pilot training is a significant investment in your time and money, once you reach the end goal, you get to enjoy a career that you truly love for the rest of your life.

Within the new generation of future pilots, the days of choosing a career solely on its financial benefits are over. With such an expanded job market, many young professionals consider all aspects of their future profession extensively. Co-workers, company culture, potential growth opportunities, and overall enjoyment of the job are all contributing factors that are becoming more and more significant, especially for our younger generation of Millennials.

If you want a career that is satisfying and motivating; one that fascinates your interests on a deeper level than just an ordinary 9 to 5 job, becoming a commercial pilot might be the job for you!  Another reason it’s a great time to become a commercial pilot is that the industry is currently experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. The pilot shortage means that there are more jobs available and wages for entry-level pilots are increasing. Whether you are graduating from school, transitioning after the military, or just ready for a new career path, enrolling in an aviation academy is a worthwhile option to pursue.

That’s why in today’s society aviation is an attractive career path for many individuals. People are looking for professions that not only provide a sustainable income but also satisfies a personal interest as well. When taking a closer look at the aviation industry, pilots have different intentions for choosing their career compared to many other professionals. They go into aviation not for the financial reward, but for their burning desire to fly among the clouds. It just so happens, that they also make a pretty impressive income while following their dreams.

You want a career that makes you excited to go to work every day. Knowing that you get to do something you love is an incredible goal to have, and getting paid well for it is even better. Becoming a pilot offers flexible hours, the opportunity to travel, and a lifelong career that is truly exhilarating. Why not swap a cramped office space cubicle for a seat in a cockpit, soaring 35,000 feet high?

Are you interested in a career in aviation but don’t know where to begin? If so, you have come to the right place. This article outlines everything you need to know about becoming a commercial pilot. The world of aviation is extensive, and that’s why it’s important to be as educated as possible from the very start of your career. Let VT-AAA be your #1 resource as you pursue your dream career. Below you can find all the details on how to get your commercial pilot license, what the differences are between a commercial pilot license and a private pilot license, as well as future career options.

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What is the difference between a private pilot license versus a commercial pilot license?

Before starting your career in aviation, it’s important to know which license is necessary to fly commercial airplanes. There is not just one specific license you need before flying commercial airlines. Several licenses and credentials are required before operating those complex aircraft. Each license in aviation varies depending on the pilot’s intended purpose. Think to yourself, “Is this a career choice or a weekend hobby? What kind of aircraft do I see myself flying?” By answering these critical questions, you will be able to narrow down which aviation license is best for you and your ultimate goals.

Something to keep in mind is that acquiring a commercial pilot license offers a broader range of possibilities and freedom compared to a private pilot license. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) sets strict regulations and guidelines for each type of license. During commercial pilot training, aspiring pilots learn how to fly more sophisticated aircraft with advanced capabilities compared to the training for a private pilot license. Some of the types of professional pilot jobs include airline pilot, cargo pilot, charter/private pilot for corporations and individuals, ag pilot, utility pilot, municipal, and civil pilots.

Below highlights the main differences between a private and a commercial pilot license as well as the requirements for each credential.

Private Pilot License (PPL):

Also known as the driver’s license for the sky, this pilot license is mostly for individuals who use flying as a hobby. The PPL certificate is the most common license that allows pilots to fly at night and controlled airports. Individuals with a private pilot license can fly family and friends on weekend getaways, take a joyride to the next state over, or attend a quick business trip. The main downfall to this license is that the pilot cannot compensate in any way for their services. The private pilot license alone cannot get you a career in aviation. Many owners of a PPL operate their aircraft or share with other individuals to make their hobby more affordable.

If becoming a pilot for a commercial airline is your ultimate goal, a private pilot license provides the mandatory flight training needed for furthered licenses and credentials. Once this license is acquired, the next step would be to get an instrument rating and then work towards your commercial pilot license.

Requirements for a Private Pilot License:

  • Must be at least 17 years of age
  • Meet the eligibility standards outlined by the FAA
  • Have an authorized instructor endorse your pilot training and hours of flying
  • Obtain a third-class medical certificate from the FAA
  • Pass the private pilot written, oral, and practical exam
    • This includes a radio operator’s license, safety procedures for navigation, and a general flight test.
  • Must be able to speak, write, read, and understand the English language
  • Have at least 45 recorded hours of flight time:
    • 15 hours of solo flight experience
    • 25 hours of dual flight instruction
    • 5 hours must be cross-country from one airport to another
  • Pass the FAA written and FAA checkride flight exams.

Commercial Pilot License (CPL):

In the most straightforward way put, a commercial license allows a pilot to compensated for their services. This term encompasses a broad range of pilot careers including flight instructors, cargo pilots, tour pilots, ferry pilots, glider tow pilots, and airplane pilots. Depending on the desired job, further education and training may be required. The commercial pilot license is more intensive and covers a broader range of aviation topics during flight school. A commercial pilot license is a necessary step for becoming a pilot for a commercial airline, or any other career involved in aviation.

Requirements for a commercial pilot license:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must be able to speak, write, read, and understand the English language
  • Hold at least a private pilot license
  • Hold at least a second-class medical certificate from the FAA
  • Log training hours by authorized instructor
  • Pass a pilot knowledge test administered by the FAA
  • Have at least 250 hours of recorded flight time:
    • 100 hours in powered aircraft
    • 100 hours of Pilot-In-Command (PIC) training
  • Pass the FAA written and FAA checkride flight exams.

What it takes to become an airline pilot

Many people who are pursuing a commercial pilot license are doing so to become a pilot for a corporate airline. While a commercial pilot license is necessary for this, further schooling is required. Once a CPL is achieved, the next step in any career path is gaining flight experience as well as building your resume. The best way to obtain this kind of experience is by becoming a flight instructor. Not only will this perfect your aviation knowledge, but it will also increase your in-flight hours, making you more eligible for future licenses and credentials. Once a student has finished their Commercial pilot license training with VT-AAA, they are guaranteed a certified flight instructor (CFI) spot within the company. This allows the student to continue their training while making money in the process. At VT-AAA, our flight instructors, who have all their certifications, make on average $37,000 plus benefits for their starting salary.

When looking at the bigger picture of becoming a pilot for a commercial airline, there are several licenses required for this type of pilot training. This includes the ATP, which can be gained through all airline companies.

To learn more or ask a specific question to be answered by an admissions officer contact Scott Hanson at 830.423.4664 or tap the link to fill out the form!

What Careers Are Possible as a Commercial Pilot?

Contrary to belief, becoming a commercial pilot goes far beyond flying planes for domestic and international airlines. Once necessary licenses and certifications are acquired, your possibilities as a commercial pilot are infinite.

Ever dream of flying for U.S. military services or fire academy? Becoming a pilot also opens up careers in aerial photography, traffic control, and other exciting professions in the aviation field. With the proper airline pilot training program, your possibilities in the aviation industry can lead you to some incredible opportunities.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Commercial Pilot License?

The duration to acquire a commercial pilot license all depends on your commitment to the program. VT-AAA guarantees completion of commercial pilot school within 15 to 18 months of starting their curriculum if you train at least five times a week. Once the CPL is acquired, you then need 1,500 hours of flight time to become a pilot for a commercial airline. Many committed aspiring pilots can complete the 1,500-hour requirement in one to two years depending on how many hours a month you fly.

Other Requirements for Becoming a Commercial Airline Pilot Include:

  • Have a commercial pilot license with instrument rating
  • 50 hours of Multi Engineer time
  • Be at least 23 years old
  • Pass the ATP knowledge and practical test
  • First Class Medical Certificate
  • Pass the FAA written and FAA checkride flight exams with no more than two busted checkrides.
  • You may also need to get a College degree but if you should check with the airline for exact requirements and HR point systems!

Benefits of a Commercial Pilot License:

If you want to create a career in the aviation industry, acquiring a commercial pilot license is the way to go. If you are uncertain whether to make this passion into a career, a commercial pilot license is still highly recommended. Furthering your education in this industry offers the potential for growth and flexibility. The CPL provides a more challenging curriculum compared to the private pilot license and takes the standard training to the next level.

This furthered knowledge in aviation also builds confidence within the pilot. Above all, safety should be the most significant priority. The more experience the pilot has in the air, the better.  Advancing your training in aviation is always recommended, and that goes for any pilot.

So is the extra effort and training for a commercial pilot license worth it? Absolutely! Not only will this advance your training and experience, but it will also provide you with the necessary confidence to operate complex and advanced air crafts. No matter what your long-term pilot goals may be, acquiring a commercial pilot license opens doors for endless possibilities.

How to choose the right flight school:

When doing a quick search on the web, it can be a daunting task trying to decipher which flight school is right for you. This step is critical in your quality of training and overall success in the aviation industry. Make sure you find a flight school that sets you up for success from the very start.

When choosing your flight school, make sure to consider these critical factors:

  • Hands-on guidance and training from day one
  • Seasoned and new instructors for one on one training
  • Has the necessary equipment for proper training
  • Offers a guaranteed job upon certificate completion

At VT-AAA, advanced training is guaranteed. VT-AAA provides all of the following training:

  • Private Pilot License
  • Instrument Rating
  • Commercial Pilot License
  • Certified Flight Instructor
  • Multi-Engine add-on
  • Advanced Commercial Flight Instructor (including CFII, MEI, and SEI)

Once the license training is completed, VT-AAA offers a guaranteed job interview with their company as a certified flight instructor.

Working as a VT-AAA instructor builds your resume and provides you with the necessary training to excel in this competitive industry. VT-AAA also offers a bridging program, which helps students with interview placements at regional airlines, cargo airlines, corporations, and drone businesses.

Go into a profession that interests you; one that keeps you intrigued and interested on a daily basis. For many pilots, this industry does precisely that. You choose to become a pilot out of passion, not because of the financial benefits. Luckily you get the best of both worlds when becoming a pilot: being able to follow your dreams while still making a pretty impressive income.  Becoming a pilot allows you to see the world, meet new people, and most importantly, pursue a career that you genuinely enjoy.

To learn more or ask a specific question to be answered by an admissions officer contact Scott Hanson at 830.423.4664 or tap the link to fill out the form!

Submit your application or obtain information on financing and classroom/flight instruction by speaking with an AAA admissions representative: 830-423-6446


11 comment on “What it Takes to Become a Commercial Pilot | VT AAA
  1. My son has always loved airplanes and anything that flies, so I thought I would do some research to see if that could be a potential career for him or not some day. I had no idea that there are many careers in the aviation world, such as aerial photography. In my opinion, following your passions in your career is the key to living a happy life! Thank you for the helpful information.

  2. Thank you, everyone, for the comments. If you’d like to learn more, I’ve added a form to the page you can fill out with a question or questions. We’ll send you an email or call you whichever works best! Dena

    1. Yes, that’s true. All our students have to have a first class medical before they start their training with us and they all have to pass their test written and checkrides before they continue to the next phase of training.

  3. It really is surprising to learn the actual requirements that are needed to become a commercial pilot. However, I do feel like the most important requirement is the logged flight time. That way you have some hands-on experience with flying the plane both inside and outside of the school.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Duncan! It is part of our Professional Pilot Program to offer an interview for a flight instructor position with VT AAA; this is the fastest way in the industry to get the required hands-on flight time. Takes about 18 months to two years of work but we’re open to helping our students get as much time as possible!

    1. Here is a link link to our post on picking a flight school. Hopefully, that helps. I don’t know the schools in your area, but the best advice is to look at their programs on their websites and then go visit them in person. Once you pick one to take an introductory flight with them to learn about how you feel about flying. Every time you visit, ask questions, bring a friend or family member to help (I usually do that) and talk to current students. Also look at their reviews online, just to be doubly sure they’ve not had any problems! Hope that helps!

  4. Hello, i’ve been wondering if there’s a height requirement for becoming a commercial pilot. I’m a 14 year old and stand in about 5’3. Thanks in advance if you respond to this.

    1. Hello, as far as I know, the FAA doesn’t require a specific height but for training, you will need to be able to sit high enough to have a good visual of all that is happening around the aircraft. Best thing to do is visit us or another flight school to ask these questions and take a discovery flight! You need to be 18 to train with us but other schools train pilots 16 and younger. I believe you have to be 16 to fly solo, though.

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