Commerical pilot job requirements to fly an American Eagle ERJ

How to Become an Airline Pilot

You can become an airline pilot. Here is everything you need to know about becoming a commercial pilot starting with no previous experience.

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Step-by-Step Guide What are the steps required to become a commercial pilot?

  1. Step 1:

    Earn Private Pilot Certificate

    The first step in becoming a commercial pilot is to earn a Private Pilot certificate. Starting in a single-engine plane, this stage of training focuses on the fundamentals and sets the foundation for more advanced certificates and ratings.

  2. Step 2:

    Add Instrument Rating

    After becoming a private pilot, the next step is to earn an instrument rating which allows a pilot to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and in all kinds of weather.

  3. Step 3:

    Earn Commercial Pilot Certificate

    Next is earning a Commercial Pilot certificate. Pilots must meet specific experience requirements and fly to a higher standard in order to become commercial pilots, which ultimately allows them to legally be paid to fly.

  4. Step 4:

    Earn Flight Instructor Certificate

    Once the commercial pilot requirements are satisfied, obtain a Flight Instructor certificate. Becoming a certificated flight instructor (CFI) allows pilots to earn a living flying, while they earn the flight experience required by airlines.

  5. Step 5:

    Add Multi-Engine Rating

    To fly large passenger airliners, pilots must add multi-engine privileges to their pilot commercial certificate. Adding a multi-engine rating to the Commercial Pilot certificate is the final step before building experience to meet hiring minimums.

  6. Step 6:

    Gain Experience

    Flight instruct to gain the type of quality and relevant flight experience necessary to satisfy the requirements of the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which commercial pilots are required to hold and includes a minimum of 1,500 hours total flight time.

  7. Step 7:

    Commercial Pilot Job

    Upon meeting the requirements of the Airline Transport Pilot certificate, you are eligible to fly for an airline and will meet the hiring minimums of most regional commercial airline pilot jobs. ATP's Airline Career Pilot Program can take you from zero time to airline pilot job in about two years. View the training timeline »

    If your career goal is to get a job flying for American Airlines, learn about how to participate in the cadet program and become a pilot for American Airlines.

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Free Airline Pilot Career Guide (PDF)
Airline Pilot Career Guide PDF
Airline Pilot Career Guide (PDF) »

Download your complete guide on how to become a pilot. Learn more about requirements, pay, seniority, steps, and more.

Free Airline Pilot Career Guide (PDF)
Airline Pilot Career Guide PDF
Airline Pilot Career Guide (PDF)

Download your complete guide on how to become a pilot. Learn more about requirements, pay, seniority, steps, and more.

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AirlinePilot.life

AirlinePilot.life is an online community, where current airline pilots share their insight on the career and life as a professional pilot. They are here to help answer your questions as you embark on this exciting career!

How to Become a Pilot

View Basic Steps for How to Become a Pilot.

How to Become a Pilot »

How to Become an Airline Pilot ATP's Airline Career Pilot Program Explained

How to Become a Commercial Airline Pilot

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Join the Discussion at AirlinePilot.Life Get Real Answers from Real Pilots

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American Eagle Pilots on Talking in a Cockpit

Commercial Pilot Requirements Frequently asked questions about how to get a job as an airline pilot.

At a Glance Airline Pilot Career Requirements

Degree Varies by airline, generally not required
Degree Field Degrees can be in any field of study, not just aviation
Certification
  • Commercial pilot certificate with multi-engine airplane privileges and instrument rating
  • FCC radio license
Experience 1,500 flight hours, meeting requirements for the Airline Transport Pilot certificate
Age 21 years old

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Education Am I required to get an aviation degree or go to an aviation college to become a commercial pilot?

No, but many regional airlines prefer an associate’s degree or at least two years of college experience. Major airlines typically require a bachelor’s degree, but it can be in any field of study, not just aviation. Online degree programs are also an option for you to complete your bachelors degree while flying as a professional pilot. FAA pilot certificates obtained thru ATP’s flight training are accepted for transfer credit by many colleges with aviation degree programs.

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Vision Do I have to have perfect vision to be a commercial pilot?

No, as long as your vision can be corrected to 20/20 with glasses or contacts, you will be eligible for a 1st Class FAA Medical Certificate, which makes you eligible to fly as a civilian professional pilot. This is much less restrictive than military pilot vision requirements.

What if I’m Colorblind?

An FAA Medical can be obtained by some people with colorblindness. The restrictions will depend on the degree of colorblindness. The FAA has several mechanisms for making this determination. Consult an Aero Medical Examiner (AME) for more information. Some airlines have their own restrictions more stringent than the FAA’s.

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Background Check What are the background check requirements for a commercial pilot?

Some airlines perform FBI 10-year background checks, driving record checks, drug tests and credit checks as part of their standard pre-employment process. You cannot have any felonies on your record. DUI’s and misdemeanors are handled at the discretion of the airline, but a significant amount of time must have passed since those events to even be considered for airline pilot employment. Random drug tests are performed throughout employment.

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Credit Is it important to have good credit?

Yes, for a couple of reasons:

First, the cost of flight school is relatively expensive and most students will need to finance some, if not all, of the flight training cost. While it’s important that you have good credit for the loan, it’s equally important that you find a cosigner who has excellent credit. The cost of financing is directly related to your credit history. In order to keep loan rates as low as possible, it is very important to have a solid credit history. It is equally important to have a credit worthy cosigner on the application.

Second, the airlines will perform a credit check as a standard step in their background check process. An unblemished credit history will make the best impression with the airline.

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Age Am I too young/old to begin flight training to become a commercial airline pilot?

You can hold a commercial pilot certificate as young as 18 years old, but most airlines require applicants be at least 21 years old, which is a prerequisite for the Airline Transport Pilot certificate. As for being too old, it’s important to realize what your training investment will be and how long you can fly before reaching mandatory retirement at age 65. If you want to become a career pilot, look at how many years’ earnings you’ll have before retirement and ensure that it’s a worthwhile investment.

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Airline Pilot Seniority Airlines Operate on a Seniority-Based System

Airlines use a seniority-based system to determine what aircraft a pilot will fly, what routes and schedules pilots will be assigned, how much money a pilot will earn, and which crew base they will be awarded. The earlier a pilot is hired, the more seniority they will have, affecting their quality of life, career earnings, and upgrade from first officer to airline captain.

Related FAQs Pilot Career Guide

What are the eligibility requirements for becoming an airline pilot?
How do I become a pilot?
How do I become a pilot for United Airlines?
How do I become a pilot for American Airlines?
Do I need a college degree to be a pilot?
How long does it take to become a pilot?
How long does it take to become a commercial airline pilot?
What is airline seniority?
What is a regional airline pilot's salary?
How much does it cost to become a commercial pilot?
What pilot training programs are available?
What is a student pilot certificate?
What is a private pilot license?
What is a commercial pilot license?
How to become a certified flight instructor (CFI)?
How to earn your ATP certificate?
How much do airline pilots make?
What is the current airline pilot hiring outlook?
What are the effects of COVID-19 on the airline industry?
What are the eligibility requirements for becoming an airline pilot?

Summary of educational, medical, legal, certification and qualification requirements to become a commercial pilot and fly for major and regional airlines.

What are the eligibility requirements for becoming an airline pilot? »
How do I become a pilot?

You can become a pilot. Learn how to become a pilot and get your pilot license, including requirements, eligibility, how long it takes, and cost.

How do I become a pilot? »
How do I become a pilot for United Airlines®?

ATP Flight School is the nation’s leader in airline-oriented flight training and has partnered with United to provide ATP students the fastest path to a successful pilot career with United. Learn more about United AviateSM.

How do I become a pilot for United Airlines? »
How do I become a pilot for American Airlines?

Accelerated pilot cadet program, offering a proven path to a pilot career at American Airlines.

How do I become a pilot for American Airlines? »
Do I need a college degree to be a pilot?

The answer to this question is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. Learn more about what the college education requirements are to become an airline pilot.

Do I need a college degree to be a pilot? »
How long does it take to become a pilot?

It takes 3 months to become a private pilot. In about 2 years, you can become a commercial airline pilot. Learn how you can become a pilot with ATP Flight School.

How long does it take to become a pilot? »
How long does it take to become a commercial airline pilot?

Enroll in accelerated flight training with ATP and go from zero experience to a commercial airline pilot, with 1500 hours, in about 2 years. Learn how you can become an airline pilot with ATP Flight School.

How long does it take to become a commercial airline pilot? »
What is airline seniority?

Airlines operate on a seniority-based system. Learn what this means for your career and why getting to the airlines first is important.

Airline seniority explained »
What is a regional airline pilot's salary?

The shortage of pilots qualified to fly for the airlines is causing regional airlines to offer signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement, and other incentives. Learn more about how much you will earn as a pilot.

Compare First-Year Pay at Each Regional Airline »
How much does it cost to become a commercial pilot?

ATP provides up-front, fixed-cost pricing in a way that differentiates us from most other flight schools and academies. With over 30 years of experience, ATP designs our flight training programs with enough flight time for the vast majority of students to be successful.

How much does it cost to become a commercial pilot? »
What pilot training programs are available?

Complete list of aviation courses, flight training, and career pilot programs offered by ATP Flight School.

What pilot training programs are available? »
What is a student pilot certificate?

The student pilot certificate is a requirement in order to fly a powered aircraft by yourself, known as “soloing” in aviation.

What is a student pilot certificate? »
What is a private pilot license?

A Private Pilot License (PPL) is the first major milestone on the road to a career as a pilot. Learn about the private pilot license; including privileges, requirements, eligibilty, and how to earn your private pilot license.

What is a private pilot license? »
What is a commercial pilot license?

Learn all about a commercial pilot license, including privileges, requirements, eligibilty, and how to earn this pilot license.

What is a commercial pilot license? »
How to become a certified flight instructor (CFI)?

Learn all about earning your flight instructor certification, including privileges, requirements, eligibilty, and salary information.

How to become a certified flight instructor? »

Learn all about earning your flight instructor certification, including privileges, requirements, eligibilty, and salary information.

How to become a certified flight instructor? »
How to earn your ATP certificate?

An ATP certification will also open a wide array of pilot job opportunities with various corporate and private air carriers. Learn more about the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certification, such as, eligibility requirements and flight experience requirements.

How to Earn Your ATP Certificate? »
How much do airline pilots make?

Flying can be a very rewarding career, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Pilots undertake intensive training to develop a highly unique skill set. As a result, commercial pilots are paid well.

What is a commercial pilot’s salary? »
What is the current airline pilot hiring outlook?

Commercial airline pilot job career information; airline pilot hiring, pilot salary, retirement numbers, military pilot population reduction and the overall upcoming pilot shortage discussion.

What is the current airline pilot hiring outlook? »
What are the effects of COVID-19 on the airline industry?

Long-term pilot career outlook in response to COVID-19, including long term hiring trends, projections, retirements, and the effects of postponing flight training.

What are the effects of COVID-19 on the airline industry? »