United Express Embraer

Commercial Pilot License

A commercial pilot certificate, or license, is a type of pilot certificate that allows someone to operate an aircraft for compensation.

Learn How to Become an Airline Pilot »


A certificated commercial pilot may act as pilot-in-command of an aircraft for compensation or hire, as well as carry persons or property for compensation or hire. To put another way, holding a commercial pilot license means you are legally allowed to get paid as a pilot.

What Certificate Do I Need To Be An Airline Pilot?

To fly as an airline pilot, you must have an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which is the highest pilot certificate the FAA issues. However, all pilots must first start by earning their private pilot certificate and then their commercial pilot certificate, before they can attain an ATP certificate.


In order to be eligible for an FAA commercial pilot certificate, a person must be at least 18 years of age; and be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.

Reference 14 CFR §61.123 for the entire list of eligibility requirements.


To earn a commercial pilot license, a pilot must:

  • Hold a private pilot certificate.
  • Receive the following logbook endorsements from an instructor:
    • Logbook endorsement to take the aeronautical knowledge test.
    • Logbook endorsement to take the practical test.
  • Pass the following tests:
    • Commercial pilot knowledge test (often referred to as a 'written' and abbreviated CAX).
    • Commercial pilot practical test (also known as a 'checkride').

Reference 14 CFR §61.123 for a complete listing of all requirements.

Aeronautical Experience

According to federal regulations, you must meet the following aeronautical flight experience requirements to earn a commercial certificate.

Commercial Pilot Flight Time Requirements
Total Flight Time 250 Hours
Pilot-In-Command (PIC) 100 Hours
Cross-Country PIC 50 Hours
Instrument Training 10 Hours
Technically Advanced Airplane (TAA) 10 Hours

Reference 14 CFR §61.129 for more details on flight time requirements.

How Long To Become A Commercial Pilot?

It takes just over six months to become a commercial pilot and earn your license at ATP Flight School, starting with zero experience. Steps to become an airline pilot »

Medical Requirements

In order to exercise the privileges of a commercial pilot license, you must hold either a second- or first-class medical certificate, which can be obtained through an aeromedical examiner (AME).

Medical certificates are renewed periodically, per the table below. After the duration of a medical certificate has elapsed, it does not expire. Instead, a pilot may continue to exercise the privileges of the next less restrictive medical certificate. E.g. If you are under 40, with a second-class medical, you may fly as a commercial pilot for the first 12 months and then may fly as a private pilot for the remaining 48 months.

FAA Medical Certificate Durations
Privileges Under the Age of 40 Age 40 and Over
First-Class Airline Transport Pilot 12 Months 6 Months
Second-Class Commercial Pilot 12 Months 12 Months
Third-Class Private Pilot 60 Months 24 Months

Health Requirements for Commercial Pilots

Commercial pilots are subject to certain health standards, such as vision, hearing, equilibrium, mental, neurologic, and cardiovascular requirements. For a complete list of the health requirements for obtaining a second-class medical and flying as a commercial pilot reference CFR 14 §67 Subpart C. Learn about airline pilot eligibility requirements »

Medical Certificate Requirement for Admissions

A prerequisite of the Airline Career Pilot Program is that students must possess an FAA first-class medical certificate prior to starting training. Even though you only need a second-class medical for your commercial pilot certificate, you will need a first-class medical to fly as an airline pilot and exercise the privileges of an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. For this reason, we ask students obtain the more restrictive medical before making the financial commitment towards becoming an airline pilot.