Learning to fly in the Piper Archer

How to Become a Pilot

You can become a pilot. ATP has helped thousands of men and women just like you become professional pilots. Below are the steps for how to become a pilot and earn a private pilot certificate.

Here are the steps you take to become a pilot:

  1. Step 1:

    Research Pilot Schools

    The first step to become a private or commercial pilot is to research your flight training options. Learn and compare available programs offered by flight schools, and pick the best match for your aviation goals.

    Request Program Information »

  2. Step 2:

    Take an Introductory Training Flight Lesson

    Taking an introductory training flight lesson will help you see first-hand the training, aircraft, and quality of instruction a flight school will offer you. It is also a great way to get a better sense of what it's like to fly from behind the controls.

    Get Started with a Free Online Lesson »

  3. Step 3:

    Apply for FAA Medical Certificate

    Pilots must meet basic medical requirements to fly. If you want to fly professionally, you must meet higher medical standards than recreational pilots and should apply for a first class medical certificate through an Aeromedical Examiner (AME).

  4. Step 4:

    Apply for FAA Student Pilot Certificate

    Apply for a student pilot certificate through the FAA's Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website (your flight instructor can help with this). While you don't need a student pilot certificate to start flying lessons, you will need it to fly solo during your training.

  5. Step 5:

    Start Flight Training Lessons

    Start taking flight training lessons and begin working towards obtaining the aeronautical knowledge and pilot training experience requirements needed to become a private pilot.

  6. Step 6:

    Pass Private Pilot Knowledge Test

    During your private pilot flight training, you will need to take and pass the computer-based FAA private pilot knowledge test. To be eligible for the test, you must receive an endorsement from your flight instructor.

  7. Step 7:

    Pass Private Pilot Practical Exam

    The final step in earning your FAA private pilot certificate is to take a practical exam with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). This exam consists of both an oral and a flight portion, and once completed you will be a private pilot.

You Can Become a Pilot — Here's Your Next Step

Get started today and gain access to following free resources:

  • Discover Financing Options
  • Intro Training Flight Online Lesson
  • Online Self-Study Modules
  • Information Pack by Mail

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How Long Does it Take to Become a Pilot?

Outlined here is how long it will take you to become a pilot in the fast track, accelerated Airline Career Pilot Program. For additional information, view How long does it take to become a pilot? and the Airline Career Pilot Program training timeline.

Starting from Zero Time Starting with Credit for Private
Private Pilot 3 Months
Commercial Pilot 4 Months 4 Months
Certified Flight Instructor 2 Months 2 Months
Total Duration 9 Months 6 Months

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How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?

Learn more on how much pilot training costs and what you can expect to pay for flight school.

How Much Does Pilot Training Cost »

What are the Requirements to Become a Pilot?

Below is an outline of the FAA's pilot eligibility requirements and what is required to become a pilot. See also the Airline Career Pilot Program admission requirements.

Private Pilot Commercial Pilot Airline Transport Pilot
Language Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
Age 17 18 21
Total Flight Time 40 Hours 250 Hours 1,500 Hours
(How do I get 1500 hours of flight time?)
Tests & Exams Knowledge Test & Practical Exam Knowledge Test & Practical Exam ATP CTP, Knowledge Test, & Practical Exam

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

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American Eagle Pilots on Talking in a Cockpit

Pilot Training at ATP Flight School Learn what it's like as a student pilot, training at ATP Flight School

Life as an ATP Flight School Student
Pilot Training at ATP Flight School

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Related FAQs Airline Career Pilot Program

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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 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? »
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? »
How much does pilot training cost?

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 pilot training cost? »
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 commercial pilot certificate?

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

What is a commercial pilot certificate? »