Learn to become an American pilot following these steps.

Becoming a Pilot in America


Becoming a pilot seems to be a dream held by many youngsters. The problem is, the idea of becoming a pilot and soaring through the skies across the world appears to get put in the same basket as impossible dreams, like a pop singer or world-famous ballerina.

Yet, this shouldn’t be the case, as becoming a pilot is actually a very achievable dream for any child growing up. They just need the support of a parent, who will help their child soar through the clouds with some essential educational choices as they grow up. Or, perhaps you’re thinking of training as a pilot now, and you’d like advice on the steps you need to take.

Well, lucky for you, our guide to becoming a pilot here in America will take you through every decision and detail you’ll need to achieve before gaining your pilot license.

Choosing the Type of Pilot You Would Like to Be

Knowing you’d like to be a pilot might seem like a big decision, but you have another choice ahead of you – just what kind of pilot would you like to be? As, by choosing early on, you’ll be able to train at the best school for that type of pilot.

Commercial Pilot

Commercial pilots are those that have a license to take passengers on smaller aircraft such as a taxi or cargo charter. Although, a commercial pilot could also be booked to fly a plane being used for charitable or humanitarian trips, rescue operations or for providing aerial photographs or video.

It’s important to note, that if you have your heart set on flying a private jet, you should obtain your commercial license as a first step to this dream.

Salary expectations: Annual salary up to approximately $77,000.

Private Pilot

If your dream is to fly some of the richest and most powerful people across the globe, all on luxurious private jets, then you should look to receive a private license. One of the major plus points of a private license is that you can have the flexibility to visit far more airports across the world, which you might never visit as an airline pilot. Your earnings will be limited though, as you cannot receive payment for anything other than your time in the air flying.

Generally, a private license is extremely popular for men and women who wish to fly their own private plane. As this cuts costs of employing a pilot as well as providing the excitement of flying your own plane.

Just remember, you’ll most likely need a commercial license as well as a private pilot license to fly a private plane.

Salary expectations: Dependent on the work undertook.

Airline Pilot

For most, airline pilots are the dream job, as it is these pilots that get to fly those amazing and enormous airplanes across the world. Of course, because you’ll be flying a very large plane with a lot of passengers, you can expect this pilot’s license to be the most intensive to receive. However, it is more than worth the effort.

Salary expectations: Up to approximately $127,000 annually.

Multi-Crew Pilot

While the multi-crew license isn’t exactly the most exciting way to fly a plane, as here you’ll only be able to fly a plane with a co-pilot under specific conditions. Don’t disregard this training though, as this is a wonderful first step towards gaining a more fulfilling pilot’s license.

Salary expectation: Low earnings due to the basic nature.

Types of Certificates and Licenses Available in Pilot Training


Gaining the pilot certificates and licenses below should be viewed as ticking the boxes required for obtaining the pilot job you’ve always dreamed of. So, once you’ve decided on the pilot career you’d like, it’s time to work towards the license required for that career.

Student Pilot Certificate

Before you start training for any license, you’re going to need a Student Pilot Certificate. So, no matter what career you crave, you must gain this certificate first, as it will be needed for you to fly solo in a plane.

Gaining this certificate can be quite simple, with applicants (who must be over 16) needing to pass certain requirements. Firstly, you will need to be able to communicate and read in English to a high level (this will be to Federal Aviation Regulations). You will also need to pass a medical exam, which will look at a number of areas including: sight, hearing, mental health, fitness, heart health, lung health, urine test and blood tests. The doctor will also take your medical history into account.

Lastly, before you can achieve you student certificate, you need a letter of recommendation from a flight instructor.

Private Pilot License

After receiving your student certificate, the next fundamental step in your career as a pilot is to look to obtain a private pilot license. As you’ve already obtained you student certificate, it’s known that you can speak and write English to a high standard, however, this time you will need to be at least 17 before applying.

With a private license you can show that you know how to perform elementary flying, so you can now take small planes into the air for your own use. Just remember, when flying with other people on board, you cannot make your passengers pay for this flight.

This is generally the license level that those people who own a private jet will seek to obtain, as this means you can fly that jet yourself.

Commercial Pilot License

While a private license won’t allow passengers to pay for your flying, you can achieve this when you gain your commercial license. This is more involved that those licenses mentioned above, which will include lessons on how to fly in high altitude. You’ll also need to learn about the safety of your passengers and what to do in an emergency.

This license will not allow you to pilot a plane for an airline, though. For this you will need further training. Like the student certificate and private license, though, you need a great command of English and be in good health. You will need to be 18 or over in this case.

Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)

For most, this airline license is the ultimate goal and is essential for those looking to work for an American airline. Because an airline license is more involved, there are more stringent requirements before you can even apply for training.

Firstly, you’re going to need to be 23 years or older before you can apply. You’ll also need in excess of 1,500 hours flying in the sky. Like other licenses, you’ll need to be in good health, however, the health checks here will be far more intense. After all, you’ll be flying planes with a large number of passengers.

To get your ATPL certificate, there are two main approaches. Firstly, with full-time study, your teaching will take around a year to 18 months to complete depending on the flight school or university you choose. You can also choose a less intensive method – known as modular training – where you can choose to learn in your own time, ideal for those needing to work to fund their studies.

Multi-Crew License

Although less popular than other licenses, the multi-crew variety still holds a lot of merit for those looking for a career in the skies. To apply for yours, you will need to be 18 or older, have 250 air hours under your belt and a hefty 750 hours studying in aviation.

How to Find a Flight School for Your Training


When choosing a flight school, it is essential that you pick an FFA-approved school. As, you can learn in a non-credited school as much as you like, but you will be unable to fly here in America without qualifications from a credited school. You can find a list of FAA-approved schools online.

While studying at a flight school, you will gain experience in both flying as well as being taught lots of theoretical knowledge. This study will help equip you with everything you need to know to pass your exams for the FAA and usually occurs in a classroom or through online learning.

When it comes to flight training, you will either learn in a simulator or approved plane.

Applying for a school will mean you need to complete a number of tests and showcase a number of attributes, as these flight degrees are very popular and the schools will only want to accept the best in applicants. What you will be tested on will depend on the university or college you apply to; however, you can expect to be tested on how well you work in a team, your plane knowledge, simulation tests and exams on math and spatial awareness. There is likely to be an intensive interview to test your mental strength and how well you cope under pressure.

How Much Does Training to Be a Pilot Cost?

As well as years of intensive training, it’s important to realize that this studying can also be very expensive. Indeed, you can expect to pay from $15,000 to $125,000 to gain your chosen license. Plus, you will also need to pay to complete the required hours in the sky that is needing to get a job in the industry – for instance, an airline pilot needs at least 1,500 hours in the sky.

This can seem a lot of money – because it is! Just remember, the money and the hard work will be worth the employment and prestige you receive at the end. Plus, with airline pilots receiving enviable salaries, you’ll soon pay off your student debt.

If you are considering a career in the skies, here at Air Charter Service we have an aviation scholarship that seeks to help the best individuals have the career they deserve.

Applying for a Job in the Plane Industry

Once you’re training is complete, you might just be a little shocked at how easy it is to apply for a job in the industry. Indeed, especially with airlines, these companies are happy to snap up eager and talented pilots. Here it’s best to start out small, applying for short-haul, regional flights is key. That way you can gain experience and work your way up to becoming a prestigious international pilot.

Other Careers in the Flight Industry

Not everyone who trains to be a pilot wants to head off to be an airline pilot. In some cases, you may wish to become a teacher instead, putting your knowledge back into a new era of pilots. Indeed, many pilots who have worked as a commercial or airline pilot for a number of years will choose to become a flight instructor as a less intensive career.

Becoming a flight instructor is also popular amongst students, as this is a simple way to increase your air hours. Plus, once you’ve completed training to be an instructor, you can use this as a way to earn money while studying and increasing your hours. It will also look good on job applications.

Instructor courses that increase flight hours include:

  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)
  • Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII)
  • Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI)

To start one of these courses you will need to be 18 or over and have either a commercial or airline license.

Whether you’ve always dreamed of being a pilot or this is a relatively new goal, life as a pilot is an incredibly rewarding career. The training might be intensive, but it will be worth every bit of blood, sweat and tears.