How to Become a Commercial Pilot in 2023

Are you dreaming of soaring through the skies as a commercial pilot? Many people assume that commercial pilots only work for major airlines, but the truth is, commercial pilots can have a wide range of exciting career paths. Whether you aspire to be a cargo pilot, a tour pilot, or a flight instructor, the aerospace industry offers numerous benefits, opportunities, and challenges.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through all the steps and requirements to help you achieve your goal of becoming a commercial pilot.

Step 1: Know the Requirements

Before embarking on your journey to become a commercial pilot, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Here are the key prerequisites:

  • Age: You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Private Pilot Certificate: Obtain at least one private pilot certificate by passing a written knowledge test and a practical test.
  • Flight Experience: Accumulate a minimum of 250 hours of flight time.
  • Verbal Communication Skills: Possess effective verbal communication skills.
  • Excellent Vision: Maintain excellent vision to ensure the utmost safety.

If your goal is to work for commercial airlines, additional requirements come into play:

  • Age: Be at least 23 years old.
  • Flight Experience: Accumulate at least 1,500 hours of flight experience.
  • Airline Transport Pilot License: Obtain a licensed Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification.
  • Additional Requirements: Individual airlines may impose additional requirements, such as education qualifications and additional flight experience.

Step 2: Obtain Required Certificates

To make the most of your commercial pilot privileges, obtaining a 2nd Class Medical certificate is highly recommended. This certificate ensures that you are physically fit to fly and can be obtained through an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). The process usually takes around 12 months to complete.

Step 3: Take the FAA Exam

To become a licensed commercial pilot, you must successfully pass the FAA practical test administered by a registered official. The exam assesses your operational skills and knowledge, covering areas such as navigation, safety, and regulations. Once you pass this exam, you will receive the “Greenlight” to start gaining practical experience.

Step 4: Gain Flying Experience

Earning a commercial pilot license requires fulfilling specific aeronautical flight experience requirements under CFR Part 61. Here’s a breakdown of the necessary flight time:

  • 250 hours of flight time: Accumulate a total of 250 hours of flight time.
  • 100 hours of Pilot-In-Command (PIC): Gain experience as the Pilot-In-Command for 100 hours.
  • 50 hours of Cross-Country PIC: Complete at least 50 hours of cross-country flight time as the Pilot-In-Command.
  • 10 hours of Instrument Training: Acquire 10 hours of instrument training.
  • 10 hours of Technically Advanced Airplane (TAA): Gain expertise through 10 hours of training in a Technically Advanced Airplane.

Commercial pilot training differs from private pilot training in terms of rigor and duration. You will participate in more intensive training sessions, including flying cross-country during both day and nighttime conditions. You will also master takeoffs and landings in various weather conditions, providing a valuable opportunity to learn new maneuvers and enhance your skills.

Step 5: Sign up for the Check Ride

Once you have completed all the necessary training and fulfilled the requirements, it’s time to schedule a check ride—think of it as your “Road test.” During the check ride, an examiner will evaluate your actions and determine the type of commercial pilot you will become. Maintain precision and stick to your flight routine to demonstrate your competence and readiness.

Responsibilities of a Commercial Pilot

As a commercial pilot, you will shoulder significant responsibilities, including:

  • Flying an aircraft safely and efficiently.
  • Maintaining effective communication with air traffic controllers to ensure smooth operations.
  • Operating and controlling the aircraft during flights.
  • Executing emergency procedures if the need arises.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for commercial pilots is expected to grow by 8% from 2023 to 2030. The average salary for commercial pilots at $99,640 as of 2023.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Like any other occupation, being a commercial pilot has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some benefits and drawbacks to consider:


  • Numerous perks: Enjoy various perks and benefits in the aviation industry.
  • Free travel around the world: Explore different destinations while working.
  • Flexible working hours: Experience a flexible schedule that provides opportunities for work-life balance.
  • Competitive pay: Receive competitive compensation for your piloting services.
  • Free food and accommodation (if applicable): Access to complimentary meals and accommodation during flights.


  • Expensive training programs: The cost of pilot training can be significant.
  • Limited time at home: Frequent traveling may result in limited time spent with family and friends.
  • Limited job opportunities for those with less work experience: Entry-level positions may be competitive for aspiring commercial pilots with less experience.
  • Maintain good health: The requirement to maintain good health and fit-for-duty conditions throughout your career.


Becoming a commercial pilot is a fulfilling and challenging journey that requires dedication, training, and getting a deep understanding of the aviation industry’s requirements.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can embark on a path towards a rewarding career as a commercial pilot. Remember to weigh the pros and cons and consider your personal goals and aspirations before committing to this exciting profession.

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