How to become an airline pilot
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- applying directly
- a trainee scheme
- specialist courses run by private training organisations
You could do a university degree in air transport or aviation, which includes commercial pilot training with an approved flight training organisation.
To start a course, you'll need:
- A levels or equivalent qualifications
- a minimum of a Class 2 medical certificate
- to be over 18
You'll need to apply for the higher level Class 1 medical certificate during your course to get your Commercial Pilot's Licence. If you wish, you can apply for the Class 1 certificate before your course starts.
University courses lead to a 'frozen' Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). This allows you to apply to airlines to work as a co-pilot and build up the necessary flying hours to become an airline captain.
As well as standard university fees, you will need to fund the flight training part of your course. Universities can advise you about this.
You'll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
You may be able to apply directly to the Civil Aviation Authority's Military Accreditation Scheme to become a commercial pilot, if you have flying experience in the armed forces.
You can apply for a place on a pilot training programme with a passenger airline.
You can also train with a private flying school to get your Commercial Pilot's Licence. Courses can take at least 18 months of full-time study. Part-time or modular courses will take longer. The Civil Aviation Authority has details of flight training schools.
The Honourable Company of Air Pilots has a test for people with little or no flying experience. Pilot training is expensive and this could help you decide whether you're suited to this career before you spend money on training.
English is the international language of flying, so airlines will expect you to have a good GCSE pass, or equivalent, in the subject. Skills in another language can also give you an advantage, for example if you want to work for an overseas airline. It may also help you to stand out from other applicants, as competition for jobs is strong.
You can find out more about training to become a pilot through Flying Start.
You can find out more about current employment prospects for pilots from the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA).