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Airline pilot

Alternative titles for this job include Aircraft pilot, co-pilot, first officer, captain

Airline pilots fly passengers and cargo to destinations around the world.

Average salary (a year)

£47,000 Starter


£150,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

Variable a week

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays on shifts

How to become

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

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 if you're 18 or over. 

Your university degree will:

  • include commercial pilot training with an approved flight training organisation
  • lead to a 'frozen' Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) which allows you to work as a co-pilot and build up the necessary flying hours to become a captain

Medical certificates

You'll need to have a minimum of a Class 2 medical certificate before you start a course.

You'll then need to apply for the higher level Class 1 medical certificate during your course to get your Commercial Pilot Licence. You could choose to apply for the Class 1 medical certificate before you start your course.

Fees and funding

As well as standard university fees, you'll need to fund the flight training part of your course. Your university can advise you about this. 

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

More Information

Direct Application

You could 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.

Other Routes

You could apply to join a pilot training programme with a passenger airline.

Private flying school

You could also train with a private flying school to get your Commercial Pilot Licence. Courses can take at least a year and 6 months of full time study. 

You can find details about flight training schools from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

More Information

Career tips

If you do not have much or any flying experience, you can do a test with The Honourable Company of Air Pilots. Pilot training is expensive and this could help you decide whether you're suited to being a pilot.

Pilot salaries can vary widely, depending on the size of the airline, your rank, how long you've flown for, and company bonus schemes and allowances.

Further information

You can find out more about training to become a pilot through Flying Start.

You can learn about the current job opportunities for pilots from the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA).

What it takes

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • leadership skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • knowledge of maths
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to operate and control equipment
  • observation and recording skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

Restrictions and Requirements

You'll need to:

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

As an airline pilot, you'll work with a co-pilot to:

  • fly the plane and communicate with air traffic control
  • work out the best route using weather reports and air traffic control data
  • create a flight plan and carry out pre-flight checks
  • communicate with cabin crew and passengers
  • follow procedures during take-off and landing to reduce noise pollution
  • write reports, check data during the flight and adjust the route if necessary

Working environment

You could work on an aircraft.

Your working environment may be cramped, physically demanding and you may spend nights away from home.

You may need to wear a uniform.

Career path and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

Career path and progression

You'll start by training as a co-pilot. When you’ve completed at least 1,500 flying hours, you can apply for an 'unfrozen' or full Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) and qualify as an airline captain. This will usually take 3 to 5 years after you get your full ATPL.

With experience, you could become a flight training instructor or an operations manager.

Current opportunities

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Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

We can't find any apprenticeship vacancies in England for an airline pilot right now.

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Courses In England

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Jobs In the United Kingdom

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