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
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.
You'll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
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.
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).
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.
Airlines will expect you to have a GCSE or equivalent in English as it is the international language of flying.
You might also find it useful to be able to speak another language if you want to work for an overseas airline. There's lots of competition so it might help you stand out from others.
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).