This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Pilots require a great deal of training. So, the answer to, ‘how long does it take to get a pilot’s license’ depends on the kind of pilot you want to become.

Getting a student pilot’s license takes only around three weeks. However, meeting the criteria for flying multi-engine, private, or commercial planes can take significantly longer. Your flying priorities and objectives will determine the amount of time that you will spend in training.

If you want to work for a commercial airline and fly passenger planes, you will have to practice and train according to the requirements of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). This kind of practice and training can take a minimum period of two years.

Through our years of experience as well as some comprehensive research, we have come up with some essential details about the time that it takes to get a license – details that will prove immensely beneficial to any aspiring pilot.

Table of contents


Time Required To Obtain A Pilot’s License:

In the table below, we have detailed the approximate amount of time that it will require to obtain each type of FAA-approved pilot’s license:

Common Program Certificates Approved by the FAA:

For those considering an aviation career, below are some common pilot certification types:

Student Pilot Certificate:

The training period is around three weeks. This certificate will allow you to take the next required steps to begin your career as a pilot.

Private Pilot (PPL):

The training for this course usually lasts from six months to a year, requiring at least 40 flying hours. If you want to become a commercial pilot, you will first need to attain the Private Pilot certification. During this training, you will learn how to maneuver an aircraft with a single engine, without any assistance from co-pilots. The Private Pilot certification is not considered a professional certification.

Commercial Pilot (CPL):

Even though it is possible to speed up the training process and conclude it in around 12 weeks, it is likely that the extra training requirements for the CPL certification will take around six to ten months to complete, along with 250 mandatory flying hours. Once you obtain a Commercial Pilot certificate, you are permitted to fly professionally.

However, at this point, you will still not be eligible to fly any large passenger aircrafts for major airlines. A CPL certificate allows you to work as a teacher of skydiving, banner towing, and crop dusting. In addition, you can provide flight instructions, conduct flying tours, or work in several in-ground flying-related positions.

Certified Flight Instructor (CFI):

The CFI certificate is not a mandatory one, it will only be required for those rates or instruct any student pilots during their certification processes. A lot of people decide to go for this certification, as it allows them to generate an income as an instructor while completing the mandatory flying hours.

Airline Transport Pilot (ATP):

The training period for ATP is not fixed, even though certain flying schools offer programs with a length as short as eight to nine months. Alongside schooling, ATP candidates will also be required to record 1,500 flying hours, even though this requirement can be lowered for candidates possessing a BS degree in aviation, or for candidates who are military pilots. If you want to join an airline as a pilot, the ATP certification is mandatory.

Multi-Engine Rating (ME):

The ME rating is a supplementary one, and will only require a mere few weeks. If you want to work for an airline as the pilot-in-command, you will need to obtain this certification.

Alongside flight hours and schooling, you will also need to put some time aside to register and pass the exams, as well as to meet some of the other requirements.

What Are the FAA Requirements?

In order to obtain the above certifications, pilots will need to fulfill the requirements set out by the FAA. Through the FAA, the USDT (United States Department of Transportation) tracks and monitors every flight in the country, as well as those in any neighboring international skies. According to the FAA, potential pilots need to fulfill the following eligibility requirements:


  • There is no age limit or requirement for operating an airplane under the guidance of a certified instructor.
  •  In order to solo-operate a plane, the pilot must be at least 16 years of age.
  •  In order to obtain a private pilot certification, the pilot must be at least 17 years of age.
  •  In order to operate, a pilot must be at least 18 years of age.
  •  In order to obtain an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) certification, the pilot must be at least 23 years of age.

Medical Certificate:

Depending on the specific certificates that you want to obtain, there are three medical certificate classes which you can get. Every one of these certifications will document that you possess passable health pertinent to:

  •  Hearing
  •  Vision
  •  Mental health
  •  Equilibrium
  •  Neurological functioning
  •  Cardiovascular functioning

First-Class Medical Certificate:

The highest medical certificate class, this also comes with the most stringent standards, and will last either 12 or six months, depending on the age of the applicant. If you want an ATP certification in order to obtain a pilot-in-command title, or are serving as a commercial pilot aged 60 or above, you will require this certification. This designation has very strict requirements, which include undergoing and passing an EKG (Electrocardiogram) as evidence of normal cardiovascular functioning.

Second-Class Medical Certificate:

If you are operating as a commercial pilot, you will need to get this certificate every year. Even though it is not as stringent as its first-class counterpart, passing this test requires you to have excellent vision.

Third-Class Medical Certificate:

This medical certificate class is a requirement for private pilots, and lasts around two to five years, depending upon the age of the applicant. The third-class certificate still assesses hearing, vision, mental health, equilibrium, cardiovascular, and neurological functioning, but has lower standards than the above two classes.

Proficiency in the English Language:

Communication plays a crucial role in safe and smooth air travel. For this reason, all applicants must be able to effectively communicate with all flight personnel, through both verbal and written English. For any pilot looking to operate an aircraft in the US and across the world, English proficiency is mandatory.

Completion of Testing And Obtaining of Endorsements:

Every pilot is required to complete practical testing and airman knowledge – the precise requirements vary according to the type of license. Professional pilots can obtain a number of titles – each having its own set of requirements – with the highest rank being ‘captain’.

Obtaining Instrument and/or Vision Rating:

Every aircraft operates under either the VFA (Visual Flight Rules) or IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). With an instrument rating, a pilot can operate an airplane in any weather condition, including rain, clouds, and any other conditions that impair visibility. The instrument rating takes around 45-50 hours, with 20 of those hours being dedicated to in-craft training.

Although an instrument rating is not required for private or student pilot license, it will be mandatory for a career pilot. With an instrument rating, you will be able to operate aircrafts in Class A airspace – that is, airspace with a height of more than 18,000 feet above sea level.

Reasons to Become an Airline Pilot:

Excellent pay:

An airline pilot makes good money, and that is no secret. As an airline pilot, you can expect a starting salary of around $40,000-60,000, and an average annual salary of more than $90,000. What’s more, an experienced pilot working for a major airline can make more than $200,000 annually.

Health benefits:

Unsurprisingly, airlines offer comprehensive health benefits to their pilots. Along with the general health benefits, these plans also cover vision and dental health.

With a steep and consistent increase in insurance and healthcare expenses, this is becoming a highly precious benefit which is available only to a few professionals. This plan can prove even more essential for pilots who either have a family or are planning to have one in the near future.

Paid vacations:

Alongside health benefits, another major advantage enjoyed by airline pilots is that of generous vacation plans.

Even new pilots can enjoy paid vacations spanning several weeks, while the more seasoned employees obtain considerably more than that. Naturally, pilots are immensely important for any airline, and these healthy vacation plans are just the airlines’ way of ensuring that their most prized assets enjoy the work-life balance that they so richly deserve.

The opportunity to meet people:

Being an airline pilot means that you will have plenty of chances to meet plenty of new people. For instance, you will interact with your colleagues, which will give you the chance to form strong bonds and turn them into lifelong relationships.

Besides, you will be able to interact with people between your flights and at airports. Since pilots are tremendously respected around the world, everyone jumps at the opportunity to meet one, which can enable you to make a lot of great friends all over the globe.


As a pilot, your job is to provide an essential service to so many people from around the world – not to mention that you are responsible for the safety of a number of lives.

Owing to your dedication, these people can travel for work, to meet their loved ones, to enjoy vacations, and for hundreds of other reasons. This means that, every single day that you wake up and show up at work, you are creating a positive impact in thousands of lives.