Interested in flying for a living? Richard Taylor from our Communications team explains what is involved

First, the good news

According to the Boeing market forecast 2014-2033 there will be a global demand for over half a million new airline pilots over the next two decades, to keep pace with the fleet growth of international airlines and the retirement of their current flight crew. Boeing believes that 94,000 of these vacancies will be in Europe alone.

What to expect

Becoming an airline pilot requires a lot of hard work, and quite a lot of money. Even then, there is no guarantee that a newly qualified pilot will walk straight into the cockpit of a major carrier, competition for positions with the top airlines is fierce. If you nevertheless remain undaunted, then it is probably time to begin your research!

Getting started

Before you start even thinking about your training, bear in mind that you will need to obtain and hold a Class 1 Medical Certificate to fly professionally. To find out if that may be a problem for you, look at the guidance on our medical pages. More generally, if you are not quite sure whether you are really cut out for a career in the cockpit, despite your burning ambition, and would like some impartial advice, you can actually sit an aptitude test run by an organisation called the Honourable Company of Air Pilots - there is a charge for this test, however.


The next thing you probably need to think about is how you plan to finance your training. Obtaining an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) can cost over £100,000 and take the best part of two years. That is a big commitment. Some UK airlines now offer financed training for a set number of lucky candidates. This effectively provides the trainee with a loan to cover the cost of training which can be repaid later through the company's payroll once the newly qualified pilot begins working.

If you are self-financing, however, most training schools have schemes in place to help you secure the funding on set terms and conditions. This is a major investment so do as much research on your chosen flying school before signing up. Do they have a payment protection programme in place, for example, in case they cease trading before you complete your training? Get as much advice as you can, and understand fully what you are committing to.


Assuming you have no flying experience at all, you will probably opt for an 'integrated' course which is known in the industry as ab initio, or, from the beginning. This is a full time course of flying and ground training run by an Approved Training Organisation (otherwise known as a flying school!).

Another option, popular with those who already have some flying experience, or are unable to immediately give up their existing jobs, is a 'modular' course. This allows students to stagger training by completing individual modules of training over a period of time. This has the advantage of allowing the trainee to remain in paid employment, but does, of course, take longer to complete than an integrated course.

The CAA publishes a full list of all approved flying schools and the type of training they provide.

Either way, you will soon find yourself in a torrent of flight training (a light aircraft only at this stage!), simulator exercises, and class-based study. You will eventually clear the first major hurdle by acquiring the essential multi-engine 'rating' and if all goes well, the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) will follow. This allows you to fly for financial reward, so even if you stopped now, although you would not be able to fly airliners, you could fly business jets or even start training student pilots!

If you do press on and pass yet more flight and ground exams, you will finally be the proud holder of an ATPL, and can therefore start applying for airline jobs. At this stage the licence will be 'frozen' however, meaning that you still have to build up flying hours (1,500 in total) before you are fully qualified. Building up these hours with an airline is known as 'line training'. If you have not already got one, you will also need a 'type rating' which will allow you to fly a specific aircraft type, such as a Boeing B737 or an Airbus A320. Although some airlines will pay for this training, you may have to consider paying for it yourself.

There are two other training options, not already discussed. One is the Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) which some, although not all, UK airlines have adopted. MPL training is generally shorter and less onerous. However, MPL graduates are effectively restricted to the right-hand seat in the cockpit to fly only as First Officers. To become a Captain, the MPL holder would still need to acquire an ATPL.

The second option is to enrol on an apprenticeship course. This new route allows students to study at one of a number of universities, and in a similar way to the integrated course, features class based work and flight training. An apprenticeship has the added bonus of providing the student with access to loans and grants.

A career as an airline pilot can be very rewarding, financially and in terms of job satisfaction. But, it is vital that anyone contemplating a career on the flight deck does some serious homework before taking the first step.

Good luck!

Richard Taylor is part of our Communications team


hamza ul haq 3 years ago / Reply

hi my name is hamza i just want to now that do i need gcse and A LEVEL to become a pilot and also what degree do we have to do to in uni.THANKS

Richard Taylor (CAA) 3 years ago

Hi Hamza, you can find some useful information on what qualifications you may need, along with other useful tips at

John Angelo Alberto 3 years ago / Reply

Hi! Good day! I'm always dreaming of becoming a pilot under the AESA system. Can you suggest some airlineflight school where i can start my first step of becoming a pilot in UK?

Richard Taylor (CAA) 3 years ago

Hi John, we publish a full list of all approved flying schools and the type of training they provide.

George 3 years ago / Reply

Can you please send me information on apprenticeship for Pilot training and scholarships that are available.Kind Regards George Slowey

Richard Taylor 3 years ago

Hi George, you can find out more from this guide to the Professional Pilot Higher Apprenticeship.

Joshua Vincent Murdoch 3 years ago / Reply

I am 11 years old and wish to know the educational path I have to follow to attain my dream.Regards,Joshie Murdoch

Vitalis Tinashe Jogo 3 years ago / Reply

Thank you so much for informing us future pilots

Shiraz Saeed 3 years ago / Reply

What are the educational requirements?I am studying Accounting, Economics and Business Studies for my ALevels? Does that work?Thanks!

Richard Taylor 3 years ago

Hi, you can find some useful information on what qualifications you may need, along with other useful tips at

wilson muriithi 4 years ago / Reply

Good advise,with clear understanding.

Sergey 4 years ago / Reply

Hello, I am 32 years old with solid IT background ( no experience in aviation ) , I wish to change my career and focus on becoming a pilot. Do you think its too late ? What would be the cheapest way to obtain a certificate in this field ?Many thanksSergey

Hersukh bhudia 4 years ago / Reply

Hi there i found your blog very interesting i was wondering how i go about getting funded by an airline ti get pilot training

Richard Taylor 4 years ago

Very few airlines actually pay for your training, but some do provide grants and loans to cover the cost of your training which you then pay back through salary deductions. These places can be very competitive however. A good source of information is

Jody wainwright 4 years ago / Reply

Hi I am wanting to train to become a pilot . I'm 36 years old and have run my own construction business for 14 years . I am wanting a career change as I'm sick of the way subcontractors get paid by big company's . I am prepared ( with the support of my family ) to sell the family home to help fund the training question is am I too old ?Regards Jody wainwright

Molly Smith 4 years ago / Reply

Hi, I am just currently starting year 10 at school and have been interested in planes and flying for years now. I am interested in becoming a pilot but am wondering what qualifications will I need to get on any courses E.g. GCSE's, A Levels ect...

Richard Taylor 4 years ago

Hi Molly, you can find some useful information on what qualifications you may need, along with other useful tips at

David Lunt 4 years ago / Reply

I would like to thank you, as it was just what I needed, I am very interested in finding out more about becoming a Airline pilot. The more information the better idea l will have, of Training. For commercial Pilot. Thanks.

Francheska 4 years ago / Reply

Hi there. I was thinking of training for a PPL. Do I really need that in order to gain a CPL and then an ATPL? Would you also need a degree to be a commercial pilot? I'm currently studying Aviation. Many thanks,Francheska.

Richard Taylor 4 years ago

Hi Francheska, You do not need a PPL in order to obtain an ATPL. You can undertake what is known as ab initio training, which assumes you have no flying experience. If you do already have a PPL then you will, of course, be able to skip some parts of your ATPL training. You don't need a degree to obtain a commercial pilot’s licence, however, individual airlines will have their own entry requirements in terms of academic qualifications.

Morgan restrick 4 years ago / Reply

This website is helpful and can help me get into flying school when I have left school thank you very much.

Michael Berry 4 years ago / Reply

My son is interested in becoming a commercial pilot and I am not sure how to advise him I was intersted to read about the apprenteship route, please could you let me know more?

Richard Taylor 4 years ago

You can find out more from this guide to the Professional Pilot Higher Apprenticeship.

Toufic hatoum 4 years ago / Reply

Hello I am Lebanese , my name Toufic Hatoum I 'm 19 years old and I love my dream to become a pilot , commander What are the conditions to become a captain , and I'm learning in the professionalism of the electricity sector and what is the cost of making it and thank you

Amirul 4 years ago / Reply

Hello. Im from Malaysia and if get an ATPL Frozen license here, can i work for commercial ailines in UK?

Richard Taylor 4 years ago

Yes, but if you are based permanently in Europe you will have to convert your Malaysian ATPL to an EASA ATPL licence.

Richard Taylor 4 years ago / Reply

For more information on how to become a commercial pilot, check out some of the links below: provides some useful background information on how to become an airline pilot
this organisation can conduct an assessment of your suitability to be an airline pilot, although there is a charge for this
and is a good source of news and information.

This blog is now closed for comments