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In 2019, there were 120,000 job openings for pilots, and this career field is expected to grow at a rate of 5% over the next few years.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, you might be wondering what the steps are to becoming a pilot.

There are a few different routes to take depending on what type of pilot you want to be, but we’ll help break it all down for you!

1. Try a Discovery Flight

Before you start working toward becoming a pilot, make sure that you take a test flight first.

Before you start this journey, find someone who is willing to take you up into a plane and give you some insight into what it’s really like to sit in the front of a plane and fly.

If you already have some experience, they may even let you try and fly the plane yourself if you feel comfortable doing so.

Feel free to ask your instructor as many questions as you want. Normally, they’re happy to answer, and you can gain valuable insight that will help you decide if it’s the career for you or not.

A discovery flight will last about a half-hour to an hour, and afterward, if you want to, you can sign up for more lessons.

2. Think About Going to College

After your discovery flight, you should start thinking about whether or not this is the career you want to pursue. If you decide to, you’ll need to start narrowing down exactly what type of pilot you want to be one day.

Do you want to fly commercial airliners? If so, you’ll have to start looking at colleges since most of them require you to have a bachelor’s degree. However, other smaller airlines only need you to hold a two-year associate’s degree.

If you decide to just get your associate’s, you’ll have limited options of jobs to choose from in the future if you want to switch your career. So if you have the time and money for it, getting a four-year aviation degree would be a better route for you.

There are plenty of different degrees you can choose from, but you want to make sure that you have a well-rounded education. Make sure you take all kinds of different classes to make sure that you can handle stressful situations. This will look appealing to potential employers.

3. Apply for Pilot or Flight School

If you don’t want to go to college, you could try joining an aviation program instead. You’ll have to apply for it like you would for college. However, it’s a great way for students to work closely with their instructors and decide which sector they want to start working in.

Before you start applying for schools, make sure that you check out how much it costs.

4. Apply for a Certificate

After you’ve graduated from either an aviation academy or a four-year college, then you’ll start applying for certificates.

Depending on what type of pilot you want to be, you’ll need some basic certificates in order to be able to even apply for the jobs.

Public Pilot

One of the first ones that you’ll need for any job is a first-class medical certificate. You’ll get this from the Aeromedical Examiner. This certificate basically states that you meet all the medical requirements in order to fly professionally.

Next, you’ll have to apply for a student pilot certificate. This one comes from the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application. Your flight instructor will normally be able to help you get this one. While you don’t need it to fly with an instructor, it will let you fly on your own.

Private Pilot

Those are the two main certificates you’ll need to fly publicly, but if you want to become a private pilot, you’ll also have to get some more certificates.

In order to become a private pilot, you’ll have to pass some exams, do some ground training with instructors, log hours for flying, and then pass a practical flying test. During the flying test, you’ll have to take an oral exam as well as one in a plane where you can demonstrate that you know how to do certain maneuvers.

5. Pass Your Tests

In addition to oral and physical tests, you’ll have to pass some written tests as well.

For example, to become a private pilot, you’ll have to take an FAA private pilot knowledge test. However, to even qualify for this test, your instructor will have to endorse you and say you’re ready to take it.

After that, you’ll then have to take an exam with a Designated Pilot Examiner.

6. Get Flight Hours

Just like getting your driver’s license, you’ll also need some hours logged in the pilot seat.

Before you can qualify for an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, for example, you’ll need at least 1,500 hours of flying time.

This might seem like a lot, but there are plenty of ways to get these hours. Many of the pilots become certified instructors, and then they spend a few years teaching other students. This way they still accumulate all of their hours.

7. Join the Military

Lastly, another route that many people decide to take is by joining the military.

If you can’t afford to pay for your flight education, the military will do it for you. In return, you’ll have to serve the country in the military for a few years.

However, after you’ve retired from the military, you have all the flight time you need to become a commercial airline pilot.

Learn More About Becoming a Pilot

These are only a few steps to becoming a pilot, but it will take longer than you think.

We know that following your dreams and pursuing a career in aviation isn’t easy, but thankfully, you don’t have to do it on your own. We’re here to help!

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