When someone is wondering how hard is it to become a commercial pilot, what they’re really asking is how hard is it to get a commercial pilot license.

A commercial pilot license allows the holder to take on paid flying roles, including banner towing, air tours, and aerial work.

In this article, we’ll assume that someone who is interested in becoming a commercial pilot is starting from zero – i.e. holds no pilot license or even taken any flying lessons before.

We’ll touch on what it takes to become an airline pilot too, but we go in more depth in our article how hard is it to become an airline pilot.

The Path to Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Becoming a commercial pilot requires passing written knowledge and practical tests, and logging the minimum flight hours required for each license.

There is also a prerequisite of holding a certain license before you are able to be eligible for the next one up the chain.

Anyone who dreams of flying recreationally, commercially or for an airline must first obtain a Student Pilot License.

This isn’t hard to achieve at all.

You just have to apply and pass an FAA medical exam to be issued with a third-class medical certificate, and be allowed to fly solo.

This is required so you can log the necessary flight hours to obtain a Private Pilot License (PPL).

To qualify for a private pilot license, you must log 35-40 hours of flight time, depending on whether you enroll in a Part 61 or Part 141 flight school, with the latter requiring fewer flight hours.

The required flight hours include a minimum of 20 hours of flight training, 10 hours of solo flight, of which 5 need to be cross-country, and a solo flight that covers 150 nautical miles.

A written knowledge and practical test must also be passed. Many students enroll in an online private pilot ground school to obtain the necessary knowledge.

With a private pilot license in your hands, your next step is to add an Instrument Rating (IR). This is necessary to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), which lift certain restrictions. You can expect to spend a minimum of 40 hours to earn this rating, which consists of either simulated flight or flying in actual IFR conditions.

Your final step is to obtain a Commercial Pilot License (CPL).

It can be quite the step-up from a PPL, requiring 190-250 flight hours, depending on whether you enroll in a Part 61 or Part 141 school. Again, the Part 141 school requires fewer hours.

You will need to log 10 hours of solo flight time or 10 hours of flight time performing the duties of pilot in command. This includes one solo cross-country flight that covers 300 nautical miles

As before, a written knowledge and practical test must be passed. These cover more advanced topics, more precise maneuvers when it comes to the control of the aircraft, and there is less room for error.

Inevitably, passing the practical test will be the hardest aspect of becoming a commercial pilot, but with good training, putting the time in, and with hard work, it isn’t beyond anyone reading this article.

You must also take another FAA medical exam to be issued with a second-class medical certificate, which is what a CPL falls under.

Vision requirements for a commercial pilot license get a bit stricter, and there are a couple of further requirements for older pilots too. But if you had no problems getting a third-class medical certificate, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

In the case of progressing from a commercial pilot to commercial airline pilot, a first-class medical certificate, a minimum of 1,500 flight hours (to obtain an airline transport pilot license), and the most challenging written and practical test that you will take on your journey so far are all required.

Taking on a flight instructor job role is a very popular way to accrue the necessary hours to qualify for an airline transport pilot license and be eligible to work as an airline pilot. You will also be paid in the process.

Do you need a college degree to become a commercial pilot?

You do not need a college degree to become a commercial pilot. However, to work as an airline pilot, many regional airlines require at least an associate’s degree, and major airlines require a bachelor’s degree. A degree can be in any field, not just aviation related.

What is the hardest aspect of becoming a commercial pilot?

Learning to fly a plane isn’t actually that challenging. It is putting the time and hard work in to obtain all the necessary knowledge and skill, so everything becomes second nature that is.

On your journey to becoming a commercial pilot, the written and practical tests will progressively get harder, with less room for error, and more precise control of the aircraft.

How long does it take to become a commercial pilot?

Obtaining your commercial pilot license and becoming a commercial pilot can take as little as 9 months, if you are able to put your full focus and time towards it.

More realistically, expect it to take 12-18 months.

How much does it cost to become a commercial pilot?

Figuring out how to pay for flight school might actually be the hardest part of becoming a commercial pilot for many.

You can expect to pay approximately $40,000 if you’re starting from zero to commercial pilot license.

Fortunately, there are flight school loans available that can help pay for the cost of training.

Once you obtain a CPL, is it hard to find a job as a commercial pilot?

It’s said that getting the first job is the hardest – and this sentiment applies to pilots too.

The issue many pilots face is one of experience, which is why becoming a flight instructor is a road that newly acquired commercial pilot license holders often go down. Obtaining the necessary certification to become a flight instructor takes a minimum of 25 hours.

This is such a popular thing to do because pilots can build up the experience required for other jobs, keep their skills and knowledge sharp, and get paid in the process.

To increase your chances of getting a job, flight schools usually offer good networking opportunities, which can go a long way in securing your first job more quickly too.

John Myers - Flight Instructor

John is a Certified Flight Instructor who teaches students of all ages how to fly and takes enormous pride and satisfaction seeing his students become licensed pilots.