3 Paths To Becoming A Pilot

Are you dreaming of a career as a pilot? Whether your goal is to become an airline transport pilot, commercial pilot, or recreational pilot, there are three main paths that can take you from the ground to the sky: military training, aviation training, and college. Here's a closer look at each in more detail.

Military Training

Joining the military is one way to become a pilot. The Air Force Academy and other branches of the military offer flight training programs for aspiring pilots. The advantage of this route is that it's free and provides access to some of the best aircraft available, along with highly experienced instructors. However, it's important to keep in mind that if you join the military for flight training, you will be required to serve a full term of service. The Air Force states, "pilots incur a 10-year service commitment ... [after] they complete training." If that is too long of a commitment for you, there are other options for aviation training.

Aviation Training

The second option is a pilot school or professional flight school. This route may be more convenient for you, depending on your experience level and goals. Aviation schools offer comprehensive courses for student pilots and those wanting additional ratings, such as multi-engine or instrument flying. The advantage of this route is that there is no commitment beyond the cost of the flight hours. However, some states may require additional certification after completing aviation training before allowing you to fly commercially in their airspace.


A third option for aspiring pilots is a college or university education with an emphasis on aeronautics or aviation technology courses. These courses provide students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills to become pilots. Some colleges combine classroom work with flight hours at nearby airports to give students the necessary aviation training.

Taking college prep courses in high school, particularly advanced math and physics, is helpful to your future college success. While earning a college degree is not a requirement for flying, most major commercial airlines prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor's degree. Experts state, "having a degree will give you greater options" for your future plans. However, it should be noted that a degree in aeronautics is not a requirement. Most airlines will accept any bachelor's degree.

No matter which path you take, you can make your dream of becoming a pilot a reality. With the right aviation training, you can soar higher than you ever thought possible.

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