How to Become A Commercial Pilot

Commercial Pilot TrainingBecoming a commercial pilot can be an exciting and fulfilling career for those with the right skills and a love of travelling. This short guide will give you an idea of what steps you’ll need to take in order to become a commercial pilot, the skills you’ll need to have, and what pilot training entails.

Glossary for Pilot Training

ATPLThe Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) is the highest level of aircraft pilot licence, required to command aircraft over 5,700 kg or with over 9 passenger seats

Ground School – Training organisation where you will learn and study for the theory part of your ATPL

Flight Training – Flight school where you will carry out your practical flying

EASAEuropean Aviation Safety Agency – Responsible for aviation safety, certification, and regulation within Europe

UK CAA – United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority – governs commercial/civil aviation within the UK

School Subjects

Pilots need to use maths and science (especially physics) in their everyday work when at the controls of an aircraft. A good understanding of these subjects will help when training to become a pilot. If you haven’t studied these subjects for a while, you can take a short maths and physics course through Bristol Groundschool.


Research into a Career as a Commercial Pilot

Before committing to becoming a pilot, research what will be involved with the job and if it will suit you. Pilots often have to work away from home during layovers and work long hours, which can put a strain on family life and other non-work commitments.


Go for a Trial Lesson

You might have flown on a passenger plane already but flying in a light aircraft can feel completely different! It will give you the chance to control a plane for the first time and get a feel of what you’ll be doing as a pilot.


Get a Class 1 Medical Certificate

Before becoming a pilot, you’ll need to pass a Class 1 Medical assessment. This is performed by an Aeromedical Examiner (AME) and will include an eyesight test, a physical examination, electrocardiogram (ECG), lung function test, haemoglobin blood test, urine test and details about your own personal (and family) medical history.


Decide your Training Route

In order to become a commercial pilot, you’ll need to pass 13 theory exams and have passed your Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) and instrument rating (IR) practical training. There are two training routes you can consider, integrated or modular. You will also need to decide whether to study for an EASA or UK CAA licence.


The integrated route allows students to do all their training on a full-time basis with one organisation, usually, this will take around 18 months. This, however, comes with drawbacks including having to live in, or near, the training organisation and have no time for other commitments like work. Integrated studying is also a considerably more expensive way to train than those who choose a modular route into commercial aviation.


The modular route offers the same industry-leading standards as the integrated route, and in addition, gives students the flexibility to complete the training in stages studying full or part-time, at a pace to suit you.  The modular training path can be completed in less than a year or can be stretched out over several years, giving you complete flexibility, if you have work, family, or other commitments.  

Whilst the practical flying portion of your licence needs to be done at a flight school, the theory can be studied 100% online with a distance learning course. Modular training allows you the flexibility to gain your ATPL in your own time whilst spreading the cost out.

Financing your Commercial Pilot Training

Flight training can cost anywhere from £50,000 to £100,000+ from start to finish. It’s important that you consider how you will fund your training as it is a significant investment for many people. There are bursaries and scholarships available to help with the cost of training such as the ones listed here.


Research Aviation Training Organisations

Research into each of the training organisations that you’re interested in to get a better understanding of what you’ll be learning, the training materials they use to teach, and what current or past students have to say about their time there.


Commercial Pilot Career Progression

Once you’ve passed all your theory exams and completed your CPL and IR practical training you are then free to apply for your first commercial job, this could be flying for an airline.

You will start out as a First Officer (FO) and will fly in the right-hand seat of the cockpit with the Captain. As you gain more experience, skill, and seniority you may be able to move up to become a Senior First Officer or Captain.


Ready to take your next step in becoming a commercial pilot?

 Bristol Groundschool is a world leader in modular tuition for fixed-wing and helicopter pilots, offering UK CAA & EASA approved courses. Our extensive and innovative suite of learning materials contains all the knowledge you need for success, allowing you to learn at your own pace and track your progress with ease.

With the option for online-only tuition, you can choose to fit your studies around existing commitments too – no matter where you are in the world.

We turn today’s students into tomorrow’s pilots. And we can do the same for you.

Find out more about our modular ATPL and CPL training courses by clicking the buttons below.

ATPL (A)    ATPL (H)/IR    CPL (A)    CPL (H)


Download our Free Ebook: The Essential ATPL Student Guide to Studying and Passing your Exams

Starting your ATPL theory soon?

Check out our new ebook on how to study and pass your ATPL exams. Discover what you’ll need to know about ATPL theory including:

  • What each ATPL exam includes
  • What to expect from each ATPL subject
  • Choosing the right ground school for you
  • How to study your ATPL theory
  • Note-taking techniques
  • Tips leading up to exam day