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What Are Some Great Paths to Becoming a Career Pilot?

What Are Some Great Paths to Becoming a Career Pilot?


You may be a foreigner to aviation and you want to be a pilot someday but just aren't sure where to start. Or you may be a student pilot already but just aren't sure where to go next with this passion deep inside of you. If you are one of these hopefully by the end of this you will have a better understanding of where you want to go.



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The most obvious way to become a commercial pilot is to pay for your training out of pocket, which can become extremely expensive. According to Fly8Ma, it would cost $28,000 to $90,000 if you paid for everything from private pilot to commercial, and up to $95,000 to become a certified flight instructor (CFI). So there must be a better way to afford it right?


The University of North Dakota owns its own fleet of training aircraft. Photo: Jack Jarzynka | AeroXplorer


 Southwest Airlines offers a cadet program called Destination 225 which is meant to get you from no experience to flying in the right seat of a Boeing 737 in four to five years. The course goes in phases one and two. Phase one consists of approximately 165 hours of classroom work and 258 hours of flying, both real and simulator. This phase takes you from a single-engine land (SEL) to a multi-engine land rated pilot with an instrument rating, then receiving a commercial pilot certificate.

Phase two consists of approximately 100 hours of classroom training and 20 hours of flying. This phase is intended to train you on being a certified flight instructor (CFI) and certified flight instrument instructor (CFII). You can learn more about Destination 225 by visiting their website.



What if you want to become a commercial pilot and receive a bachelor's degree at the same time? Colleges are a fantastic way to receive your certifications to become a pilot. A number of universities have an aviation program that is designed to train you from no experience (though some experience does help) to commercial and flight instructor ratings. Just like any college, you can apply for scholarships through various organizations. These schools enable you to obtain a bachelor's degree in aeronautics while training to become a commercial pilot. Most schools will hire you as a flight instructor once you receive the necessary qualifications so you can build hours while finishing your degree. Some schools to look at are Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Louisiana Tech University, Southern Utah University, and Purdue University. All of these are fantastic schools to bring you to a new level of aviation.



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Perhaps you want a military flying career, specifically in the United States Airforce for example. There are numerous paths in the military to become a pilot from the United States Airforce Academy (USAFA) to the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), both of which can offer a chance at becoming a pilot. In order to fly fighter jets, bombers, or whatever you desire to fly in the military you will need to be a commissioned officer. In order to be a commissioned officer you need a bachelor's degree of some sort. You can then be selected as a pilot training candidate where the military will pay for your flight training, both college and flight training should take around six years to complete. 


The military is always looking to hire more pilots, especially with the current pilot shortage. Photo: Adam Jackson | AeroXplorer


The U.S. Air Force requires a minimum contract of ten years to become a pilot. The good news is that after your military pilot career you may choose to fly for an airline on the civilian side of aviation. Most airlines hire a number of former military pilots, as the training you receive while in service is like no other.


This article is not an in-depth informative tool by any means. This is to give individuals a baseline understanding of a few paths to becoming a pilot. Others not mentioned such as ATP, Blueline, and the various other colleges are also phenomenal paths to becoming a pilot. Hopefully, the information in this article gave you a better understanding of what paths may or may not suit you as an individual.



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Brantsen Gill
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