How to Become a Pilot?

Are you thinking of becoming a Pilot or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Pilot, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Pilot job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Pilot

If you're considering starting your Pilot career path, it's important to note the skills, qualifications, and time it takes to become a professional Pilot and how to advance your career path. Below are the steps generally required to begin and advance your Pilot career.

Earn a Degree

To begin your Pilot career path, a Bachelor's Degree in aviation or a related field is usually necessary in order to remain a competitive option for employers. Focus on industry-specific skill development during your education in order to be properly equipped when applying for entry-level positions and entering the job force. A Pilot internship may be required to earn your Bachelor's Degree and acquire necessary on-the-job skills before entering the workforce.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Pilot?

51% of people working as a Pilot earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Pilot?

  • Part 121
  • Master of towing
  • Part 91
  • English
  • IFR
  • Aircraft Systems
  • Security Clearance
  • Security Plan
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Pilot in the United States.

Choose a Specialty in Your Field

As an Pilot, you may be required to choose a specialty within your field. Determine which part of the Pilot field you feel strongest in, and continue taking active steps toward growing in your chosen Pilot specialty.

Get an Entry-Level Position as a Pilot

Once you've acquired a Bachelor's Degree in aviation or a related field, you'll typically begin your career as an entry-level Pilot. In general, you can become a Pilot after completing your 4 year Bachelor's Degree in a related discipline. Depending on the type of Pilot role you’re pursuing, you may want to explore certification in certified aviation manager certification.

Advance in Your Pilot Career

Following entry-level, there are several Pilot career path levels to advance into. It can take 2 years as an entry-level Pilot to progress to the senior pilot position. Each advanced Pilot position requires approximately 2 years of experience at each level to advance in your Pilot career path. It may be necessary to receive additional education, an advanced degree such as a Master's Degree in a related field, or special certifications in order to advance your Pilot career path.

Continued Education for Your Pilot Career Path

Not all industries and companies require continued education to advance your Pilot career path. However, earning this degree may help you advance to higher-earning positions more quickly. Earning a Graduate Degree in aviation can take 4 years to complete. People that have earned their Graduate Degree typically make $128,479 compared to $73,474 for those without that type of degree.

Pilot Career Path


2 - 4Years of Experience
$81K - $129K /yrMost Likely Range
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Senior Pilot

2 - 4Years of Experience
$147K - $251K /yrMost Likely Range
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Pilot IV

5 - 7Years of Experience
$113K - $180K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Pilot Career Path

Senior Pilot
Pilot IV
Pilot V
Director of Aviation
Senior Director of Aviation
Executive Pilot
Chief Pilot
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Related Careers in the Transportation Industry

Interested in other Transportation careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Pilot skills. Discover some of the most common Pilot career transitions, along with skills overlap.

0% skills overlap
28% transitioned to Captain