Have you been dreaming of becoming an airline pilot? The high paying salary, amazing travel benefits, and job satisfaction pilots enjoy can seem very appealing. But before you take off on this career path, it’s important to understand the costs involved in getting your wings.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Becoming an airline pilot can cost between $80,000 to over $100,000 for flight training and required certifications. This doesn’t include tuition for a bachelor’s degree, which is often required by major airlines.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll outline everything you need to know about the expenses and requirements to become an airline pilot. You’ll learn about flight training costs, college and living expenses, medical requirements, and additional certifications needed.

We’ll also provide tips to save money along your journey to the cockpit.

Flight Training Expenses

Embarking on a career as an airline pilot requires a significant investment of time, effort, and money. Becoming a pilot involves completing flight training, accumulating flight hours, and obtaining necessary certifications.

Let’s take a closer look at the expenses associated with each of these steps.

Cost of Flight School

Attending a reputable flight school is the first step towards becoming an airline pilot. The cost of flight school can vary depending on factors such as location, type of program, and aircraft used for training. On average, flight school tuition can range anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.

It’s important to note that this cost usually includes ground school instruction, flight lessons, and necessary materials.

While the cost of flight school may seem daunting, it’s essential to consider the long-term return on investment. A career as an airline pilot can offer a highly rewarding and financially lucrative future.

Building Flight Hours

After completing flight school, aspiring pilots need to accumulate a certain number of flight hours to be eligible for an airline pilot position. Building flight hours can be done through various means, including working as a flight instructor, conducting charter flights, or even volunteering for non-profit organizations.

However, building flight hours can be a costly endeavor. The expenses involved in acquiring flight hours include aircraft rental fees, fuel costs, landing fees, and maintenance expenses. On average, pilots can expect to spend around $200 to $300 per flight hour.

As the number of flight hours required for airline pilot positions can range from 1,000 to 1,500 hours, the total cost can reach several hundred thousand dollars.

Instructor Certificates

Many pilots choose to obtain instructor certificates to gain additional experience and income while building their flight hours. Becoming a flight instructor requires undergoing additional training and passing examinations.

The cost of obtaining instructor certificates can vary, but it typically ranges from $5,000 to $10,000.

While the expenses associated with flight training can be substantial, it’s important to remember that investing in one’s education and career development can lead to exciting opportunities in the aviation industry.

Many airlines offer competitive salaries and benefits to their pilots, making the investment well worth it in the long run.

College Tuition and Living Costs

Embarking on a career as an airline pilot requires a significant investment in education and training. One of the major costs prospective pilots need to consider is college tuition. Many airlines prefer or require their pilots to have a bachelor’s degree, which can add to the overall expenses of becoming a pilot.

Bachelor’s degree tuition

The cost of a bachelor’s degree can vary greatly depending on the institution and location. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2020-2021 academic year was $10,560 for in-state public colleges and $37,650 for private colleges.

However, it’s important to note that these figures are just averages and can be significantly higher or lower depending on various factors.

👍 Pro Tip: Scholarships and financial aid can help alleviate the burden of college tuition. Many aviation-related scholarships are available specifically for aspiring pilots, so it’s worth exploring these options to offset the costs.

Housing, food, and supplies

In addition to college tuition, aspiring pilots also need to consider the costs of housing, food, and supplies while pursuing their education. These expenses can vary depending on factors such as location and personal lifestyle choices.

🎉 Fun Fact: Some flight schools offer housing options on or near campus, which can provide convenience and potentially save on transportation costs.

Living expenses can vary greatly depending on the location of the college or flight school. For example, living costs in major cities tend to be higher compared to smaller towns or rural areas. It’s important to factor in these costs when planning for the overall expenses of becoming an airline pilot.

👏 Expert Advice: It is recommended to create a budget and plan for living expenses to ensure financial stability during the training period. This can include setting aside funds for rent, groceries, transportation, and other essential items.

It’s crucial for aspiring pilots to carefully consider the financial aspects of their journey towards becoming an airline pilot. While the costs associated with college tuition and living expenses can be significant, the investment can lead to a rewarding career in aviation.

Medical Certifications

When it comes to becoming an airline pilot, obtaining the necessary medical certifications is a crucial step in the process. These certifications ensure that pilots are physically and mentally fit to operate an aircraft and maintain the safety of their passengers and crew.

FAA Medical Certificate

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires all pilots, including airline pilots, to hold a valid FAA medical certificate. This certificate is issued after a thorough medical examination by an FAA-approved aviation medical examiner (AME).

The examination assesses various aspects of the pilot’s health, including vision, hearing, cardiovascular fitness, mental health, and drug/alcohol dependence.

There are three classes of FAA medical certificates: first class, second class, and third class. First-class medical certificates are required for airline pilots and are the most stringent, while second-class medical certificates are typically held by commercial pilots, and third-class certificates are for private pilots.

The class of medical certificate required depends on the type of flying the pilot will be performing.

It’s important to note that certain medical conditions, such as certain heart conditions, epilepsy, and certain psychiatric disorders, may disqualify an individual from obtaining a medical certificate.

However, the FAA does provide a process for pilots to apply for a special issuance medical certificate if they have a disqualifying condition that can be adequately controlled.

Medical Flight Tests

In addition to the FAA medical certificate, airline pilots are also required to undergo medical flight tests. These tests assess a pilot’s ability to perform specific tasks and handle emergency situations in a simulated flight environment.

During these tests, pilots may be evaluated on their ability to operate aircraft systems, navigate, communicate with air traffic control, and handle various emergency scenarios. These tests ensure that pilots are not only physically fit but also possess the necessary skills and knowledge to handle the demands of flying an aircraft in challenging situations.

For more information on FAA medical certifications and requirements, you can visit the FAA’s Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) Locator or consult with an aviation medical examiner.

Additional Certifications and Training

When aspiring to become an airline pilot, there are several additional certifications and training programs that one may need to complete beyond the basic requirements. These certifications and training programs help to enhance a pilot’s skills, knowledge, and marketability in the aviation industry.

Private Pilot License

The first step in the journey to becoming an airline pilot is obtaining a Private Pilot License (PPL). This license allows individuals to fly for recreational purposes and is the foundation upon which all other certifications are built.

The cost of obtaining a PPL can vary depending on factors such as location, flight school, and the number of flight hours required. On average, the cost of obtaining a PPL can range from $8,000 to $12,000.

Commercial Pilot License

After obtaining a PPL, aspiring airline pilots must then obtain a Commercial Pilot License (CPL). This license allows individuals to fly for compensation or hire. The cost of obtaining a CPL can also vary, ranging from $30,000 to $50,000.

This cost includes the necessary flight hours, ground training, and examination fees.

Multi-engine Rating

In addition to a CPL, many airlines require pilots to have a Multi-engine Rating. This rating allows pilots to fly aircraft with multiple engines, which is common in commercial aviation. The cost of obtaining a Multi-engine Rating can range from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the flight school and training program.

Instrument Rating

An Instrument Rating is another important certification for airline pilots. This rating allows pilots to fly in low visibility conditions and rely on instrument panel readings rather than visual cues. The cost of obtaining an Instrument Rating can range from $8,000 to $15,000.

Type Ratings

Once all the aforementioned certifications are obtained, pilots may need to obtain type ratings for specific aircraft models they will be flying. Type ratings are specific to each aircraft type and are required by airlines to ensure pilots are trained and qualified to operate their fleet.

The cost of obtaining a type rating can be significant and can range from $20,000 to $40,000.

It’s important to note that the costs mentioned above are approximate figures and can vary depending on various factors. Additionally, these costs do not include other expenses such as medical examinations, written examinations, and ongoing recurrent training required by airlines.

For more detailed and up-to-date information on the costs of becoming an airline pilot, it is advisable to consult reputable aviation websites such as FAA.gov or AOPA.org.

Tips to Save Money

Embarking on the journey to become an airline pilot is an exciting and rewarding endeavor. However, it is no secret that the cost of flight training can be quite substantial. To help aspiring pilots manage these expenses, here are some valuable tips to save money along the way:

Apply for scholarships and grants

One of the best ways to offset the cost of becoming an airline pilot is by applying for scholarships and grants. Many organizations, both within the aviation industry and outside of it, offer financial assistance to aspiring pilots.

These scholarships and grants can help cover a significant portion, if not all, of your training expenses. Make sure to do thorough research and apply to as many relevant opportunities as possible. Websites such as AOPA provide a comprehensive list of available scholarships.

Consider cadet programs

Cadet programs are another fantastic option for aspiring pilots looking to save money. These programs are typically offered by major airlines, and they provide a structured pathway from flight training to working as a first officer for the airline.

In addition to receiving financial assistance, cadet programs often offer job guarantees upon completion of training. This can significantly reduce the financial burden and increase job security. Research the cadet programs offered by various airlines and determine which one aligns best with your goals and aspirations.

Work during training

While pursuing flight training, consider working part-time or taking on odd jobs to supplement your income. This can help cover some of the expenses associated with your training, such as fuel costs or aircraft rental fees.

Additionally, some flight schools offer work-study programs or internships, which allow students to gain valuable experience while earning money. It may require extra effort and time management skills, but the financial benefits can be substantial.

Compare flight schools

When choosing a flight school, it is essential to compare the costs and offerings of different institutions. While cost should not be the sole determining factor, it is crucial to find a school that provides excellent training at a competitive price.

Look for flight schools that offer transparent pricing, flexible payment options, and have a good reputation in the aviation community. Websites like Pilot Career News provide comprehensive reviews and comparisons of flight schools.

Enroll in an aviation degree program

Consider enrolling in an aviation degree program offered by a university or college. These programs often combine flight training with academic coursework, allowing you to earn a degree while pursuing your pilot training.

Many aviation degree programs offer financial aid options, scholarships, and partnerships with flight schools, which can help reduce the overall cost. Additionally, having a degree can provide you with a competitive edge when applying for airline jobs in the future.

By implementing these money-saving tips, aspiring pilots can make their dreams of becoming an airline pilot more affordable. Remember, it is essential to do thorough research and explore all available options to find the best financial solutions for your specific situation.


Becoming an airline pilot takes dedication, perseverance, and a substantial financial investment. But for those passionate about flying, the rewards of this career can make it all worthwhile. From student pilot to airline captain, each new rating and milestone along your journey brings you closer to an exciting career in the skies.

By understanding the costs involved and taking advantage of money-saving tips, you can smartly work your way through flight training. With the right preparation and budgeting, you can avoid training debt and takeoff smoothly towards your dream job as an airline pilot.

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