Airline Pilot


Airline pilots fly passengers and cargo to destinations around the world.​.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • applying directly
  • a trainee scheme
  • specialist courses run by private training organisations



You could do a university degree in air transport or aviation, which includes commercial pilot training with an approved flight training organisation.

To start a course, you’ll need:

  • A levels or equivalent qualifications
  • a minimum of a Class 2 medical certificate
  • to be over 18

You’ll need to apply for the higher level Class 1 medical certificate during your course to get your Commercial Pilot’s Licence. If you wish, you can apply for the Class 1 certificate before your course starts.

University courses lead to a ‘frozen’ Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). This allows you to apply to airlines to work as a co-pilot and build up the necessary flying hours to become an airline captain.

As well as standard university fees, you will need to fund the flight training part of your course. Universities can advise you about this.

Entry Requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree


Direct Application: you may be able to apply directly to the Civil Aviation Authority’s Military Accreditation Scheme to become a commercial pilot, if you have flying experience in the armed forces.


You’ll need the following skills:

  • leadership skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • knowledge of maths
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to operate and control equipment
  • observation and recording skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently


You’ll need to:

  • be over 21 years of age
  • hold a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
  • pass the Civil Aviation Authority  medical before you can take a course – the medical includes tests on your fitness, hearing and vision
  • pass enhanced background checks

You will usually be one of two or more pilots who take turns fly or communicate with air traffic control and complete paperwork.

On a typical day you will:

  • work out the best route using weather reports and information from air traffic control
  • create a flight plan including details of fuel needed and the height you’ll need to fly
  • carry out pre-flight checks of instruments, engines, fuel and safety systems
  • brief the cabin crew
  • take instructions from air traffic control
  • follow procedures during take off and landing to cut down noise pollution
  • check data during the flight and adjust the route where necessary
  • tell passengers and crew about journey progress
  • write reports about in-flight issues

The following salaries are a guide only:

  • Starter: £35,000
  • Experienced: £110,000


Working Conditions

  • You will be expected to work unsocial hours.
  • You could work on an aircraft.

  • Your working environment may be cramped, physically demanding and you may spend nights away from home.

  • You may need to wear a uniform.

Additional Information

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