How to Become a Pilot - AeroGuard Flight Training Center

How to Become a Pilot

Being a pilot opens up a world of possibilities, and the process it takes to get there is extremely rewarding. From travel privileges and incredible office views to lucrative job opportunities, there are a multitude of benefits that come with a commercial airline pilot career.

However, most people aren’t sure how to become a pilot, or what a typical career path looks like for those with a dream of flying for a living. The reality is that pilots are in high demand and the path to becoming one is relatively straightforward. From finding a flight school for your initial training, to becoming an international pilot, these steps are listed below.

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1. Find the Right Type of Flight School for You

Where you do your flight training is a determinant in your success in becoming a pilot, and should be considered the same way as selecting where one might go to college. Different individuals will value flight schools in different ways based on personal preference, for example staying close to home or re-locating to the best facilities and weather conditions. Other factors will be less subjective, like safety records and aircraft maintenance.

In addition, there are different types of flight schools with different flight training programs that are designed to help individuals become a pilot in different ways. From Accelerated Flight Schools, like AeroGuard, to Pay-As-You-Go set ups, and training as part of a College Degree.  This decision may depend on student goals, timelines, prior careers and education, and financing.

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Understand the Various Types of Flight Schools

Learn More:

Can I Work (Full-Time) and Attend Flight School?

Do You Need a Degree to Become a Pilot?

2. Interview and Compare Flight Schools

Once you know the type of flight school you are interested in attending, the next step will be to compare different schools and make your decision on where to attend. This decision will be critical in your goal to become a pilot, and may be based on a number of factors, but here are some guiding questions to help along the way.

  • Can you explain your course outline and curriculum you offer?
  • How many of your students are in the Private, Commercial or Flight Instructor stage?
  • What kind of career advice is provided at this facility?
  • How are your planes maintained?
  • What are your safety protocols?
  • What kind of training do your instructors go through and what resources do you offer?
  • What are the different ways I can pay for my training?
  • What percentage of your students are successful here?


When selecting a Flight School, you’ll want to ensure they meet all of your requirements, from professionally focused curriculum and experience, to a safe, well-maintained fleet of aircraft.

Interview AeroGuard

Compare Flight Schools Checklist

Learn More:

Part 61 vs Part 141 Flight Schools, What You Learn and What’s the Difference

The Importance of Aircraft Maintenance

Flying Safely with AeroGuard

3. Get an FAA Medical Certificate

There are certain medical requirements pilots need to meet to ensure safety in flight, so students will need a medical certificate to enroll in flight school and become a pilot. These medical requirements differ for pilots who are looking to fly professionally versus private, recreational flying. For this purpose, there are three ‘classes’ of FAA Medical Certificate, from Third Class for Private Pilots, to First Class for Airline Pilots.

While student pilots will only need a Third-Class medical certificate for the solo flights, it is recommended that students obtain their medical prior to enrollment to ensure they are able to meet the health requirements. At AeroGuard, we require that students obtain their First-Class Medical prior to enrollment to ensure that the career path to become a professional pilot is available to them on graduation.

FAA Medicals can only be issued by authorized Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs), but there are several AMEs in each state available to pilots.

We Can Help Guide You

Getting Your First-Class Airman Medical Certificate

4. Earn Flight Certificates & Ratings

After obtaining your medical certificate and enrolling in flight school, all that is left now is to study, train and actually earn those FAA Ratings and Certificates! There are various FAA certificates available to students, in different categories and classes of aircraft (such as fixed wing vs helicopter etc.), that will depend on a student’s end goal on becoming a pilot. For most students aiming for a career as a professional pilot, their journey will follow the below path, as used in the AeroGuard Pilot Pathway Program.

  • Student Pilot License
  • Private Pilot License
  • Instrument Rating
  • Commercial Pilot License (Single & Multi Engine)
  • Certified Flight Instructor (plus Instrument and Multi Engine)
  • Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) License (Completed at Partner Airline)


Each pilot license comes with its own privileges and limitations, so students will need to think about their aviation goals and targeted career path.

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Compare Different Types of Pilot Licenses

Learn More:

Student Pilot Certificate: A Flight Training Prerequisite

A Closer Look at Private Pilot License Requirements

Commercial Pilot vs. Airline Pilot

5. Gaining Flight Hours & Experience as a Pilot

Within a students’ training (depending on the level of FAA certificate they complete) most students will have approximately 250 hours of flight experience. However, to become an airline pilot, students would need at least 1500 hours (this requirement is reduced to 1,000 and 1,250 hours for approved Bachelors and Associate Degree’s respectively). Therefore, pilots will need to build many hours of flight time and experience between gaining their certificates and being able to apply to the airlines.

At AeroGuard, within our Pilot Pathway Program, students gain this flight time by becoming Flight Instructors for AeroGuard with a guaranteed job interview on graduation. Flight Instructing is the most common way for students to gain these flight hours by passing on their skills to the next generation of student. However, other options are available for pilots with a Commercial Pilot License to earn money while also gaining the required flight hours.

Join The Pathway Program

How to Gain Flight Experience

Learn More:

How to Become a CFI – Training, Certificates, and More

Paths to Becoming a Pilot

AeroGuard Flight Instructors

6. Become an Airline Pilot at a Regional Airline

Once they’ve earned their certifications and gained the 1,500 flight hours, most pilots will start looking to make the move to commercial airlines. For pilots taking this path, their career begins at a Regional airline, flying for airlines like AeroGuard partner SkyWest, where they fly regional jets under the names of American, Delta, United and Alaska.

At this stage in their training pilots will obtain their airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate to begin their career, which is typically paid for by the airline. Once obtained, pilots are eligible to be hired on and fly as a professional airline pilot!

At the regional airlines, pilots will start as a First Officer, sitting in the right seat of the cockpit and supporting the captain. After a couple of years of experience, they will then be able to upgrade to Captain themselves, sitting in the left seat.

Join The SkyWest Pathway

The AeroGuard & SkyWest Career Path

7. Become an Airline Pilot at a Major Airline

After becoming an airline pilot, there are many career paths available to pilots but for many this targeted career path involves moving from the Regional Airlines to Major Airline carriers like Delta and American, or perhaps Cargo carriers. Pilots can typically do this after a couple of more years of experience as a Captain at a Regional Airline, and this move typically increases the earning potential for pilots flying larger planes on longer routes.

At a major airline, the career path repeats itself, starting as a First Officer, before upgrading to Captain after gaining suitable experience.

Many pilots, however, do choose to stay at Regional Airlines, where they are able to reap the benefits of their seniority, meaning they can have first choice of the route and planes that they fly. Whichever career path a pilot chooses, the rewards, both monetary and other, are great and the career rewarding.

Become an Airline Pilot

Understand the Pilot Shortage and Job Outlook

Get Started on Becoming a Pilot

Now that you understand the steps involved to become a pilot, you can see that the best time to start on this new and exciting career is today! With our many training programs from accelerated training to pay-as-you-go and even a bachelor’s degree partnership, AeroGuard has programs that fit your career goal. If you have questions about the career, training, or anything else, our enrollment advisors would love to help.

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Begin Your Career Today!