A Commercial Pilot oversees aircraft and flights focused on transporting cargo, business personnel, or even sight-seeing tours and the like. Unlike Airline Pilots, Commercial Pilots only need a high school diploma and proper training from an FAA-accredited flight school to excel.
Becoming a Pilot is a dream come true for many little boys and girls. Obviously, it’s not out of your reach if you can put in the hard work and complete your training. But, what will you need to do? How much money can you make? These and other important questions are answered below. Take a look! You’ll be flying high in no time!
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is there a difference between an Airline Pilot and a Commercial Pilot?
Of course, both types of pilots require proper licensing and training; however, an Airline Pilot typically will require a bachelor’s degree. Commercial Pilots must have a high school education or an associate degree. Airline Pilots usually work for airline passenger companies, while Commercial Pilots work for privately-owned businesses.
What do Commercial Pilots do?
Commercial Pilots generally do not expect scheduled flights like an Airline Pilot does. They often fly when needed… and at the spur of the moment notice sometimes.
Other duties include:
- Flying appropriate aircraft
- Useing cockpit instruments
- Checking aircraft before and after each flight
- Checking fuel levels
- Checking weather conditions and emergencies
- Maintaining records
- Checking weight limits before flights
- Working closely with air traffic controllers
- And, much more!
How do I become a Commercial Pilot?
Commercial Pilots are required to have a high school or equivalent diploma. In addition, they must obtain a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Flight training is a must from an FAA-certified flight school, often offered through an independent school or a 2-year or 4-year college.
Will I need on-the-job training to be a Commercial Pilot?
Yes, on-the-job training will include six to eight weeks of ground school in accordance with the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR). You will learn as you accompany the Captain and assist with flying the aircraft and communicating with the control tower. Specialty training is also available, depending on the type of aircraft you are managing. Continued education is a must as well.
Will I need to have a Commercial Pilot’s license?
Yes, according to the BLS, Commercial Pilots must obtain their license and ratings in the following order:
- Obtain Student Pilot Certificate,
- Private Pilot License,
- Instrument Rating,
- Commercial Pilot License,
- Multi-Engine Rating,
- And finally, the Airline Transport Pilot Certificate.
Also, airlines often conduct their own testing to assess your problem-solving, analytical, and decision-making skills, as well as psychological state.
Will I need a physical before beginning a program?
Yes, you will need to have a physical per the regulations made by the FAA. To receive your medical certificate, you will need to be examined by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).
What is the salary of a Commercial Pilot?
Commercial Pilots were paid, on average, $93,300 per year, according to the BLS as of May 2020. The highest 10% earned upwards of $200,920 annually.
Are Commercial Pilots in demand?
This field states a positive job growth rate of 11% between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS as of May 2020.
Where do Commercial Pilots find work?
Commercial Pilots work for many different types of companies, such as:
- Commercial Airlines
- Ambulance & Hospital Services
- Private Businesses
- Federal Government
- Charter Companies
- Delivery Companies
- Rescue Operations
- Aerial Photography
- Sight-Seeing Tours
- And, many more!
What type of aircraft can you fly as a Commercial Pilot?
With a commercial license, you can fly an airplane or helicopter; however, with every new aircraft you plan to fly, proper training will be required first.
A private (instead of a commercial) helicopter pilot’s license is all you need… if you are flying a privately-owned helicopter and you are not seeking pay.
10 BEST SCHOOLS FOR A COMMERCIAL PILOT DEGREE
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
(On-campus) BS in Aeronautical Science
ERAU is a premier aviation university that offers an outstanding BS in Aeronautical Science program for future professional pilots. Students earn 120 credits over eight semesters to earn the degree and become holders of the coveted FAA commercial pilot license. The license itself comes with multiple engine and instrument ratings.
Students may also pursue advanced flight training as an option. The training includes certification as a flight instructor, upset training, and flight crew member training via jet aircraft simulator.
Mathematics, physics, and communications are among the courses during the first two years of matriculation. For the last two years, students have engaged in extensive flight courses and other aeronautics-related coursework. The combination of academic study and flight training establishes a strong foundation for aviation work, particularly as a commercial pilot.
Students use ERAU’s extensive fleet of airplanes for flight training, such as Diamond DA42s and Cessna 172s. ERAU’s Daytona campus is also close to the Daytona Beach International Airport and other possible training venues.
The training facilities include advanced flight simulators and visual systems that complement in-flight training. The flight core courses build up the students’ confidence and, thus, make them workplace-ready within four years. Hands-on training also develops their leadership ability, decision-making aptitude, and critical thinking skills in pressure-filled situations.
- Air Traffic Management
- Aerospace Engineering
Enroll in ERAU’s BS in Aeronautical Science degree program and be among the best commercial pilots in the country! This is, hands down, the best school for starting your career.
The Ohio State University
(On-campus) BS in Aviation
Offered by OSU’s famous College of Engineering, the BS in Aviation program is among its most technical degrees with a rigorous engineering-centric curriculum. Students must enroll in multiple engineering courses and, thus, be proficient in advanced math subjects, including Calculus, to keep up with the grueling pace. The ultimate reward is worth every effort – you can become a commercial pilot, a regional airline pilot, or a flight instructor after graduation!
The extensive coursework covers general education courses, but these are regarded as the foundational coursework for the aviation-heavy curriculum. Students start with a strong engineering foundation, followed by major courses in Aviation and technical electives. Advanced Math, Chemistry, and Physics will challenge the students’ intellect while communication and composition courses, among others, develop their transferable skills.
Students who want to become commercial pilots should choose the Professional Pilot Specialization. The specialization satisfies the primary requirements for a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating. But students must first complete their instrument training as well as private and commercial pilot training. Afterward, students may or may not pursue the certified flight instructor or multi-engine training.
- Biological Sciences
OSU, a Public Ivy, is among the world’s best public universities, so it’s also an excellent choice to acquire your training wings! Check out its BS in Aviation program and see why commercial pilots highly regard it.
(On-campus) Bachelor’s in Professional Flight
Offered at Purdue’s School of Aviation and Transportation Technology, the Bachelor’s in Professional Flight degree program provides students with new perspectives of the aviation industry. Students learn to fly a wide range of aircraft through the university’s state-of-the-art simulators and aircraft fleet. Instructors include experienced aviation professionals and certified flight instructors with a keen interest in their students’ success on and off the ground.
Students build up their technical skills – and confidence in applying their skills on the ground and in the air – through several core aviation courses. The Introduction to Aviation Technology course establishes the right foundation before students move forward with advanced courses that challenge their intelligence and perseverance. The advanced courses include Aerospace Vehicle Propulsion and Tracking Systems; Aerospace Vehicle Systems Design, Analysis and Operations; and Aviation Operations Management.
The series of Private Pilot Lectures and Private Pilot Flight courses test the students’ knowledge and their cool demeanor under pressure. Their critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills are tested, too, alongside their aviation-related skill sets.
Graduates earn their commercial pilot certificates along with an instrument rating. Since Purdue is an R-ATP flight school, students can earn the R-ATP certificate with 1,000 flight hours. Purdue also offers students the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aviation in five years.
- Construction Management Technology
- Web Programming and Design
Purdue’s Bachelor’s in Professional Flight degree carries with it the university’s prestige and the program’s rigorous curriculum for commercial pilots. You cannot go wrong with it in your resume!
(On-campus) BS in Aviation Flight Technology
Students enrolled in the 128-credit-hour BS in Aviation Flight Technology program start their flight training in their first week of classes! While general education courses take up the bulk of the coursework, core aviation courses are already on the schedule. Students have a scheduled two-hour flight time thrice a week, a fast-paced program that builds technical skills and professional confidence.
Students with prior FAA-approved credentials, such as ratings or certificates, may also apply for academic credits for these credentials. For example, private pilot training can mean skipping the Private Pilot Ground Schools I & II courses and receiving eight credits.
Both students with and without flying experience prepare for a career in commercial aviation and graduate with FAA credentials including:
- Commercial Pilot Certificate – Airplane Single-engine & Multi-engine Land & with Instrument Airplane rating
- Flight Instructor Certificate – Airplane Single-Engine Land & with Instrument Airplane rating
Students may also pursue optional certificates and ratings for ground and flight instructors.
Lewis also allows its aviation students to fly as many times as possible during the summer term. The accelerated schedule means that students can accomplish an entire semester’s worth of flight hours in a few weeks.
- General Studio Art
- Organizational Leadership
Why lie low with a degree in aviation from another university when you can soar high with Lewis’ BS in Aviation Flight Technology degree? Check it out now and find that, indeed, it deserves its reputation as the best training ground for professional pilots!
University of North Dakota
(On-campus) BS in Aeronautics Major in Commercial Aviation
Students can earn the BS in Aeronautics degree in 4-5 years, depending on their program of study and their enrollment status. Students must earn 120 credit hours with courses covering general education, major and elective courses. This is a commercial aviation degree that leads to commercial pilot certification. Students also can get flight training for helicopter operations, a valuable credential in the aviation industry.
Trivia: UND’s students in all its flight training programs flew 126,000 hours, a national record and a testament to its Aviation Department’s commitment to excellence.
The learning outcomes include demonstrate:
- Proficiency in the safe operations of turbine aircraft for commercial flights
- Leadership ability in crew management, including in challenging, even hostile, environments
- Competency in the operations of single-engine and multi-engine standards as well as VFR and IFR flight standards
- Instructional knowledge in VFR and IFR flight and single-engine flight
- Knowledge of government and industry regulations as well as management of airlines and airports
Students have a competitive edge in the job market because of UND’s career pathway partnerships with several major airlines. Getting a headstart on interviews is among its perks. Many airlines also offer conditional offers of employment that allow students to explore their corporate culture and learn on the job.
- Business Administration
Earn your BS in Aeronautics Major in Commercial Aviation degree from UND and enjoy the ride of your life! Your commercial pilot certification will be yours in a few years, and the experience will be memorable, too.
Florida Institute of Technology
(On-campus) BS in Aeronautical Science – Flight
FIT’s BS in Aeronautical Science – Flight option leads to a professional pilot license. The program’s fast pace is that first-year students immediately take core aviation courses and fly within their first week! The core courses start with Aviation Meteorology and Aviation Physiology then progress to advanced courses, including private pilot classes.
Senior students also take advanced courses in aviation security and aircraft systems. By their graduation, students have logged in between 250 and 300 flight hours, too. Students may also choose from several accelerated MBA programs that combine an aviation and a business degree.
Despite FIT being a large university, students benefit from small classes that allow more personalized interactions between students and their instructors. The experienced instructors include pilots and aviation experts with demonstrated expertise in diverse fields, including aviation safety, laws, and avionics. Their impressive credentials are matched by their commitment to student success, including mentoring services.
Students learn their academics and earn their flying stripes in the Basic Aviation Training Device (BATD) Laboratory with desktop simulators and aircraft. FIT maintains a fleet of aircraft, including Pipers and Cessnas and CADCAM, and a human factors laboratory.
With Florida being the Sunshine State, students have nearly year-round opportunities to practice their flying skills. FIT being in the state’s high-tech corridor, students also have plenty of internship and employment opportunities.
- Civil Engineering
What better way to soar the skies and take on a successful aviation career than earning FIT’s BS in Aeronautical Science – Flight degree? This is truly a fitting way to earn your commercial pilot license!
Western Michigan University
(On-campus) Aviation Flight Science Major
WMU offers a 123-credit hours Aviation Flight Science Major degree program designed for students with zero flight experience. But it isn’t just designed for training aspiring commercial pilots but producing the best captains! Students thrive in a conducive environment where employment readiness with professional-level technical and transferable skills is the main goal.
The core courses include Professional Flight Theory and Lab, a series of courses dealing with flight skills, Advanced Aircraft Systems, and Advanced Aerodynamics and Performance. Students also learn the fundamentals of line-oriented flight training, crew resource management, and airline regulations. Business practices are also emphasized through courses in economics, management, and profitability among airlines.
Students train using WMU’s state-of-the-art training devices, including simulators equipped with flight management systems and electronic flight instrumentation systems. WMU has a modern fleet of aircraft so that students can fly in single-engine and multi-engine aircraft.
With their comprehensive on-ground and flight training, graduates earn their FAA commercial pilot certificate with multi-engine land and instrument ratings. Graduates may also pursue aircraft-specific training with whatever airline hired them.
Candidates must apply before the fall semester and submit the required documentation on or before the stated deadline. WMU has a selective admission process that includes a holistic review of the application packet, including the academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal essays.
Get your aviation career off to an excellent start by enrolling in WMU’s Aviation Flight Science Major program! Becoming a commercial pilot isn’t just a dream but a reality with the degree.
Utah Valley University
(On-campus) BS in Professional Pilot
UVU’s BS in Professional Pilot program has an enviable reputation for being an excellent training ground for aspiring commercial pilots. Every student builds professional-level knowledge and skills for employment with airlines and other aircraft operators across the country. FAA-approved flight training is an integral part of the program, resulting in graduates earning their commercial pilot certification upon program completion.
The program’s specific aviation training includes the FAA 14 CFR Part 141 and R-ATP components. Regional airlines are the popular choice for entry-level jobs among UVU graduates.
This is a 120-credit hours program with the following learning outcomes:
- Demonstrate professional competencies in commercial aircraft operations according to FAA standards
- Manage aviation-related systems, equipment, and crew in both normal operations and emergencies
- Pursue lifelong learning in aviation and a self-directed career path
- Produce reports and present the information contained therein in an effective and efficient manner
Candidates are admitted through a selective process with admission requirements including an overall 2.5 GPA, minimum, and a second class FAA medical certificate. UVU uses a point-based application system.
Students must also be enrolled on a full-time basis for the flight training component. This is a time-intensive and rigorous period that requires full-time commitment and focus.
- Mechatronics Engineering Technology
- Digital Cinema Production
You can be the best commercial pilot you’ve dreamed of becoming by earning UVU’s BS in Professional Pilot degree!
San Jose State University
(On-campus) BS in Aviation – Professional Flight
SJSU’s BS in Aviation – Professional Flight concentration welcomes students with and without prior flying credentials. Every student gains a strong foundation in aviation-related technical topics that result in FAA ratings. Flight activities are the main source for FAA ratings, and these are conducted at flight schools near the university, particularly at the Reid Hillview Airport.
Graduates earn an FAA-approved commercial pilot rating, an instrument rating, and a private pilot certificate. Students may also request academic credits for FAA pilot ratings while in the program. Note that flight training costs aren’t included in the program’s tuition and, thus, students are responsible for their payment.
Students who want to earn the commercial pilot certificate must log in 250 flight hours and demonstrate a mastery of a range of piloting skills. The latter requires at least 20 hours of operating a non-complex aircraft, 10 hours in a complex aircraft, and 10 hours of cross-country flight.
The extensive academic and flight training equips students with the essential competencies required of commercial pilots for airlines and other aviation operators. These include the use of navigation instruments, flight techniques and technologies, and communication systems.
- Computer Electronics and Network Technology
- Manufacturing Systems
When you enroll in SJSU’s BS in Aviation – Professional Flight program, those flying stripes are within reach!
Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology
(On-campus) AAS in Aviation Flight
Spartan’s 17-month AAS in Aviation Flight program is among the shortest programs for aspiring commercial pilots. But its innovative flight training program is excellent preparation for students seeking FAA certifications and ratings. Students can earn milestones, including the commercial pilot certificate for single-engine and multi-engine aircraft and an instrument rating.
Spartan College uses its Flipped Classroom format, where students learn through traditional classroom formats, media training devices, and out-of-the-classroom mentoring. Students use an iPad equipped with a specially-designed flight program where tests, tutorials, and lessons can be accessed. Every specific course has assessment tests to evaluate the level of proficiency.
Senior flight instructors lead the on-ground training, too. Then, students progress to the flight component, starting with training devices including Redbird and Frasca simulators. The simulation experiences are crucial for students to learn aircraft operations before their actual flight training.
Students learn actual flight operations through supervised flights in Spartan’s 40-strong fleet of airplanes, including Piper Seminole, Piper Archer, and Cessna 172. The scheduled flight training occurs 3-4 times a week.
Graduates are well-prepared to pass their FAA certification exams. Many also earn a BS in Technology Management degree or train as a certified flight instructor.
- Aviation Maintenance Technology
- Aviation Electronics Technology
Go for a Spartan College AAS in Aviation Flight degree, and it may well be the best 17 months of your journey as a commercial pilot!