How Long Does it Take to Get a Pilot’s License?

Depending on what education you pursue to earn a pilot’s license, the timeline can vary.

You can attend a flight school, such as our FLT aviation school located in Utah, or earn a Bachelor of Science degree in an aviation or professional pilot field as part of your pilot’s education. Let’s break down how long it can take to log hours, take tests and, eventually, spread your wings.

Different Timelines for Different Licenses

First of all, there are a variety of licenses you can earn. They range from student pilot to airline transport pilot (ATP). Your end goal will affect how long it takes for you to certify to be in the cockpit alone. The best flight training experience will include a mix of practical and theoretical education in aviation.

What to Expect When Earning a Pilot’s License

At our aviation school in Utah, we recommend planning on at least one year to earn your credentials to fly with SkyWest. Our program differs from others out there, though, so we’ll share a general look at how other timelines add up.

Student Pilot

You can earn your Student Pilot license in as few as three weeks, but from there you have two years until this license expires. During that time, you can continue your education to advance to flying private, commercial, or multi-engine planes. With only a Student Pilot license, you are not permitted to fly solo unless you have specific endorsements from your instructor. Additionally, a student pilot who wants to fly solo can only do so in the aircraft they used to train. So, if you want to try new aircraft, you’ll need to continue your flight training both on the ground and in the skies.

Private Pilot

Once you have a Student Pilot license, you fly with an instructor to log 40 hours of flying to qualify for your Private Pilot license. If you want to fly by yourself, having a private pilot’s license is a requirement, and it can take at little as three months or as many as 12 depending on a number of factors. Are you working full time while going to school? How busy is the flight school you’re attending when it comes to scheduling flight time? 

Flying as a private pilot means while you can fly alone, you are not doing so for profit. You’re eligible to fly single-engine aircraft, with a few restrictions, at this point. Part of your flight training for a Private Pilot license will include earning (at least) a third-class medical certificate.

Commercial Pilot

The next step of your journey is to qualify for a Commercial Pilot license. This certification will allow you to fly professionally for pay. The flight hours required jumps significantly at this level, from 40 hours (private pilot license) to 250 hours. It is possible to log 250 hours of flying in just three months, but you might need to plan for up to two years.

Although you can now fly professionally with a Commercial Pilot license, you are not yet eligible to fly for an airline with passengers on board. A Commercial Pilot license must be accompanied by (at least) a second-class medical certificate.

Airline Transport Pilot

If you don’t have aspirations to become a flight instructor, you can move on to earning a license that permits you to fly for airlines such as SkyWest. Known as an Airline Transport Pilot license, it requires 1,500 hours of flight time. The 1,500 flight training hours can be completed in a year, but many students will spread this experience over three to five years. 

In addition to logging hours flying, ATP licenses require earning a first-class medical certificate.

If you have prior military training and experience, the 1,500 hours needed for the Airline Transport Pilot license may be reduced, allowing you to earn this license in a shorter period of time. There are additional exemptions that can be made for anyone who joins an aviation school and earns an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree related to aviation.

Multi-Engine Rating

There is no minimum training requirement, but you should allow up to 15 hours to complete the requirements to fly multi-engine aircraft. You can take your multi-engine checkride once you are proficient in the required maneuvers and have been endorsed by a multi-engine instructor (MEI).

The Bottom Line

  • Student Pilot License – Must be at least 16 years old to obtain
  • Private Pilot License – Three months to one year
  • Instrument Rating – Three months to one year
  • Commercial Pilot License – Three months to two years
  • Certified Flight Instructor – Three weeks to three months
  • Airline Transport Pilot – Two to five years
  • Multi-Engine Rating – Ten hours to two weeks

So what does this all up to? You may need up to five years to earn your Airline Transport Pilot license when all is said and done. However, your ground and flight training combined can certainly be condensed, such as through our Utah aviation school program known as Zero to CFI.

Whether you’re interested in pursuing a pilot license for your own purposes, or a career in aviation, we have financing and programs for male and female pilots alike.