Becoming a pilot is for the select few, those with diligent attention to detail and the finances to buy the air time. But, for those who endure, becoming a pilot is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. Training starts with education and the more the pilot can get under his or her belt, the better his option for a shot at the airlines.
With an undergraduate degree in aeronautical science, the student starts with a solid academia launch pad for ground school training and combined flight time. In most cases, government loans and grants are available to pay for some of the costly private pilot log hours. In addition, college programs provide flight simulators to make up some of the hours as pilot-in-command.
For the aeronautical student who does not wish to combine the college degree, or perhaps already has one, then a comprehensive flight program is necessary and able to take a pilot from zero hours to commercial status in a fairly short amount of time. The student will work at his or her own pace until the commercial writtens and flight time are achieved. Qualified flight programs also provide FAA examiners when required. An appropriate add-on certificate for Certified Flight Instructor is also available at professional pilot flight schools. By acquiring the CFI, the pilot may earn money as an instructor while building hours in the cockpit for his or her own resume.
Airline pilot jobs are fiercely competitive and only the top percentile will succeed to the major carriers. Get the best education you can, earn the highest scores and be persistent about adding ratings and certificates to your record. The latter stages of flight training will require an ATP, or Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which has strict FAA imposed entry requirements. There is no use for a pilot candidate to start the flying career too soon, as he or she must be 23 years old to apply for ATP with a minimum of 1500 hours of flight time.
A complete pilot training program can run as high as $75,000, depending on the aircraft and advancement of qualifications. However, most major flight academies are happy to prepare a schedule of classes with a fixed total cost and finance the complete package. For those who cannot or will not finance that amount, a second option is to finance from your own sources and buy the training and flight time as you go. However, unless there is a dependable stream of income, this is not the best option, as it may allow unwanted gaps between coursework and greatly delay the desired ratings and certificates. But, if your heart's desire is to fly, then it's worth reaching that goal in any way you can.