Begin your pilot school sooner & it won’t take too long to bear fruit.

how long is commercial pilot school

Do you want to enroll in a pilot school as a full-time student but don’t know how long a pilot training school is? Relocating for pilot training without knowing the schooling period and unaware of the costs of living there can genuinely hinder your entire training and impact your future dreams.

Hence, the objective of this post is to describe the length of flight school to get a commercial pilot license or until you get your first job as a CFI.

Most of my readers desire to quickly get a commercial pilot license and become an airline pilot soon.

However, most of you may not know that completing pilot school is not the same as becoming an airline pilot.

The purpose of a commercial pilot school is to train you and aid you in obtaining a commercial pilot license. Yet, you won’t be ready to get your airline pilot job as a fresh graduate.

In a pilot school/flight school, you would spend most of your time learning fundamental theories and building experience in the air.

  • Stage 1: You will get a Student Pilot License;
  • Stage 2: Ground classes for private pilot, pass exams & checkride, and obtain a private pilot license;
  • Stage 3: Ground classes for the Instrument rating, pass exams & checkride, and get rated;
  • Stage 4: Finally, prepare for commercial pilot exams & checkride and get a commercial pilot license;
  • Stage 5: Get a Flight instructor license and choose the plain route to make a living.

However, understand this becoming a commercial pilot will only take you closer to becoming an airline pilot. I discussed becoming an airline pilot in a different article here: Duration to become a pilot for an airline from zero hours.

It helps to put in more effort and time until you reach your aviation goals. But the journey doesn’t end here.

Similarly, I broke down this post into several sections, describing:

  • How long is commercial pilot school?;
  • What circumstances can prevent you from prolonging your commercial pilot schooling period?;
  • Do you think you are ready to work after twelve months of training?

How long is commercial pilot school?

The commercial pilot school takes between 12 months to 18 months.

  • It takes four months to get a private pilot license;
  • Three months for an Instrument rating;
  • Six months to obtain a commercial pilot license.

For a full-time student, it takes 13 months to complete pilot school. Eighteen months is the maximum someone could squander in a pilot school until becoming a CFI.

Commercial pilot schools’ job is to train student pilots, instill aeronautical theories, and aid in building actual flying hours. Apart from these, the flight school assists in taking FAA exams and the pilot checkride.

In a flight school’s professional pilot program, you’ll accumulate around 200 flying hours and a commercial pilot license with an instrument rating.

The structured course is also famous as the PART 141 curse by FAA. Hence in this post, I used the PART 141 course, flight school, and pilot school interchangeably.

Stage 1: You will get a Student Pilot License.

After you enroll in a pilot school (PART 141 structured course), quickly finish the necessary assessments, and get your medical certificate.

Once you’ve your medical certificate, the flight school will assist you in getting a Student pilot license.

The entire process won’t take more than a month. However, the period depends on how fast a flight school can process the paperwork. A reputable flight can do these tasks quickly as they have their liaison officers.

Stage 2: Ground classes for private pilot, pass exams & checkride, and obtain a private pilot license.

While waiting for your student pilot license, you can finish your private pilot ground school.

In PARt 141 flight schools, the ground instructors will take scheduled classes and knowledge tests to evaluate your theory knowledge.

In most PART 141 flight schools, you’ll take private pilot ground classes while waiting for your student pilot license. Passing your ground school tests before getting your student pilot license is best.

Once you’ve your student pilot license, you can begin flight training.

But it’s always best to complete your private pilot ground school and take the pilot knowledge test in FAA before flight training. Having passed the PPL knowledge test before beginning flight training, you can apply for a checkride once you meet the flight requirements.

To get a private pilot license, you need 35 hours of flight training, including solo flights.

However, most student pilots fly around 55 hours to meet the FAA requirement. As a result, it takes more time for some and less for others.

Once you meet the flight hour requirements, you can apply to schedule a PPL checkride. The checkride includes an oral and practical exam.

Consider one month to finish ground classes and take the PPL knowledge test while waiting for your student pilot license. You can build flight hours to meet PPL requirements in the next three months.

Thus, obtaining a private pilot license takes only 3 to 4 months.

However, it may take longer, depending on your progress.

Often student pilots fail their FAA private pilot knowledge test. If you fail your private pilot knowledge test, you must wait months to re-take the exam.

You won’t be eligible for a private pilot license without passing the pilot knowledge test.

Secondly, adverse weather can prevent you from building flight hours. If you begin training during the winter season and it often snows at your training location, it will take more than three months to make the required hours.

Hence, considering the climate at your flight school location is wise before enrolling.

But you can be confident that getting a private pilot license won’t take more than four months if you put effort and commit to getting it quickly.

Stage 3: Ground classes for the Instrument rating, pass exams & checkride, and get rated.

You need forty hours of instrument flight experience to get an instrument rating per FAA requirements.

These forty hours of experience include experience in an instrument-rated aircraft and a simulator.

Taking separate ground classes for the instrument rating is essential as Instrument rating is one of the most challenging stages for a pilot.

Passing the IFR knowledge test and IFR ground class assessment may take some time.

You may finish instrument rating ground classes and pass the FAA IFR knowledge test while building flight hours for your private pilot license if you are intelligent and bright.

It may be challenging for many students, but it’s one way to pace up your pilot training.

Nevertheless, regardless of how slow you take it, your instrument rating training and passing the IFR theory, oral and practical exams won’t take more than four months.

The only way you can jeopardize the duration here is by failing an exam. Because once you fail an exam, you must wait months to retake it. Thus be wary and devote time to studying to become a pilot during your pilot schooling days.

Stage 4: Finally, prepare for commercial pilot exams & checkride and get a commercial pilot license.

Assuming you spend eight months in a flight school and have your Private pilot license and instrument rating.

It’s time to get your commercial pilot license. Obtaining a commercial pilot license requires 200 flying hours per FAA requirement.

There is a bit of nuance to the 200-hour requirement. If you train in a PART 141 flight school, then 200 total hours is adequate. But if you enroll in a modular course in PART 61 flight school, you need 250 hours.

However, this post emphasizes enrolling in the PART 141 structured course, enabling you to accumulate 200 hours in the next six months.

So let’s redo the math.

You spent four months getting your private pilot license. It takes another four months to obtain the instrument rating. Your logbook now has around 110 hours.

Thus to reach that 200 hours threshold to meet the commercial pilot license requirement, you need to build additional 90 hours.

At this stage, it’s not only about building the additional ninety hours. To get a commercial pilot license, you must learn several advanced maneuvers and undergo uncompromising training.

Hence, you can expect to spend six months more in your pilot school to accumulate up to 200 hours, finish the commercial pilot ground school, pass the knowledge tests, and pass the checkride.

As I said, several factors must be considered to keep your pilot schooling duration compact.

Often it happens that an aspiring pilot takes a break from flight training after getting a private pilot license and instrument rating. You’ll naturally extend your pilot school duration if you intend to do so.

Also, passing your checkride is crucial because if you fail your exams, you must wait several months before re-taking.

Without any adverse factor affecting your flight training, and if you don’t take a vacation between your professional pilot course, it won’t take more than 14 months.

Even 14 months is quite a long time to finish pilot school for PART 141 students. This is the maximum amount a student should presume for their pilot training before budgeting for the pilot school and relocating elsewhere.

What circumstances can prolong your commercial pilot schooling period?

The above timeframe applies to students training in the Part 141 structured course. The timeframe to finish the Part 61 modular system course differs from a Part 141 course.

Commercial pilot schools in the USA have structured training courses for obtaining a commercial pilot license and advertise that a full-time student can graduate within 12 months.

Getting a commercial pilot license within 12 months is doable. But multiple circumstances can alter your time on your commercial pilot training.

Your study progress in flight school.

Although you enroll in a commercial pilot school and expect to get your licenses in the next 12 to 18 months, your advancement will significantly affect how quickly or slowly you get your pilot licenses.

Understand this, commercial pilot school’s structured courses are fast-paced. For new students, the entire training is overwhelming.

You learn aeronautics, aviation communication, navigation, operational procedures, and airplane systems quickly. Therefore many students prefer to take it slow and procrastinate during their training.

As a result, they waste a few more months in commercial pilot school.

Taking a bit longer than others is not a bad thing. If you want to learn slowly but accurately, you should do that if it works for you.

Instead of competing with other students to finish training quickly, take time to learn slowly and dominate at what you do.

Procrastinating and going on long vacations delays pilot training for many.

Lastly, if you intentionally delay your commercial pilot training by taking vacations during your course.

It’s common for student pilots to take a break after getting their private pilot licenses.

Often, the students anticipate the leave for two months, and it turns out six months have passed without any progress in flying. It’s possible for students that go to flight schools far from home.

Due to this reason, many students fall behind and take longer than a year to obtain a commercial pilot license.

Do you think you are ready to work after twelve months of training?

Most of you reckon you are ready to work as an airline pilot after twelve to eighteen months of training in pilot school. Sadly, the explanation is that you are not there yet.

As I said, the job of a commercial pilot school is to train you properly and ultimately obtain a commercial pilot license. But to work in the USA as an airline pilot, you need at least 1500 flying hours with ATPL.

This hour requirement varies outside the USA, but no significant airlines hire fresh graduates of commercial pilot school with 200 hours.

To build 1500 hours from 200 hours would take another two to three years. You can work as a Certified flight instructor or a charter pilot during this time. The pay for this kind of pilot job is not satisfying.

However, the perks of such professions are to build hours without spending a dime from your pocket.

You can read more about the duration of becoming an airline pilot from zero hours here.


You can finish commercial pilot school within twelve to eighteen months.

Enrolling in a reputed flight school in the USA will quickly earn your commercial pilot license.

A flight school can significantly affect how soon you finish your pilot training. Likewise, the school’s location plays a role in the training period.

Lastly, a student can take years after years only to get a commercial pilot license. It depends on you how you choose to progress in your profession.

Nevertheless, you are not prepared to take an airline pilot job after getting your commercial pilot license. You have to work your way up to fulfill airline hiring requirements.


Image Source: airluca42 via Instagram.

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