Criteria for Your Future Career

If you are planning to fly as a career, there are certain training and certification requirements you must meet. First, you cannot begin getting paid as a pilot until you earn your commercial pilot certificate. However, a commercial pilot certificate is NOT the same thing as an air transport pilot license which is required to become an airline or charter pilot.

Age and Legal Status

Before applying for Sterling Flight Training’s Career Pilot Pathway, make sure you meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 17
  • Must have a high school diploma or GED, or be within one year of obtaining
  • Must be able to obtain and maintain a First Class Airman’s Medical Certificate
  • Have a current Passport or US Birth Certificate
  • If not a US-Citizen, be legally allowed to reside and study in the US on a M1 Visa
  • Note that a criminal record can reduce your chances of being hired by an airline
  • Must be able to fluently speak, read, write and understand the English language

Medical Certificate

For a career pilot you must make sure you can qualify for a First Class Medical Certificate.

The medical is performed by an Aeromedical Examiner (AME). You can find an AME near you through the FAA directory. Once you have found an AME you can complete the initial portion of the application at FAA MedXpress.  Note: Please ensure your name on your medical certificate matches your driver’s license exactly.

Certain medical conditions and medications are disqualifying. Please educate yourself to ensure you do not have a medical condition, psychiatric disorder, or take medication that could render you unable to earn a First Class Medical (required to be an airline pilot). Ref: FAA Disqualifying ConditionsFAA Disqualifying MedicationsAOPA Medical Resources.

Secure Funding

Sterling offers a few options to ensure you can fully fund your training. The most popular option for career pilots is the tuition-based Career Pilot Pathway program and financing through Meritize. This allows low interest rates, up to 100% funding and flexible repayment options including deferment periods while training. Financing options can be found here.

Minimum hour requirement

The FAA’s current requirement for an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate is roughly 1500 hours, which includes 500 hours of cross-country time, 100 hours of night time, 50 hours in the class of airplane for the rating, 75 hours of instrument time and 250 hours of time as pilot in command. 

However, if you flew in the military or complete a college flight program, you may qualify for a Restricted ATP Certificate (R-ATP). Restricted ATP hours are as follows:

  • Graduates of an approved 4-year university aviation program only need 1000 hours of flight time, 60 credit hours of aviation coursework and a commercial pilot license from a Part 141 program. Sterling is an FAA approved Part 141 flight school, and our partnership with Liberty University meets R-ATP requirements.
  • Graduates of an approved 2-year university aviation program need 1250 hours of flight time, 30 credit hours of aviation coursework, and a commercial pilot license from a part 141 program.
  • Military pilots only need 750 hours of total flight time and 200 hours of cross-country time to qualify for R-ATP.

Ready to Soar?

Ready to be a Professional Pilot? Want to experience our Redbird FMX Simulator, or join our ranks via your university’s aviation program? Let’s get you in the air.

We are using cookies to give you the best experience. You can find out more about which cookies we are using or switch them off in privacy settings.
AcceptPrivacy Settings


  • Cookies & Privacy

Cookies & Privacy

This website stores cookies on your computer. These cookies are used to improve your website experience and provide more personalized services to you, both on this website and through other media. To find out more about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy.