How Do I Become a Commercial Pilot?

How Do I Become a Commercial Pilot?

Many aviation careers begin with a dream as a young child to one day pin those wings to your uniform and take to the skies as a commercial pilot. Flying the heavy metal, visiting faraway destinations, interacting with different cultures. The allure of being a commercial pilot is still alive in many. But what is a commercial pilot and how do you become one? There is a bit of a misconception out there that people associate commercial pilots with airline pilots. In reality, this is far from the truth. 

What is a Commercial Pilot?

To identify what a commercial pilot is let's explore the privileges received when you earn a commercial pilot license. Transport Canada says that as the holder of a commercial pilot license you are able to exercise all of the privileges that come with a private pilot license and

  • Fly VFR Over the top
  • Fly for a commercial air service as long as it's within the limitations of the aeroplane, class, and type endorsed on your license.
  • Fly as the pilot in command of an aeroplane where the minimum crew required is one pilot. 
  • Fly as the co-pilot of an aeroplane
  • Conduct flight training, if you have the appropriate rating
  • Fly at night

As you can see it does not specify an airline pilot. In fact, Canadian pilots almost never go directly from completing flight school into an airline operation. If they do it is normally into a regional airline flying something like a Dash 8, or Regional Jet. The vast majority of pilots will begin their career by working in jobs such as those listed below in order to build time before moving onto an airline career (if they choose).

  • Charter flying
  • Med-Evac flying
  • Mapping and surveying
  • Flight instructing
  • Corporate flying

How Do I Get A Commercial Pilot License?

The process to obtain your commercial license (CPL) is very similar to the Private Pilot training. It includes the ground school component and the flight training component broken down as follows:

Ground School

At least 80 hours covering

  • Air Law
  • Meteorology
  • Navigation
  • General Knowledge

Flight Training

At least 65 hours including:

  • 35 hours of dual instruction
  • 30 hours of solo instruction
  • Each is broken down further to cover the required night and cross-country time requirements. 

After the completion of your training, you would write the CPAER exam (Transport Canada written exam) and then complete a flight test. 

The total time required to be issued the Commercial Pilot License is 200 hours which includes 100 hours of pilot in command time. If you are half as good at math as I am you will see that the training times don't quite add up. This means that a portion of your commercial training is considered time building. This is some of the most fun flying you'll do. Many pilots make this an adventure. They fly to new destinations near and far. They tour the coastline, fly through the mountains, or up to the family cottage. There really is no limit to what you do for time building. Another way to build time is to add a rating to your license such as an IFR or Multi-Engine. Most flying careers will require these ratings which makes them great options to build time while moving your training forward. 

Timeline and Cost

Earning your CPL is generally a self-paced program much like the PPL. Unless you are enrolled in a structured college program you will be able to structure your training to suit your lifestyle. If you want to work at it full time you can likely complete it within 6 months to a year. If you choose to train part-time then it will take you longer. Many pilots have started with no experience to having completed their PPL, CPL, Multi-Engine, IFR in two years by working hard and dedicating themselves to their training. 

Begin Your Flying Career

If you are thinking about a career as a pilot now is the time! With the industry quickly recovering from the pandemic the pilot shortage is presenting itself in a form greater than what was seen pre-pandemic. Pilots are finishing their training with job opportunities never before seen for low-time pilots. As this ramp-up process will take some time starting today means you will position yourself well to take advantage of the hot industry. 

Getting started on your Commercial Pilot Ground School has never been easier or more flexible. Sign up today or contact a student advisor for guidance on career planning. 


Pilot interviews and jobs are unique because of the types of qualifications required in a candidate. It is important that your resume accurately highlight these qualifications. Equally important is being able to speak to the benefits you as an individual brings to a prospective employer. Here is what you will get out of your consultation. 

  • Tips on how to communicate your skills and experience. This is especially important if you don't have much experience. You probably have a lot of life experiences or non-aviation-related history that you can draw upon. 
  • Tips on how to behave and present yourself to the interviewers. Yes, I've seen people become argumentative with the interview team. 
  • Tips on how to write a resume that will convey everything that you need to be noticed without cluttering up your resume. 
  • Tips on how to answer tough questions.
  • Tips on how to frame negative events or experiences that might come up. Some of these may actually be your best asset in getting the job. 
  • Tips on specific things an employer might be looking for.

It can be incredibly difficult to critique yourself. Even family and friends might not be able to effectively give you the guidance you need. A 3rd party interview and resume prep consultation can be exactly what you need to land your dream job.

It’s dependent on which two ground schools you are comparing. There are a lot of great in-class ground schools available from reputable flight schools but there are also ones that have a revolving door of instructors and outdated PowerPoint slides. This can reduce the true effectiveness of the ground school course. By going online the delivery is more consistent, definitely flexible, and oftentimes higher quality. Choosing a company that invests a lot into creating a quality online ground school can be advantageous to you as a student pilot.

You can choose to do your flight training at any flight school you wish. By doing this you only have to drive to the airport for your flight lessons. Take advantage of Level Flight’s virtual flight deck and you can “hangar fly” from home too!

Take Flight Now

Level Flight is Canada’s best online ground school. It is our mandate to provide higher quality, more engaging training for Canadian Student Pilots. If you are seeking the exhilarating freedom of flight for a hobby or with aspirations of a career in the skies, Level Flight offers the best ground school experience available. Sign up for our online learning platform now and discover the adventure that awaits you at Level Flight. 

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