The Complete Guide To Becoming A Pilot (1): About You! – Part 2
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This is the third article of a series named "The Complete Guide To Becoming A Pilot".

If you haven't read the previous article, then please click here.

If you want to find all the articles in this guide, then please click here.

We previously discussed in Part 1 YOU as a personality, such as traits and skills needed to become a pilot. This article will discuss what you need to become a pilot and the various other requirements, such as academic requirements and all the other paperwork.

1. What Are The Academic Requirements To Become A Pilot? What Should I Do in High School?

There are plenty of educational systems in this world, from the one using GCSE and A-Levels to the one with Baccalaureate, so it would be hard to break down what you need specifically according to every single one, but the wholistic idea is quite simple:

General Idea:

Be 18, completed Secondary Education (High School) with good – Not necessarily excellent - grades in three principal subjects (Maths, Physics and English).

A Bit Of Details:

I would divide the requirements into two layers:

  • First layer = Requirements by a specific Flight School.
  • Second layer = Requirements by the Airline.
Flight School Requirments Vs Airline Pilot Requirements

Yes! A random flight school can tell you it's OK to join my specific flight school even if you don't have GCSEs or Baccalaureate, but if you want to become an airline pilot, then you will face the terrible news that you are not welcome because you don't have enough requirements by the Airline! In other words, please don't get fooled by what flight schools preach to you; they are businesses that want income at the end of the day!

If you are in high school, and your high school system is divided into streams (Scientific stream, Humanities, Management and Economics ..), then the safest option is to go with the scientific one.

If you want to join an Airline sponsored program (Cadet Program), they require you to have graduated high school from a scientific stream or possess at least 5 GCSEs, including Maths, English and Science at grade C/4 or higher. In that case, it would be much better if you held A-Levels in Maths and Physics to increase your chances of being accepted.

If you are wondering about me: Wwe had a Baccalaureate system, and I was on the scientific stream (Option: Experimental Sciences)

Choose a scientific path in high school if you are thinking to become a pilot

Flight Schools Requirements:

CAE Oxford Aviation Academy:

Let's go on a journey looking at various flight schools requirements, and start with where I studied "CAE Oxford Aviation Academy", which I joined in 2016; their requirements were:

CAE Oxford Aviation Academy accepts applications for the Integrated ATPL Programme, APP First Officer, from those who meet the following criteria:

  • Aged over 17 and a half years of age to attend Skills Assessment and aged over 18 to start training.
  • Completed secondary education achieving at least five U.K. GCSEs at grade C or higher, which must include English language, Mathematics and a Physics or Double Science subject (or non-UK equivalent).
  • Proficient in the English language.
  • Capable of holding a Class 1 Pilot Medical.
  • Previous flying experience is not required.

If you meet the criteria, you will be invited to attend a Skills Assessment. [1]

FTA Global:

To be eligible to enrol, we need you to possess the following: 

  • At least five GCSEs (to include Maths, Science and English). It would also be an advantage to have two A Levels or an equivalent.
  • Be aged 18 years old.
  • Possess (or have booked) an EASA Class One medical.

The above requirements are the industry, and we do not require our students to complete a pre-entry assessment. [2]

Egnatia Aviation:

  • Be a High School Certificate holder.
  • Undertake the Egnatia Aviation Selection Process (math, physics and aptitude tests).
  • Be 17 years old and above.
  • Able to pass an EASA Class I Medical. [3]

Barcelona Flight School:

  • Be Over 18 years old.
  • The ability to pass a Class 1 Pilot Medical Exam.
  • Be able to pass qualifying maths, physics and English exams at the ATO. [4]

As you might have noticed from our short tour:

  • Some schools require a high school certificate while some don't.
  • You will need to pass an assessment at some schools, while some dont.

Airline Sponsored Program (Cadet Pilot):

Now let's see the requirements to join an Airline sponsored program (Cadet Pilot). Keep in mind I will only quote the academic requirements and neglect age, nationality and the rest:

AirAsia Cadet Pilot Program:

Must have the following academic qualifications:

Secondary or High School graduate pre-requisites:

  • Any grade of "A" in English
  • A grade of any "A" in Mathematics
  • Any grade of "B" in Physics or any "A" in General Science
  • A grade of any "B" in any other two subjects;


Diploma or Degree in Engineering/Science related discipline, pre-requisites:

  • GPA 3.0 and above;
  • SPM with a grade of "C" in any subjects, of which must include Mathematics, Science, and English and
  • A pass in Bahasa Malaysia. [5]

Generation easyJet Pilot Training Programme:

Passing grades in Maths, English & Science at high school level. [6]

IndiGo Cadet Pilot Programme:

  • Minimum education qualification: 10+2 with a minimum score of 51% / Grade Point 6 / Grade C1 – individually in each subject i.e. Physics / Mathematics / English or a higher degree in these subjects with a minimum of 51%
  • Note-Engineering graduate with 51% or more aggregate exempt from score requirements for Physics and Mathematics in 10+2. [7]

Kuwait Airways Cadet Training Programme:

  • Applicants shall meet any one of the following educational qualification requirements:
  • Completion of undergraduate studies in science or mathematics relation programme with a minimum 2.5 GPA or equivalent graduation rate.
  • Have attained an equivalent authenticated certificate/diploma from Kuwait ministry of higher education issued by a recognized education institute in Kuwait or abroad to include at least physics, mathematics and one more science subject i.e. Chemistry, biology etc. with a minimum of 70% or equivalent GPA success rate. [8]

British Airways Future Pilot Programme (FPP):

Aged between 18 – 55.

Achieved 5 GCSEs (excluding general studies) at grade C or above (or equivalent), including Mathematics, English language and a Science subject (single or double award) plus either one of the following:

  • Three A-levels (excluding General Studies) at grades BBC or above (or equivalent). OR
  • An Honours degree at 2:2 or above, or a Pass in a higher degree such as MSC, MA, MPhil, PhD or MBA.

Please note that academic qualifications must have been achieved upon submission of application. [9]

What I'm trying to do above is to show the relationship between Layer 1 and Layer 2 of requirements. And that's only at the ab-initio level (Student Pilot). 

Being a Self Sponsored Student Pilot Vs Being in Airline Sponsored Cadet Program

Do I Need A University Degree To Become A Pilot?

Please note that some airlines - Mainly in the U.S. - require a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university, such as Delta Air Lines [10] & FedEx [11]. Those who don't would still prefer applicants with degrees such as United Airlines & UPS.

There is no global industry consensus on whether a degree is required or not. You will find carriers such as British Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines that don't ask for one.

It seems that only U.S. carriers require a degree, but still, getting one is valuable overall in the long run and serves as a backup plan - At least through my humble observation.

Some flight academies have partnered with universities so you can get the best of both worlds, a flight training and a degree at the same time.

What Are The Requirements For My Country's Airline? I Want To Become A Pilot For My Country's Flag Carrier:

If you are looking to become a pilot at your country's Airline in the future, I would highly advise that you ask a pilot who works there about their pilot hiring requirements first.

And only after that, double-check if you meet the flight school's requirements that you want to join, as the latter might not necessarily require the same as your country's Airline.

You don't want to finish flight training, having graduated from a non-scientific path in high school, and then when you apply for your country's Airline, you stumble across the requirement (You need to be a graduate of a scientific path in high school).

Again, to recap:

  • Check your country's airline academic requirements (High School, Uni ...) and see what you have to do to meet that
  • After that, check your desired flight school requirements.

Now that we looked at the academic requirements, let's see what else you need:

2. English Proficiency Test:

  • As a Non-EU Non-English applicant, it's a requirement to obtain an English proficiency test 'IELTS' as part of your U.K. student visa process, you should not score below CEFR level B2. Generally educational institutions will ask for a minimum of 6 overall and not less than 5.5 on each band.
  • I looked up the requirement for the TOEFL, and it seems to be in the score range of 510 and more.

3. Age – Is There An Age Limit To Become A Pilot? Am I Too Old To Be A Pilot?

The minimum age for ATPL Training is 18.

There is no higher limit in joining flight school and becoming a private pilot. But if you are considering a career as an airline pilot, then keep in mind the idea that maybe airlines wouldn't really consider a fresh graduate in his 40's let's say, especially if there are other much younger successful candidates, but there is no rule on this! It will come down to who's more competent at the end of the day.

The absolute maximum that I usually see on job offers is 52 for First Officers. The regulatory limit seems to be about 60 - 65 Years for a Multi-Crew pilot operation.

ICAO States the following:

A Contracting State, having issued pilot licences, shall not permit the holders thereof to act as pilot of an aircraft engaged in international commercial air transport operations if the licence holders have attained their 60th birthday or, in the case of operations with more than one pilot, their 65th birthday. [12]

In the U.S., the USC states the following:

Subject to the limitation in subsection (c), a pilot may serve in multicrew covered operations until attaining 65 years of age. [13]

EASA Regulations (No 1178/2011) - FCL.065 states the following:

(a) Age 60-64. Aeroplanes and helicopters. The holder of a pilot licence who has attained the age of 60 years shall not act as a pilot of an aircraft engaged in commercial air transport except:

(1) as a member of a multi-pilot crew; and

(2) provided that such a holder is the only pilot in the flight crew who has attained the age of 60 years.

(b) Age 65. The holder of a pilot licence who has attained the age of 65 years shall not act a a pilot of an aircraft engaged in commercial air transport. [14]

Regarding this point, I would like to show you interesting official statistics of pilots age from the FAA and the UK CAA:

FAA Pilots Age:

According to GAMA 2019 Databook, the average age of Airline Transport FAA Pilots is 45.8 in the year 2000 and 50.8 in the year 2019. [15]

UK CAA Pilots Age:

According to the UK CAA (2018 Data):

  • EASA CPL(A) holders are the most between 23 – 38 years old. (More than 90 persons per age group) with the highest being 183 people at the age of 25. [16]
  • EASA ATPL(A) holders are the most in the age range of 30 – 60 years old. (More than 200 persons per age group) with the highest being 447 people at the age of 53. [16]

4. Medical Requirements for pilots:

I was hesitant to write about this topic as it might get complex sometimes, so I will only provide bullet points on what to expect. Still, I would highly recommend that you ask an AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) for better and correct info.

As an airline pilot, you would need a Medical Class 1 certificate which comprises of the following tests:

  • Medical History: You will be asked a series of questions about any previous illness and generally your medical history overall.
  • Colour Vision: You will need to pass an Ishihara test.
  • Eyesight test.
  • Physical Examination: A general check.
  • Hearing test: You will get into an isolated box wearing headphones holding a stick with a button in it, and then every time 'you hear a wave', you click the button.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): This measures the electrical impulses passing through your heart.
  • Lung function test (spirometry): This tests your ability to expel air rapidly from your lungs.
  • Haemoglobin blood test: Finger blood test.
  • Lipids/Cholesterol: Finger blood test.
  • Urine test.

For detailed info, please refer to the UK CAA website:

5. New Requirement For Pilots [2021] - COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate:

No wonder the global pandemic (COVID-19) has destroyed aviation and flipped it upside down, but things are getting a bit better each day at the time of writing this article.

Some airlines are starting to hire pilots again, with the new requirement being a COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate, such as Cathay Pacific [17], and I'm pretty sure it will be the norm very soon in most airlines.

6. Nationality:

There are usually no nationality restrictions to study anywhere in the world, but some might require a student visa.

For a pilot job; it's a bit different as all E.U. airlines will require you to have the right to live and work in the E.U. before joining, and wouldn't accept Non-EU pilots to apply even if you studied in the E.U., which is quite strange, but that's the law!*

*If you are a Non-EU Pilot, you can work in the E.U if an airline sponsors your visa, but that's never happened - at least in my experience. 

I gave an example of the E.U as I studied there and I'm pretty sure it's the same mostly in the world - but not with the same strictness.

Now that you meet all the academic, 'Paperwork' requirements and have the traits and skills required to become a pilot. Meet me in the next section of this guide, where we talk about what you need to do as your first steps!

Nationality Requirements For Pilots


[1] CAE Oxford, Integrated ATPL Program - Oxford. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[2] FTA Global, Commercial Pilot Training - Integrated Flight Deck Programme. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[3] Egnatia Aviation, 2019. Can I become a pilot? Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[4] Barcelonaflightschool, 2021. ATPL(A) integrated programme: Barcelona Flight School. ATPL(A) integrated programme: Barcelona Flight School. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[5] CAE, 2021. AirAsia Cadet Pilot Program. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[6] CAE, 2021. Generation EasyJet Pilot training programme. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[7] CAE, 2021. Indigo Cadet Pilot programme. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[8] CAE, 2021. Kuwait Airways Cadet Training Programme. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[9] CAE Oxford, British Airways FPP - Oxford. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[10] Delta Air Lines, Company Pilot Career Path. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[11] FedEx Express, Pilot Opportunities at FedEx Express. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[12] ICAO, Age limit for flight crew. Personnel Licensing FAQ. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[13] U.S. GOV, U.S.C. title 49 - transportation. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[14] EASA, FCL.065 Curtailment of privileges of licence holders aged 60 years or more in commercial air transport. COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 1178/2011. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[15] GAMA, 5.4 Average Age of Active FAA Pilots by Category (2000–2019). DATABOOK 2019. Available at: pp 39 [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[16] UK CAA, UK CAA Flight Crew Licence Age Profile as at 31/12/2018 (Med Cert Holders Only). Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

[17] Cathay Pacific, First Officer Requirements. Available at: [Accessed October 29, 2021].

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