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How do I become a pilot?

In order to begin the first steps of becoming a pilot you will need:

  1. a valid Class One Medical
  2. a fATPL License, including MEIR, A-UPRT and MCC. These are licenses that you are issued upon completing your training.

Flight training includes multiple written exams, such as: air law, aircraft general knowledge, performance, radio navigation, and more. Find the complete list of training expectations here.

With these, you are able to get a job with an airline as a first officer, working alongside a captain. Once you reach 1,500 hours of flying experience as a first officer, you are then able to apply as a captain.

Understanding your options

There are several different pathways to becoming a pilot. University is not an essential part of becoming a pilot. In fact, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) states that:

‘good A level qualifications are normally required, but a solid grounding in the ‘university of life’ is equally valuable as it usually adds commercial awareness and transferable skills to the CV.’

There are multiple pathways to becoming a pilot, which includes academic and technical requirements. There are options to jump straight into pilot training with an aviation academy or flight school.

Equally, there are university pathways. UCAS has provided a comprehensive list of the different pathways available to becoming a pilot. You can find this here.

non university pathways

You can find the list of approved Pilot Training Providers on the Civil Aviation Authority website. 

There are three main ways of getting your fATPL license:

  • Integrated training
  • Modular Training
  • Multi-Crew Pilot License

You can read more about these three pathways on the BALPA website.

University Options

There are some options to undertake training with a university.

These university training courses offer integrated training and study, designed for those who wish to become commercial airline pilots and who also want an aviation degree. You can use the UCAS search tool to find relevant university courses available for people aspiring to become pilots.

Note: Some courses will only help you to part-qualify, while some will also allow you to take the ATPL ground instruction theory courses as well. Make sure you check this before applying.

Many courses with pilot study are aerospace engineering courses.

What a levels do you need to become a pilot?

No matter if you decide a university pathway or another pathway, A levels are an integral part of your journey to becoming a pilot. What would be the best options?

Which A levels?

The BALPA website does not state any specific A levels, however they do recommend:

  • Good GCSE passes in mathematics, English, science, and preferably a second language.

If interested in a university option, the University of the West of England, Bristol offers a BEng (Hons) Aerospace Engineering with pilot studies requires:

  • A level Mathematics
  • One of the following: Biology, Chemistry, Computing/Computer Science, Design and Technology, Electronics, Engineering, Further maths, Physics, Statistics.

A level Recommendations for becoming a Pilot

No matter which path you choose, your A level choice is important for showcasing your technical, personal, and academic skills. Based on the recommendations of the British Airline Pilots Association and University entry requirements, it is advisable to undertake the following subjects at A level:

  • A level Mathematics
  • Another A level science, such as Physics, Further Mathematics, or Chemistry, or Computer Science.

Additional Considerations:

  • A level English: strong communication skills are essential for pilots, both in verbal communication with air traffic control and in written communication for flight planning and reporting. A-level English or an equivalent qualification helps develop these skills.
  • A level second languages: In an increasingly global industry, proficiency in a second language can be advantageous, especially if you aspire to work for international airlines.


In conclusion, while there isn’t a strict set of A levels required to become a pilot, opting for subjects like Mathematics, Physics, and Science provides a solid educational foundation for pursuing a career in aviation. Additionally, cultivating strong communication skills and considering further qualifications can enhance your prospects in this dynamic and rewarding field. So, if you are passionate about taking to the skies, consider these A levels as your ticket to a career as a pilot. Safe travels!

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