How Much Does It Cost To Get a Pilot's License? A Guide

Updated June 2, 2023

While an aviation career can offer an exciting schedule with opportunities for adventure, many aspiring pilots are unaware of the costs of obtaining licensure. These costs can vary depending on what kind of pilot career you want, which flight school you attend and where you log your practice hours. Learning more about the costs of licensure can help you decide whether this career path is right for you and develop a plan for obtaining funding.

In this article, we discuss how much it costs to get a pilot's license, learn about the average expenses of different credentials and view tips for affording flight school.

How much does it cost to get a pilot's license?

The cost pilot's license depends on various factors, mainly the type of license you obtain. Here are various pilot licenses and their average costs as Pilot Institute indicates:

Pilot Certificate


Student Pilot

The license is free, but it's $75 to $200 for the medical certificate.

Sport Pilot


Recreational Pilot


Private Pilot

$15,000 to $20,000

Commercial Pilot

$55,000 to $100,000

Flight Instructor


Airline Transport Pilot


Drone Pilot

$0 to $450

Related: How To Become a Commercial Pilot: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Types of pilot licenses

Below is an in-depth look at the costs and training requirements of three types of pilot licenses:

Private pilot license (PPL)

private pilot license (PPL) allows you to fly any aircraft for noncommercial purposes. It requires students to complete ground school in addition to at least 35 to 40 hours according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements. Flight schools may require closer to 60 to 75 hours. The cost of earning your PPL ranges from $15,000 to $20,000.

Commercial pilot license (CPL)

commercial pilot license (CPL) allows you to receive compensation for aviation activities like aerial tours, traffic reporting and charter flights. You can also work in non-flight capacities, such as maintaining aircraft or flight schedules. Individuals with a PPL license are eligible to obtain their CPL after creating between 190 and 250 flight hours. The average cost to become a commercial pilot ranges from $55,000 to $100,000.

Airline transport pilot license (ATPL)

An airline transport pilot license (ATPL) allows you to transport passengers on behalf of commercial airlines. An ATPL is considered the highest level of certification. Attaining this license will allow you more options when it comes to flying for pay. An ATPL requires at least 1,500 flight hours and averages $5,000. If you have an aviation degree from an FAA-authorized institution, you can earn a restricted privileges ATPL (R-ATPL) and work toward the 1,500-hour requirement.

Related: Learn How To Become an Airline Pilot (With Salary)

Other costs of pilot's licenses

Other factors can affect the cost of obtaining your pilot's license:

Aircraft rental fees

Students pay aircraft rental fees for the time they spend practicing. Institutions can charge a set fee for aircraft usage and fuel or charge for fuel separately. Newer airplanes tend to be more expensive to rent than older ones, though older ones might cost more in fuel because of their reduced efficiency. Some students join flight clubs to have more affordable access to aircraft by splitting rental fees among several members. Companies that rent aircraft may have additional requirements past a license given the terrain surrounding them or common weather conditions for that area.

Medical certification fees

Passing a medical examination is necessary for all pilots, including those who want to obtain a student pilot license. Depending on your provider, costs can vary from $75 to $200. Many personal health insurance plans don't cover pilot medical examinations, meaning you might be responsible for these costs. There are four classes of medical certification. When looking into your flying goals, consider which class medical is typically required for the position.

Related: Pre-employment Physicals: What They Are and What To Expect

The flight school you attend

More prestigious flight schools or those with high demand might be more expensive than less popular institutions. Additionally, you can expect to pay more if you live in an area with a higher cost of living or take in-person courses over online courses.

Students pay for the hours they spend in ground school, which covers theory about aviation topics. You also pay for flight school, which offers practical lessons so you can practice and hone your aviation skills. Costs typically depend on the certification you're looking to receive, the test fees and other supply requirements.

Testing fees

After completing the ground and flight school requirements for your desired license, you can take the necessary exams to officially obtain your credentials. Tests vary in cost depending on which license you pursue and can be written or practical. For instance, the written and practical tests to obtain a sport pilot license cost around $500.


Student pilots use study materials for exams, such as textbooks and review guides. During your practical training, specialized equipment is necessary to safely hone your aviation skills. For instance, many student pilots buy high-quality headsets for communication purposes and nonpolarized sunglasses to protect their eyes.

Is a pilot license worth the cost?

While a pilot's license requires extensive costs and training, it can be worth the cost. Many people appreciate the ability to explore their passion for flying and find fulfillment in the process.

A pilot's license can also lead to a lucrative career, as the national average salary of a pilot is $93,577 per year. Other career benefits of becoming a pilot include travel opportunities, competitive benefits packages and flexible schedules. Additionally, the average of two years it takes to become an airline pilot is less time than it takes to pursue other professions.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: How Much Do Pilots Make? Salary Information and FAQs

Financing for flight training

Here are some key factors to consider when financing your flight training:

Research schools

Consider researching flight schools to find the most affordable option. Some schools offer discounted training packages and deals. Other schools have accelerated courses to help save you money in the long term. You can also check if schools bundle multiple licenses, which can help you save money depending on your goals.

Related: How To Become a Pilot: Flight School Requirements

Apply for scholarships

Several scholarships are available for pilots in training. Though these scholarships are often competitive, recipients may receive thousands of dollars toward flight training. When applying for a scholarship, consider reading all the criteria closely to ensure your application is as competitive as possible. Additionally, you might ask a trusted colleague or friend to review your application and offer feedback.

Related: Guide to Scholarships: How They Work and Ways To Earn Them

Finish on time

Rather than taking large gaps between your flight hours and lessons, try to complete your program as quickly as you can. This way, you can reduce the number of additional lessons necessary for refreshing your memory. Additionally, working with the same instructor throughout your program can improve your retention of key concepts.

Tips for paying for flight training

Here are some tips that can help you pay for flight training:

Pursue the right licenses

Before pursuing your pilot's license, consider the different types and determine which is right for you. Doing your research can prevent you from spending money on unnecessary qualifications. For instance, if you aim to be a commercial pilot, you can bypass the sport pilot's license. Here's an overview of the different pilot licenses:

  • Student: This license type verifies you can fly solo after completing student flight lessons.

  • Sport: With a sport pilot's license, you can fly a light-sport aircraft (LSA) recreationally. You may only transport one passenger and fly up to 10,000 feet above sea level during the daytime.

  • Recreational: Though this certificate is less common, some pilots still choose to earn it. It has nearly all the same restrictions as a sports license, but you can lift certain limitations with additional training.

  • Private: A private pilot's license has fewer limitations than a recreational or sports license. You can fly any aircraft for noncommercial purposes, fly at night and carry multiple passengers.

  • Commercial: A commercial license is necessary for those pursuing careers as pilots. When you have this qualification, you can receive payment for transporting people and goods.

  • Flight instructor: A flight instructor license enables you to have a career teaching others how to become pilots. It allows you to conduct flight reviews and give endorsements.

  • Airline transport pilot: This license is for those who want to work for a scheduled airline.

Related: Private vs. Commercial Pilots: Salary, Duties and Differences

Focus on your studies

Consistent studying can help you complete your program more quickly, which helps you save money. Try reviewing the material after every lesson and asking questions when you require clarification. You might also create a study schedule that helps you balance your work and family commitments.

Related: 12 Bad Study Habits (And How To Fix Them)

Purchase second-hand training guides

Instead of buying brand-new materials, try to find second-hand alternatives. When buying second-hand guides, consider verifying that you have the most current version so you can learn about the most recent rules and regulations. If you know anyone who recently completed flight school, you can ask them if they're willing to sell their materials to you.

Please note that the company mentioned in this article is not affiliated with Indeed.

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