How to Become a Freight Carrier Airline Pilot

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

careertrend article image
Hero Images/Hero Images/GettyImages

Becoming a pilot takes hard work, determination, and a certain level of sophisticated skill. Although the schooling is tough, the career can be rewarding. Airline pilots often earn up to $200,000 per year after only 10-15 years into the career, according to Phoenix East Aviation. To become a cargo plane pilot, you will need to receive lots of certifications and flight hours. It can be done, however, by following some of the instructions below.

Contact a flight school that offers a course in how to obtain a private pilot's license. This certification will let you fly alone, day or night, with passengers on board. This training will usually cost between $6,000 to $10,000, and takes about three to six months to complete, according to the PilotOutlook. Receiving this license is the first step in becoming a professional pilot.

After receiving your Private Pilot's License (PPL), start training for your Instrument Rating, Commercial License, Multi-Engine rating, and Certified Flight Instructor Rating (CFI). The rest of these courses will cost you about $30,000, and take one or two years to complete (according to the FAA). These ratings are the "bare bones" of a professional pilot. Now what is needed is flight time.

To become a cargo pilot for a transport company, you need at least 3,000 hours of flight time. Achieve this time through either training others as a CFI, or becoming an airline commuter pilot. These jobs, although usually low-paid, can help you build flying time quickly and easily. To build the number of hours required for major shippers, expect to be racking hours for a couple of years.

Once your receive 1,500 hours, you will need to receive your Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL). This rating is the highest available for pilots, and it allows you to fly commercially as a captain. This is required for almost all of the transport companies, and it's a great rating to have on your pilot resume. Expect to pay $10,000 for this rating.

Apply for a cargo job online or through the phone. If they call you back for an interview, make sure to bring your resume, rating certificates, and log book to the interview. This process is usually very competitive, and it's important to look your best. Be sure to wear a suit and tie when attending this event.


If you are unable to collect the money needed to become a pilot, consider going into the Armed Forces. The military will pay for your flight school, in exchange for a few years of service. Armed Forces members are always given priority in interview processes, so it's a great way to get the pilot job you want.