Become an airplane pilot with an apprenticeship?

Do you have a passion for aviation? Are you a natural leader? You could see the world and reach new heights with a career as a pilot. 

Being a pilot is a high-flying career in more ways than one. The average salary for an airline pilot in the UK is around £42,750. However, as you gain experience and clock serious hours, that can rise significantly. Pilots with more than 20 years flying under their belts can expect to earn £105,000+ a year.

As such, training to be a pilot tends to be expensive. It is estimated you’ll spend between £70,000 to £130,000 training to become a pilot. You can usually spread the cost with payment plans, and modular courses allow you to work and earn as you train. 

Once you have earned your licence and secured a job with an airline, you will need to complete more training required to fly their specific aircraft. Some airlines will compensate you for your time, others expect you to pay for the training yourself. 

More pilots are needed to keep up with demand. In 2012, it was estimated another 92,500 would need to be trained by the year 2030. 

Pilot degree apprenticeships

The first-ever apprenticeship standard for commercial airline pilots has been developed by the Aviation Industry Skills Board and leading aviation employers in a bid to make pilot training more accessible.

Fitting under the transport and logistics category of apprenticeships, this 24-month Level Six apprenticeship will be funded up to £27,000 by the UK Government. It will aim to train pilots to handle the aircraft, perform safety checks, communicate effectively with cabin and crew and more. 

Entry requirements?

The basic entry requirements for a UK apprentice are:

  • You must be 16 or older
  • You must not be in full-time education
  • You must be a UK resident or have the right to work in the UK

However, the minimum age to train as a pilot is 18, and you can only get an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) once you turn 21. This will be a ‘frozen ATPL’, which will only unfreeze when you have logged 1,500 hours of flight time. 

You will also need a Class 1 Medical Certificate to become a commercial airline pilot.

There is a lot of responsibility on a pilot’s shoulders, including operating the plane and ensuring the safety of everyone on board. You will need to be a natural leader and an excellent communicator in addition to your other skills as a pilot. 

Due to the level of commitment required, pilots must pass tests every six months to maintain their licences. You will also need to pass a medical every six or twelve months, depending on your age and any medical conditions. 

Other Routes to Becoming a Pilot

L3HARRIS is a global leader in training commercial airline pilots, including producing first and second officers for British Airways, Easyjet and Ryanair. 

The company offers several pilot training courses based on different levels of experience and qualifications gained. 

Integrated ATPL

Developed as part of their recruitment with British Airways, this 70-week course is designed to help those with little to no aviation experience qualify as a pilot. 

ATPL with Degree

Run in conjunction with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and British Airways, this three-year BSc (Hons) Aviation – Pilot Programme aims to ready students for a career as an airline pilot.

Theoretical Knowledge

This is a 28-week course combining classroom and computer-based training, taught by respected and high-skilled instructors. The course includes the ATPL theory exams mandatory to gain a pilot’s licence. 


If you already hold a Private Pilot Licence and have logged 150+ hours of flying time, the 3-week Airline Pilot Standards Multi Crew Cooperation (APS MCC) pilot course can teach you the skills and knowledge needed to operate a commercial aircraft. 

Flying Start ARPL

This is a 42-week programme that aims to accelerate pilots earning their frozen ATPL after passing their Theoretical Knowledge exams.


Cadet programmes are designed to help pilots earn their Indian Professional Commercial Pilot licence, to work with one of India’s premier airlines, such as Air India or IndiGo.


Virgin Atlantic offers a ‘Future Flyer’ pilot training programme designed to help apprentices gain the Civil Aviation Authority’s latest Multi Pilot Licence (MPL) and a position as a First Officer on the Airbus A330-300.


easyJet offers three pilot training courses:

  • Integrated ATPL Course
  • Type Rating Course
  • Multi-Crew Pilot Licence


TUI also has a 19-month MultiI-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) Cadet Programme, designed for those with little to no flying experience.

Sector Spotlight: In what industries can I become a pilot apprentice?

The most obvious occupation for a qualified pilot is working for a commercial airline. Here, you will fly passengers and/or cargo on short or long-haul flights, domestically or internationally. 

You will start as a second officer and can rise through the ranks to captain.

Once you achieve Captain status, you also have the option to become a training Captain, a type rating instructor, or a type rating examiner. Those with a particular set of skills and a high rating could even become specialised air accident investigators. Becoming a base captain combines flying time with an HR role. 

You could also become a pilot for private planes or join the RAF

Relax. We’ll send the jobs to you.

Reckon you know what you want to do, but can’t find the perfect role? Most companies hire their apprentices in a ‘recruitment window’. This means many great jobs are only available for a short time once or twice each year.

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