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Education Needed to become a pilot

Though not required, many helicopter pilots start out flying airplanes.Though not required, many helicopter pilots start out flying airplanes.


Helicopter pilots work in a variety of different industries and fulfill a number of different roles, including emergency medical services, law enforcement, agriculture, executive transport and sightseeing. Career paths for a helicopter pilot can take him into other industries as well, such as firefighting, search and rescue, logging and instructing other pilots. Some helicopter pilots earn a license to fly as a hobby. No matter the path a helicopter pilot chooses, he must first start by undergoing education and training.


Helicopter pilots do not need to have a college degree to fly helicopters as a hobby, but those choosing a career as a pilot do need at least some post-secondary schooling. Most employers require pilots to have at least an associate's degree, with many preferring pilots to have a bachelor's degree. Pilots do not necessarily have to choose an aviation-related degree, and many employers prefer those with math, physics and aeronautical engineering degrees. Numerous colleges and universities also offer aviation programs that give the student an associate's or bachelor's degree, along with all the necessary licenses to fly helicopters.

Private License

Every helicopter pilot must obtain a private helicopter pilot license to fly. Students must be at least 17 years old, obtain a FAA medical certificate and pass a FAA written test. Additionally, the student must take at least 40 hours of flight time, 10 of which must be solo flight time. As part of those 40 hours, the student must do three hours of dual cross-country flying, three hours of dual nighttime flying and three hours of solo cross-country flying. The student must also do at least one 75-nautical mile cross-country flight and perform three solo takeoffs and landings.

Commercial License

Helicopter pilots who want to make flying a career must move on to earn a commercial helicopter pilot license. A commercial license requires the student to be at least 18 years old, hold a private helicopter pilot license and FAA medical certificate and complete ground instruction. Following all training hours, the student must pass the FAA written knowledge, oral and practical tests. Students need to complete 20 hours dual flight training, including one dual cross-county and one solo cross-country flight and 10 hours of instrument training. The student must also do at least 10 hours of solo flight training and 100 hours as a pilot-in-command.


If a student cannot afford the costs of obtaining a helicopter pilot's license, he has several options to help fund a helicopter pilot education. Several flight schools and private companies offer loans for pilots to borrow money to cover educational expenses, such as the Career Training Loan from SLM Financial Corporation. Industry groups also offer financial aid opportunities, such as the scholarship for female helicopter pilots from the International Female Helicopter Pilots Association. Additionally, potential helicopter pilots can choose the military route and in exchange for several year's service with the military, the pilot receives all or most of his pilot training for free.

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