The length of time in which it takes to become a first officer can vary depending on which training route you take to acquire your pilot licence, how quickly you pass the flight school exams, and how long it takes you to complete the recruitment process at your chosen airline. (Additional training, such as Type Rating training, may also be required once you have been offered a job.)
There are three accepted routes to obtaining a pilot licence which will enable you to fly for an airline. They are commonly known as Integrated, Modular and Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL).
The integrated route involves a full-time course of study, generally lasting around 14 months. Due to the intense and structured training, over a relatively short period of time, students pursuing this route can go from being a complete beginner to being ready for a role as a commercial pilot.
The integrated route involves the same modules as the integrated route, but the student can set their own pace at which to study.
Due to the financial implications of training to become a pilot, the modular route is becoming increasingly popular. With banks no longer keen to lend unsecured loans, and pilot training grants difficult to come by, students can work in between modules to fund their training.
This route will take the student longer to complete, but in many cases, the cost is substantially less because you can train in ‘blocks’, which allows the cost to be spread over a longer period of time.
Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL)
The Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) is a fairly new concept, introduced in 2006 by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as an airline-specific alternative to ‘traditional’ training routes.
This route should only be considered if you want to fly for a specific airline on a certain type of aircraft. It allows the pilot to exercise the privileges of a Frozen ATPL, but it is limited to a specific type, certificated for multi pilot operation only.
An MPL licence will restrict your career options as you can only fly for one specific airline. This may not be something that concerns you immediately, but when you are spending large sums of money on the training, you may wish to consider your career options over the course of your entire flying career. For example, if you wanted to become an instructor at a later date, you would not be able to do this with an MPL.