By Seerat Arora 26 May 2021 1 min read

How long does it take to become a First Officer?

Are you considering getting your First Officer License, and need clarity about which route to choose? This decision will determine your entire future in the aviation industry, so consider all the factors before you go ahead!

The role of a first officer is to be the second pilot (or co-pilot) to the captain of the aircraft. They manage the safety and proper operation of the aircraft and take care of the pre-flight inspection and in-flight data.

Now, let’s get to the important question - how long does it take to become a first-officer pilot?

There are some crucial factors when it comes to determining the time taken to become a first officer.

  • The training route you choose to obtain your pilot license.
  • How fast you pass the flight school exams.
  • The time taken to complete the recruitment process at the chosen airline. 
  • And, whether your job requires additional training, such as Type Rating.

There are 3 accepted routes to obtain a pilot license which will enable you to apply for pilot jobs to fly for an airline - Integrated, Modular, and Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL)

Integrated

The integrated route involves a full-time course of study. Due to the intense and structured training, over a relatively short time, students pursuing this route can go from being a complete beginner to being ready to apply for first officer jobs

How many flying hours to become a first officer in this course? 
Minimum 200 hours

How long does it take to become a first officer through the integrated route?
Generally around 16-18 months, full-time.

Modular

The modular route involves the same modules as the integrated route, but the student can set their own pace at which to study, so they can work full-time along with their studies.

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 divided over a longer period.

How many flying hours to become a first officer in this course? 
Minimum 150 hours

How long does it take to become a first officer pilot through the modular route?
Around 24-36 months, part-time.

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Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL)

The Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) is a comparatively 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 license will restrict your career options as you can only fly for one specific airline. This may not concern you immediately, but when you are spending large sums of money on training, you might want to consider your career options throughout your 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.

How many flying hours to become a first officer with an MPL?
About 1500 hours

How long does it take to become a first officer pilot through the modular route?
Approximately 18 months, full-time.

Conclusion

Make sure to understand the differences between ATPL, CPL & MPL before starting your aviation journey as a pilot. It is essential to be clear about which course you want to take to enter the aviation industry as it is a long and costly journey.

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