Categories: AirlineCAAS

How do I become an Airline pilot in Singapore


Aviation in Singapore is ridiculously expensive. To get work in an Airline, you need a Commercial Aviation Authority Singapore (CAAS) Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). And to attain your CAAS CPL, it will cost you at least $150,000. That is a lot of money to invest in when that you don’t know whether you will enjoy doing for the rest of your life.

Before you go ahead and take the plunge, I’ll recommend you take a look at Sporty’s Pilot Training app. With Sporty’s Pilot Training, you should be able to get an overview of what is required to become a pilot. You should also take a look at how the career of an Airline Pilot looks like.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a realistic flight simulator that you can play on your iPhone/iPad, I recommend you try out Infinite Flight. It is by far the most immersive, most realistic MMO you can get on your iPhone/iPad. Players can play as pilots or even Air Traffic Controllers. If you break a rule, the Air Traffic Controllers can even punish you with a demerit system. Check out Infinite Flight on the App Store!

So if you are ready to become a pilot in Singapore, here are some options.

SIA Ab Initio Cadet Pilot

The cheapest way to get your CPL in Singapore is through the SIA Ab Initio Cadet Pilot programme. Through this programme, SIA will take you in as a trainee with zero flying experience, put you through a training programme to help you attain your Commercial Pilot Licence.

The entire cost of getting your licence ($150,000) is fully sponsored. You will even receive an allowance during your course of training. You are however bonded to SIA for 7 years after you become a Line Pilot. Also, your upgrade from a First Officer to a Captain will take at least 15 years (as compared to 3-5 years in a Low-Cost Carrier like Jetstar Asia and Scoot). You can find links to apply for such a position in our Airline Hiring Status page.

RSAF Pilot

The other organisation that will pay for your flying training is the Republic of Singapore Air Force. While the RSAF does not directly help you attain your CAAS CPL, through your career in the RSAF, you should achieve the pre-requisites for getting your Commercials Pilot Licence.

The bond is long, though. You have to serve a minimum of 12 years. But the good thing is, the RSAF pays the pilots well.

After serving your 12 years RSAF bond, you can easily get your USA FAA ATPL (read about how much that will cost) and with that FAA ATPL, you can apply for a job in an airline in Singapore. We also wrote an article about the career of an RSAF Pilot. Here’s a collection of step by step guides for RSAF Fighter, Transport and Helicopter Pilots.

And even if you can’t secure a job as an RSAF Pilot, you might want to consider becoming a WSO (Fighter). Though it isn’t going to be as cheap to make the transition, it is still possible, and a WSO (Fighter) definitely will have the financial means to finance his own training. Read about how a WSO (Fighter) can make the transition.

Self-Sponsored Cadet Programme

There are self-sponsored cadet programmes in Singapore. Scoot is currently hiring cadets for their self-sponsored cadet programmes, while Jetstar Asia might be reopening their cadet programme in the near future (for links to apply to these programmes, visit who is hiring).

The biggest advantage of getting your CAAS CPL through a cadet programme is that you are assured of a job (with some terms and conditions attached) after spending SGD$150,000 on your CPL. If you decide to get your own CPL, there is a chance you might be left jobless after spending a fortune on your CPL.

Getting your own CPL


If you prefer to go on your own (or you can’t get into the SIA or RSAF, or if you couldn’t get into a cadet programme), you can consider getting your own CPL. There are two ways you can go about getting your own CPL. We’ve got a summary below, but we wrote an article about the advantages and disadvantages of an FAA CPL and a CAAS CPL.

Doing your CPL in the USA

Getting your FAA CPL in the USA will be cheaper than doing it in Singapore. Together with your living expenses in the USA for roughly about 6 months, it will cost you just under SGD$100,000 to get the CPL.

Not only is it cheaper than in Singapore, but your FAA CPL will also allow you to find work in the USA and many other countries (the CAAS CPL will only enable you to work in Singapore). However, starting salary for a CPL holder in the USA is very very low compared to in Singapore. The reason for this is that the airlines in the USA only hire ATPL holders. CPL holders are restricted to working as pilots in regional private jet operators and flight schools.

You can read about the FAA way of becoming an Airline Pilot in Singapore.

To begin, you just need to find an FAA regulated flight school. I can’t make any recommendations, but you can do a quick search on Google and get quotes from a few of them.

Doing your CPL in Singapore

There are many training schools in Singapore. They include ST Aerospace Academy (STAA), CAE and Singapore Flying College (SFC). It will take up to 1 year to complete your flight training, including a few months of ground school in Singapore followed by another few months of flying with their affiliates in Australia.

CPL training in these Singaporean schools cost at least $150,000. Read more about the cost involved with the CAAS CPL.

Qatar Airways MPL Programme

Qatar Airways has an active Cadet MPL (what is MPL) programme, and many Singaporeans have successfully graduated and are currently flying with Qatar Airways. The Qatar Airways MPL programme is a self-funded Cadet Programme; which means students will have to pay for the training themselves. The advantage the Qatar MPL programme has compared to a self-funded CPL programme is that a job is considered to be secured, so long as the trainee completes and passes the training and various tests.

Singapore’s STAA is one of the Singaporean Flight Schools that have an active MPL programme with Qatar Airways. And if for some reason you could not get a slot in STAA, you can consider getting your Qatar Airways MPL completed with L3 Airline Academy in UK.


Unless you get a kick start through SIA and RSAF, it is likely you need to make a substantial investment to start as a Pilot in Singapore.

But you can look at it this way; A typical degree in Singapore will cost you $20,000-$100,000 a year for tuition fees, including your living expenses and employment opportunity cost. It will take you at least 3 years, costing you a total of $60,000 – $300,000 to get your degree.

The CPL will cost you $150,000, and will only take 1-year. Meaning, you potentially can get a job immediately after your 1-year training, and start earning back the money, while the other people in Universities are still studying and burning cash!

Like I mentioned earlier, maybe you should download the Sporty’s Pilot Training app and complete the pilot training course on the app, or get your hands dirty in a good flight simulator, like Infinite Flight before you go all in in the career. Here are some links to find out more about an Airline Pilot’s Career and a RSAF Pilot’s Career.

Nevertheless, While it’s not all glamour to be a pilot, it’s one of the best jobs around!

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Captain Ong

View Comments

  • Hi, Captain!
    Your post is really informative! I'm also curious about working internationally as a pilot since I'm currently studying as an international 12th-grade student in the U.S. Can you share your experience of becoming a pilot?

  • Hi, Captain!
    Your post is really informative! I'm also curious about working internationally as a pilot since I'm currently studying as an international 12th-grade student in the U.S. Can you share some advice about flight school and your experience of becoming a pilot?

  • hi .. my son is 14 year old this year he dream to be a pilot ... do u think poly path is better for him or jc

    • Hi there. Both a diploma or alevels will do just fine. With a diploma or alevels your Son can qualify for the RSAF or SIA cadet. If he doesn’t get into one of them, have about $150k+ (in today’s value) ready if you want to help him with getting his CPL privately!

  • Hi Captain Ong. Is ‘O’ Level with a Diploma needed as part of the academic requirement as a pilot or is ‘N’ Level with Diploma sufficient?

    • If you're thinking of getting your own licence, N levels is good enough. But if you are thinking of joining the RSAF or SIA Cadet programme, because competition is so tough, I recommend u getting a diploma or degree.

  • Hi Sir. I understand that Embry Riddle Asia now offers a degree with a minor in Flying that is tied up with SIA, but I am wondering if getting a degree with a FAA CPL is better than getting a CPL from STAA straight, considering the "reputation" of different flight schools.

    Greatly appreciated.

    • This will forever be a question that can't be answered. A degree allows you to fall back to possibly work in an office job in an airline if you're unable to secure a job as a pilot. But to get a degree will require >2 years, while a licence will take

  • Hi Captain,
    I'm currently 19 years old and i have the aspiration to become a pilot, but i have National Service to serve for 2 years here in singapore. Was it possible to secure a spot in the cadet pilot programme 2 years prior to joining? Also when you said that we have to be bonded for 7 years do the years include the training or it's the time spent after.
    Much Thanks!

    • It is likely you can only go for the interview for cadet programme after you finish NS. SQ’s job listing says that the 7 years will only start after you become an operational pilot in the airline. Probably takes 2-3 years before your 7 years start.

  • Hi Mr Ong, I am thinking about taking the Ab-initio cadet pilot programme at SIA, may I just know the duration of the programme, and after the programme what is my position in SIA? Is it First Officer?

    • The duration of the course should be about 1 year. After getting your licence, you should serve as a Second Officer for a few years before becoming a First Officer.

  • Hi Captain Ong, if I get a cpl via the sia abintio cadet pilot programme, does it mean Ill be a first officer? does a line pilot equal to first officer? Do I have a secured job via the SIA Ab initio cadet pilot programme?

    • A line pilot is basically any pilot that flies in the airline. Could be a Captain, First officer or Second Officer. After getting your CPL via the ABinition programme, you should go on the line as a second officer initially. Based on SIA’s history, a job in SIA is generally secure. Even in bad years, Pilots are seldom “sacked”. They are usually put on no-pay leave and allowed to return once the economy turns around. But like all commercial entities, that practice may or may not change in the next period of pilot oversupply

  • Hi Captain Ong,

    I'm currently 16 studying grade 10 here in Australia. I am from Singapore and is currently holding a citizenship there and I have a vested interest in joining SIA's cadet program.

    SIA's listing mentioned that I would need a GCE 'A' Level, Polytechnic Diploma or Degree. How would you recommend that I approach the pre-requisites required. After all, it seems like the cadet program is very competitive. Any stats?

    (Noting that we have something equivalent to GCE called VCE here in Melbourne, Australia).


    • I am sorry but I an not very familiar with the intricacies of Australia education. However, I believe that if you finish university in Australia, SIA would recognise it as a “Degree” equivalent, much like many of the civil service jobs in Singapore.

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Captain Ong

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