I want to double check if my first step in obtaining a sport, recreational, or private license is to obtain a student license. I'm assuming student license always comes first, but want to make sure. :-)

I want to make sure that isn't a less expensive way to go than this -- jumping into a more intensive program to go "straight" to the higher level licenses. Want to make sure getting a student license first doesn't financially waste some of the classes, training, or flight hours you pay for -- by them not counting toward the higher level licenses -- where if you had done it differently you would have saved money.

I'm not talking about less learning, just how it's done. (Making sure high enough licensed instructors, right classes, etc.)

As an addition... Do you jump through student, sport, recreational, to private? Or, do you go from student which whichever of these you want?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What country are you in? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 2:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi. When asking about licensing, regulation etc, please always state the jurisdiction you are asking about. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, United States (Michigan.) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 20:47

2 Answers 2


A student pilot certificate is just a medical certificate printed on yellow paper instead of white paper and with endorsement templates for soloing printed on the back. Other than that presentation difference it is no different than the medical exam a certificated pilot takes for whatever class medical you apply for. The fee for this varies by examiner and may set you back $75 or so, but that (and being able to pass a medical) is the only barrier to entry. There is no flight training or knowledge requirement to get this certificate.

Once you have a student pilot certificate / medical you have one of the requirements to solo and can train directly for any of the sport, recreational or private pilot certificates. You'll want to focus on sport or private training, as pretty much no one pursues recreational certificates.

  • $\begingroup$ If you do go for sport initially with plans to later upgrade to private make sure you use a full CFI, not a CFIS so you can carry the hours forward. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 4:05

Yes. In order to get other type of licenses, you need to have a student pilot license.

After getting a student pilot license, you can apply for a sport, recreational or a private license. For a commercial pilot license, you need a private pilot license (or should be a military or former military pilot with some conditions).

These eligibility requirements can be found in Code of Federal Regulations Title 14 ID Part 61.


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