Pathways to piloting in Germany

Hi! I’m 36, married with kids, and currently work in the international education field. I have 20 hrs on a C-150/152 and am thinking about a career switch to aviation. My goal would be the airlines but am open to other opportunities along the way. Another part of my goal is to based in Germany, which is where things get complicated :grimacing:.
I am a US citizen living in the states. I have looked at some airline pilot job listings in Europe and see they require EU citizenship or permanent residency. To actualize my goal I’m trying to figure out if

  • I would need to train in Europe or train in the US.

  • If I train in the US is it better to get FAA licensing that I can convert to EASA later, or to go to a school where I can earn EASA?

  • Once i am fully licensed is there anyone in Germany, or Europe more broadly, who might hire me? What types of piloting jobs would I be eligible for as a US citizen on a work visa?

I’ve been seeking out information on this for awhile and haven’t found much. I spoke with a school in Spain who said they hire their students as instructors but then they can’t guarantee their international students employment with an airline, and that it’s often hard for them to get employment with an airline in Europe. If anyone has experience with any part of this question or leads where I might find answers, it would be great to hear from you.

Hi Brooke.

I am from Germany, however currently working as a CFI based out of Dallas; I hold both FAA and EASA licenses. I did all my EASA licenses first; I eventually ended up living here in America and therefore converted everything into FAA. To answer a few of your questions. Yes you can convert your FAA to EASA. In fact, besides your Instrument rating, you can convert your FAA to EASA in America. There are numerous schools in America such as in Florida etc that conduct EASA training. The instrument portion however has to be done in Europe (EU). Be aware though, that you will have to pass your 14 ATPL exams in Europe. These exams are notoriously difficult and require at least 6 months preparation, full time.

In regards to getting hired, you indeed will require to possess a EU passport or a work permit - similar story in America. I am only able to work here due to my Green Card status, otherwise this would be close to impossible.

I have many friend in Europe who all have EASA licenses but are having difficulties in finding a job (low hour pilots). They do not have the 1500hr rule, therefore everybody can leave school and directly apply to fly a 737; competition is generally very high for these jobs. That being said, it is not impossible.

Keep in mind, if you are wanting to do a CFI gig in Europe (EASA), you will have to keep in mind that your CFI license will essentially ‘be under probation’ for the first approximately 100hr dual given. You will need to find a school who is willing to hire a newbie, rather than a CFI who already has finished their probational period of 100hrs.

I hope this helps! All the best, and enjoy Germany if you end up there.




Is there a requirement to live in Germany or is it just a desire to live there? I am not fully familiar with the training process in Europe, but I can tell you that pay/quality of life is significantly higher working for an airline in the US. They have no 1500 hour rule in Europe. So I see many people ask how to train to get over there, considering you could get in an A320/737 at 250 hours. It comes at a huge cost though and in my opinion it’s nowhere near worth it unless you already live in Europe or would NEED to in the future. Many airlines actually make you pay for your own jet type rating as well, which can be tens of thousands of dollars. The EASA written exams are also notoriously difficult and you’ll start by making very little pay.

If you want to be a pilot, the US is the place to be, no doubt. I imagine most European pilots would move to the US if they could. I’m from the UK and still hold a UK citizenship, but I never considered working in Europe. Unless you have a requirement to live in Germany, I’d consider doing your training in the US and then potentially working for a US airline.



  1. If you want to fly in Europe you should train in Europe as the conversion process is very arduous.

  2. see above

  3. My understanding is it’s extremely difficult to get a EU work visa and therfore get any flying job.

If I were you I’d contact some European airlines. Some offer cadet programs and if accepted they could possibly sponser you. I’d also take a look at This forum focuses on flight training and careers in the US whereas they’re more international.


Hi Philippe,

Thanks for your insight! What you wrote was very helpful and it’s nice to connect with someone holding EASA licenses. I have heard that converting your EASA to FAA is easier than the reverse. Do you think that is true having gone through the FAA conversion? I am concerned about training here, then going to Germany and needing to take the exams. I’d want to get to work quickly at that point because of my family. I have seen some programs in the States that offer EASA training. My concern is that if I stay in the States, I’m not building time towards residency, and it seems that many pilot jobs require citizenship or permanent residency in that country. Do you know, or have you heard if you can pilot in Europe on a work permit like the EU Blue Card or other work visa?

When you wrote about the CFI gig and mentioned schools hiring other pilots who are past their probation period, did they get past that period by attending an EASA flight school? How do most get through that 100hr probation?

I’ve read that the pilot market is tighter across Europe than it is in the States right now. To make myself a more attractive candidate I have thought going for a higher number of flight hours would be the best route to take. One way I’ve thought about is training in the States, gaining time and experience at a regional and then applying for positions in Germany/Europe. Again, I’m not sure if this is an option because it’s not clear to me what kind of visa might be acceptable. The other path would be training in Europe, taking on a CFI position or similar and bringing in the hours that way. Do you think either of these would be good plans en route to the airlines? Would one of these or another way be more recommended?

Hi Roscoe,

Thanks for your thoughts and the added context of your background as a UK citizen. Your comment about quality of life really caught my eye. A big part of why I’m interested in moving to Germany is for quality of life for me and my family. Would you talk a bit more about the quality of life of an EU pilot verses a US pilot? I’m wondering where the most notable differences are that you have seen (schedule, pay, airline’s treatment of its pilot’s/crew, etc.). I think pay is the biggest one that I know about. In general, it seems like workers in Germany have more protections and a better work balance than I’ve experienced here in the States, but maybe not all full-time, professional roles see the same types of benefits.

For residency in Germany, it would be residing in the country for me. Germany is reforming some of their immigration laws, so I’ve been watching things to see how the dust settles.

Hi Adam,

I hadn’t heard of the pprune forum. Thanks for sharing this. It’s light on Germany specifically but has good info about other parts of Europe and outside of the continent.

I’ve looked at some cadet programs but will look more. That would be fantastic if I found one willing to sponsor me but won’t hold my breathe. The ones I’ve seen so far have their citizenship requirements as part of their program eligibility, but I’ll keep looking.

Here’s the process to convert an FAA certification to an EASA certification. Hope it helps!


Hi Brooke.

The actual conversion from FAA to EASA is definitely much more challenging indeed. As mentioned a few times, the practical portion of the EASA syllabus is actually easier than the FAA practical portion, HOWEVER, the 14 theoretical ATPL exams are simply brutal. I can confirm this first-hand. That being said, it is achievable, especially with dedication and a good ground course with Bristol or similar companies; I did mine with Bristol.

I can also reiterate, that a citizenship is not necessary, as long as you have a work permit. That being said, the bigger issue is that many airlines require you to speak the language they speak where the airline is based; Air France (French) etc. The typical low-cost carriers generally do not require this.

If you really want to do it the ‘smart’ way: Get a job here in America, get a bit of experience and then apply for jobs in Europe, if eligible/possible. In Europe, beginners really struggle to get their first 500, 1000 hrs etc. But if you come to Germany with 500-1500 hours, you are definitely becoming ‘interesting’, since this will enable you to differentiate yourself from the general applicant who leaves school with 250 hrs - this would be a big advantage! This is exactly what many of my buddies struggle with in Germany.

I myself plan to fly here for a few more years and most likely move abroad somewhere. The market here is huge and has a lot of great things to offer, enabling you to gain experience flying a jet or similar, in a very busy airspace.

The probational period can be conducted at any flight school. Generally, it will be at the school at which you will conduct your CFI training with. They however do not guarantee you a job, it remains uncertain until they commit to hiring you after training. However, my personal suggestion would be not to waste your money conducting your training in Europe without knowing for a fact that you will be able to get a work permit. They generally do not sponsor CFI’s, since there are plenty available already (same like in the US).

Without picking sides, clearly both countries have great things to offer. I lived a big chunk of my life in Germany and I like how organised everything is. Many positive things and a good work life balance (relatively speaking), especially when you are planning to have children etc.

Best of luck and I hope you will achieve your goals!

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Thank you so much, Peter! What you’ve said has really added validity to my idea of training and gaining time here before applying to opportunities in Europe. Thanks also for mentioning your ground school. I like that they have a fully remote option. Having a remote option does make it seem more accessible and therefore obtainable.
I studied German in college and have started relearning it. I enjoyed learning the language and wanted to have that skill back anyways, especially if we move there. But I will keep those company language requirements in mind as I look for opportunities.
Thanks again! Hoping I meet my goals too and that you are able to as well :grinning:.

Thanks David! I’ve read through some of these rules before but will comb through it again to get a clear picture on the process.

It basically states that you have 12 calendar months from the time you receive your FAA private or commercial certification to apply for the EASA certification with one of the member states but you have to have the theoretical knowledge exam completed before you can apply.