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It is always a dream of an aviation enthusiast to become a pilot and fly high. It might also be your ambition.

So, what are you waiting for? Explore the opportunities today to become a pilot and apply if you meet the requirements.

You must be wondering how to get information on becoming a pilot. Don’t worry because we are here to assist you with all the required information and processes for building your pilot career.

We are publishing a pilot career series on our website and have already posted blogs on becoming pilots for various airlines in the United States.

In this particular blog, we will focus on how to become a Southwest Airlines Pilot in 2023. Without further delay, let’s get started.

About Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is one of the major carriers in the United States that operates flights to various domestic destinations and international flights to 10 different countries.

Southwest is known as the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 737 aircraft. At present, the airline operates with 461 Boeing 737-700, 207 Boeing 737-800 and 69 Boeing 737 MAX 8.


The airline operates scheduled flights from 11 bases at different airports across the United States.

How can you become a Southwest Airlines pilot?

Southwest Airlines offers opportunities for aviators to join as a pilot for which vacancies are published on the official website frequently.

At Southwest, you have two options for joining the pilot – one is Destination 225 Cadet Pathway and the other is First Officer.

Destination 225° Cadet Pathway is for those candidates who don’t have previous experience as an airline pilot. This is a four to five-year training program that lets students systematically become professional pilots.

First Officer opportunity is for those candidates with previous experience of flying an aircraft.

Let us explore both opportunities starting with the Destination 225° Cadet Pathway in the section below.

Destination 225° Cadet Pathway Opportunity

Destination 225° Cadet Pathway program is specially introduced for young aviation enthusiasts dreaming of becoming professional pilots with proper guidance and mentorship. This is like a Zero to Hero program where students without previous flying experience can become competent aviators in a span of 4 to 5 years.

This opportunity is open for airline staff as well as external candidates who could be college graduates or military personnel. Southwest has partnered with CAE to offer this awesome cadet pathway program.

So, how can you join this program? What are the requirements? Let’s dig in.


Basic requirements for Destination 225° Cadet Pathway

Here are the basic requirements you need to meet before applying to the Cadet Pathway program.

  • The minimum age of an applicant must be at least 18 years at the time of application.
  • A High School Diploma or Equivalent level of education is required.
  • Must be able to obtain Class 1 Medical Certification requirements set by FAA.
  • A valid passport with the authority to travel in and out of the United States is mandatory.
  • A Valid Driver’s license is also required.
  • Applicants must obtain legal authorization to work in the United States without sponsorship.
  • Fluency in English Language (Reading, Writing and Speaking)  is a must. 
  • Must be able to pass drug screening tests and background checks.
  • Must be able to pay the Cadet Pathway Training cost.
  • Applicants must be willing to relocate as per the training requirement.

Processes to apply for the Destination 225° Cadet Pathway

The following processes must be followed to apply for the Cadet Pathway Program at Southwest Airlines.

  • First of all, you need to visit the careers section of the Southwest official website. 
  • Submit the online application by filling out a form and providing the required documents.
  • The airline will carefully analyze your online application and if selected, the airline training partner CAE will contact you for further processes.
  • The above process may take time so, you can utilize the waiting period by obtaining an FAA Class 1 Medical certificate and financial preparations.
  • If CAE contacts you for the further process, you will be invited for an aptitude assessment and an in-person interview.
  • Those candidates who pass assessments and interviews will be selected for the cadet pathway program. 
  • Southwest Airlines will deliver a letter of intent and financial aid process to the selected candidates. 

Career Progression at Cadet Pathway Program

After being selected for the Destination 225° Cadet Pathway program, you will travel to Phoenix, Arizona for pilot training. CAE, the training partner for Southwest Airlines, will conduct the pilot training program for the aspiring cadets.

You will spend almost 5 years in the Pathway Program and finally acquire the opportunity to become a first officer for Southwest Airlines.

The First 3 to 6 months will be spent on the application and selection process whereas you will go through a 12-month initial pilot training program thereafter. 

12 months of the successful initial training program will let you acquire your CFI (Chief Flight Instructor) rating and start your career as a flight instructor. 

As you gain experience as a CFI, you will start accruing official flight hours. After some years, you will be eligible to access the Southwest jumpseat with your mentor. This is where your golden days begin as you will meet Southwest First Officer requirements and will be able to formally apply for the position. This process takes almost 3 years.

Destination 225° Cadet Pathway Cost

As an applicant for the Destination 225° Cadet Pathway program, you need to manage funds for your training.

The overall cost may vary according to your additional requirements like food and accommodation however, the price tag is competitive. The total cost for the training program comes to around $100,000. You can expect the prices less than $100k.

You can also benefit from loan schemes as you can obtain a loan of up to $115,000. For that, you need to fulfill the loan requirements. You can visit the official loan site for more information.

Apply for Flight Officer at Southwest Airlines

If you are already an experienced pilot and hold sufficient flight hours, you are eligible to apply for the First Officer position at Southwest Airlines.

apply for southwest airlines first officer aviatechchannel

Requirements to become a pilot for Southwest Airlines

Here are the basic requirements for a First Officer job.

  • The minimum age of an applicant must be 23 years.
  • USA DOT/FAA First Class Medical Certificate is mandatory.
  • Holding a four-year college degree is a plus point.
  • Applicants must hold a valid passport.
  • Legal Authorization to work in the United States is obligatory.
  • Must obtain authorization to travel in and out of the United States.
  • A valid U.S. driver’s license is a must.
  • Applicants must show proof of COVID-19 full vaccination.

Flight Hour Requirements

As an applicant for First Officer, you need to hold the required flight hours as mentioned below.

  • Minimum 1,000 flying hours in a fixed-wing turbine aircraft
  • 1,000 flying hours in a fixed-wing aircraft as a Pilot in Command (PIC) is an advantage.
  • Candidates actively flying for 2 of the last 5 years are highly preferred.

Southwest Airlines Pilot Hiring Process

If you fulfill the basic and flight hour requirements mentioned above, you can now follow these processes to apply for the Flight Officer position.

  • First of all, create a Pilot Credentials profile at Southwest Airlines’ Pilot Credentials website. The airline also requires you to regularly update your profile.
  • After creating pilot credentials, you need to frequently visit the careers site for any job openings.
  • If you find any active vacancies, apply for the position and make sure the email addresses on the pilot credentials and careers site are the same.
  • The airline will carefully review your application and if selected will contact you for further assessments, skills tests, and interviews.
  • If you manage to pass all the tests, you are selected for the job. 
Want to become a pilot for other airlines in the United States? Read these blogs.
How to become a United Airlines pilot?
How to become an American Airlines Pilot? 
How to become an Alaska Airlines Pilot? 
How to become a Delta Pilot? 
How to become a Hawaiian Airlines Pilot? 
How to become an Allegiant Pilot? 
How to become an Avelo Airlines Pilot? 
How to become a Breeze Airways Pilot? 
How to become a Frontier Airlines Pilot? 

How to become a JetBlue Pilot?

How to become a Spirit Airlines Pilot? 
How to become a Sun Country Airlines Pilot?

Southwest Airlines Pilot Salary

Pilots at Southwest Airlines are expected to earn an early amount of $265,000 and this pay scale is 333 percent above the United States national average. The yearly salary can range from $53,000 to $265,000 depending upon the seniority level.

New First Officers can earn $53,352 yearly with Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines Pilot Benefits

Besides basic salary, pilots and other employees at Southwest Airlines will benefit from:

  • Medical, Vision and Dental Coverage
  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Health Savings Account
  • Short-term Disability Plans
  • Long-term Disability Plans
  • Basic Life Insurance
  • Paid Adoption Leave
  • Auto and Home Insurance
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance
  • 401(k) Retirement Plan
  • Profit-sharing Plan 
  • Employee Stock Purchase Plan
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and much more.

Southwest Airlines Pilot Uniform

southwest airlines pilot uniform aviatechchannel

Southwest Airlines Pilot Training Program

Southwest Airlines offers a Pilot Training Program via the Destination 225 Cadet Pathway which we discussed in the initial phase of this article.


The details we discussed above cover almost all the aspects of becoming a Southwest Airlines pilot. 

Don’t hesitate to ask, comment, or contact us if you require any further information.

How much money does a Southwest pilot make?

Pilots at Southwest Airlines are expected to make almost $265,000 per year which is 333 percent above the United States national average. The pay scale can range from $53,000 (for a new First Officer) to $265,000 (for a Senior Captain).

Does Southwest have a pilot program?

Yes, Southwest Airlines provides a pilot program via Destination 225 Cadet Pathway.

How long does it take to become a Southwest pilot?

Through the Destination 225 Cadet Pathway Pilot Training program, it might take 4 to 5 years to become a Southwest pilot.

Does Southwest require a degree for pilots?

Southwest Airlines says, ‘A degree from an accredited four-year college is preferred’.

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Suman Karki
Suman Karki is the founder of the AviaTech Channel blog and YouTube Channel. He is a passionate aviation enthusiast and holds experience working as a Ground Operations Officer for Swissport International. He is currently serving as a Flight Data Feeder for FlightAware (a US-based company for Flight Tracking). Besides, he has worked as an aviation content editor for various aviation media.



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