There are several license and ratings that a pilot will need to qualify for. This will depend on the nature of flying that one seek to do.
The Three Licenses that a Pilot can achieve are:
1. Private Pilot License
2. Commercial Pilot License
3. Airline Transport Pilot License
Private Pilot License (PPL)
To peruse flying as a recreation, the requirement is a Private Pilot license.
This license will allow the holder to fly for themselves and also carry passengers for free. With a Private Pilot License, a pilot cannot work for compensation or hire.
While the minimum requirement for this license is 40 hours of flight time, practically it takes close to 75 hours before a student pilot is trained to the PTS (Practical Test Standards)
Commercial Pilot License (CPL)
For one to work in a company, organization or individual for compensation or hire and take up flying as a profession, a Commercial Pilot License is required. This license is a professional pilot license that will include a private pilot license to begin with and graduate to Commercial Pilot License as the pilot course progresses to more advanced training.
Commercial Pilot License fall under two categories. Single Engine CPL and Multi Engine CPL. Today all airlines require a Multi Engine CPL as a basic requirement for hiring a Pilot.
While the minimum requirement for this license is 200 hours of flight time, practically it takes close to 250 hours before a student pilot is trained to the PTS (Practical Test Standards)
Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)
This is the Apex of pilot licenses. The ATPL is a requirement for a Pilot to be a Captain. When you start as a first officer in an airline, the minimum requirement is only a CPL. With a few years of experience and flight time, first officers become eligible to become Captains to take command position.The minimum requirement for this license is 1500 hours for flight time. The final authority of the operations of a flight lies with the Captain.