Basically three ways to get into commercial aviation:
Sponsored (cadet scheme)
Self funded then DEP (direct entry pilot)
or Military then DEP.
The only ‘real’ difference between cadet schemes and self funded is that your sponsor airline will act as your ‘guarantor’ for the massive load you’ll need to pay for flying training. As a self improver you’ll need to stump up and guarantee your loan yourself. The sponsor airline will then provide an integrated training package tailored to that airlines operations. Be wary that some operators only provide for the Multi Pilot Licence which is slightly more restrictive in your early years and ties you somewhat to that company.
A point to bear in mind when looking at the ‘self improver’ route is that it can either be done ‘modular’ where you choose when and where you do the specific ATPL training requirements and you choose your own training provider, your own ground school provider etc. etc. or integrated. With integrated you go to a school, hand over a wad of cash and they take you in and spit you out with a frozen ATPL after 12-18 months.
Modular is cheaper as you can choose the providers and you can choose your own living accommodation/costs etc. HOWEVER! Many airlines don’t like modular trained pilots. It’s nothing to do with ability but the training departments of many airlines want to see consistent training records preferably from a single training establishment. Modular doesn’t provide that in many cases. So keep that in mind.
Military obviously requires a separate commitment and also the military do not ‘gift’ you an ATPL at the end of your career. You have to do the legwork and the exams yourself. That said many airlines do like to take military DEP’s as they bring a different experience level to commercial operation.
Cost wise, well that depends upon how well you live and how much you eat/drink. I think, on average, including JOC and a type rating you won’t be looking at much change from £130,000 for a frozen EASA ATPL(A) on an integrated package. That is a rough figure though. You will need to talk to various training providers to get an accurate figure and, as always, get it in writing!!!
Military -> At least 8 years of blood, sweat and tears but you do get to muck around in some cool toys. :D
Hope that helps.