Medical certificates, or medicals for short, are required for anyone other than a sport pilot acting as pilot in command. A medical must be in your personal possession or readily accessible in the aircraft. There are three kinds of medicals: first, second, and third class, each with its own requirements, duration, and privileges. Generally, the greater your responsibility and the more passengers you carry, the higher the class of medical you need. An airline captain, for example, needs a first class medical certificate, which is valid for just six calendar months, whereas a private pilot needs only a third class medical. It is valid for five years if you are under age 40, or two years if you are age 40 or older. Visit AOPA's Medical Certification Center for more information.
Usually the medical certificate and student pilot certificate are one and the same and are issued by a doctor, called an aviation medical examiner, who has been approved by the FAA to administer the medical exam. Be sure to request a combination medical and student pilot certificate when you visit the medical examiner. You can find an aviation medical examiner in your area using the FAA’s search.
The combination medical/student pilot certificate is easy to carry in your logbook, wallet, or purse and required to be in your possession when you fly solo. The difference between the regular medical certificate and the combination medical and student pilot certificate is that, on the back of the medical/student pilot certificate, there is space for the flight instructor's signature before you fly solo.