Answer by Dennis Mulgannon:
The minimums for Pilot Certification are listed in FAR Part 61 (Federal Aviation Regulations).
You can look them up on the internet. Most every place that teaches flying are very friendly. Don't be intimidated. Go to the airport and start talking to people. In most cases they are waiting for YOU to come through their door. Don't be embarrassed. Some places offer a first lesson at a very nice discount, just so you can get into the airplane and feel what it is like.
How long does it take for you to learn the skills in order to get your certificate? That depends upon your schedule, and of course finances.
Realistically, if you take lessons 2 times a week you should be able to complete Private Pilot Certification within a year.
When I was an instructor, the national average for first solo flight was after 10 hours of instruction at a controlled field. Therefore, half the students took longer than 10 hours to be competent enough, and half performed it in less time. I had only 2 students out of about one hundred students who were able to qualify in less than 10 hours. All of the others were between 12 to 15 hours of dual instruction, and some more than that. A couple took more than 20 hours.
Those students of mine who were able to take lessons on a regular frequency of at least one lesson a week became skillful in fewer hours than those who were able to take only one lesson a month. A couple of students would disappear for a couple of months due to work and family obligations, and the took longest of all.
It took me less than a month to get my Private Pilot Certificate, because I went to the airport every day, 7 days a week. I had my Commercial in less than a year.
However, a Commercial Cert, is not an end-all-do-all; it is severely restricted. Before you can use that Certificate realistically as a commercial pilot, you need an Instrument Rating, and more than a thousand hours PIC experience. It has been a long time, but before I could actually work as a Commercial Pilot I had to qualify under FAR Part 135, Air Taxi. I forget the exact minimum number of hours, but I think it was 1200 hours PIC flight experience with 500 hours IFR. If I am off, a more current pilot will correct me, I am sure.
Good luck with that.