It takes most trainee pilots between three and twelve months to reach a standard where they can be trusted to fly themselves and their passengers in safety (that period can be reduced to as little as a month given self discipline, the constant availability of a balloon, crew and instructor plus some luck with the weather).
The course currently requires a minimum of 16 hours flying instruction, a check flight with a CAA appointed examiner and a solo flight. The minimum age to qualify is 17.
Most people find their first solo flight a worrying, yet exhilarating, experience and one which is never forgotten. A bottle of champagne is required for the traditional celebration after landing.
And ballooning is a sport in which women can do just as well as men because a pilot needs skill and concentration, not brute strength (though it helps if there are a few muscles around during the unpacking and repacking stages).
If the holder of a Private Pilot's Licence wants to fly balloons for hire or reward he will later be able to gain a Commercial Pilot's Licence.