ATP or Accredited University?

Hi Guys,
I’ve been debating whether to do ATP or attend an accredited school for my flight training. A little about myself, I have already knocked out a college degree and have B.S. in an aviation related field. Additionally, I am eligible for 60% assistance with my GI BILL and currently have ZERO flight hours. Going the ATP route my main concerns are debt, and being able to pay my bills while in training. Also, the GI bill does not cover nearly as much for training as it would if I went through a university. My only concerns with going through a university is that I may be at the mercy of the program in terms of completion time. What are your thoughts on this matter?


Welcome to the forums! Your conundrum with the GI Bill is one that we see often here. Yes, you can use GI money to pay for flight training if you go to an aviation college, but it will only pay for part of it and you will be training on the college’s schedule and will also be restricted by the limitations of the GI program as they will only pay out a certain about per semester. In short, you will be getting another bachelor’s degree that you do not need, taking classes that you do not need to take, and taking much longer than you need to, all in the name of saving a few dollars, which you may or may not end up doing by the time all is said and done.

Keep in mind that everything in the airlines operates on the principles of seniority and that captains at major airlines can easily make $300k or more per year. Every additional year that you spend in college is potentially $300k that you will not be able to make.

Now let’s be clear here, this forum is sponsored by ATP and all of his are ATP graduates. But we are here because we all had successful experiences in ATP’s program and have seen many others have the same. I tried my hand at a local flight school and had such a negative experience that I knew I needed to do something different. A Family member led me to ATP and here I am today.

As for paying bills during training, that is certainly a legitimate concern. Many people take out extra on their loans to help cover their expenses while in training. I recommend calling into ATP Admissions and asking to speak to Kirk. He is the financial wizard and has a good picture of what your financing terms would look like.

Again, welcome to the forums and thank you for your service to our country.


Thank you for your prompt and detailed response. I don’t know if this makes any difference, but it would be done through a community college instead of another 4 year program.

Once you have been working as a CFI is being able to pay rent and bills with that salary still feasible? Or are finances during this time calculated within the loan?

Realistically, from starting ATP to being hired by an airline how long is that time frame usually?

Thanks in advance!


To me going through a community college is even worse as you won’t even get a degree out of it, just two years (or more) of extra classes that you really do not need. Two years is a long time when you can do it in nine months.

Yes, it is possible to live off of CFI salary. Now I would not be planning on buying any Jaguars or Breitling watches, but it is certainly doable. If you really think about it, banks would not issue unsecured loans if they didn’t think you would be able to pay them back. Finances while being a CFI are not part of the loan. that is only while as a student. Don’t get me wrong, it will be tight as a CFI, but we have all done it and it is certainly feasible.

Now pre-covid, we were looking at 2.5-3 years for most pilots from starting at ATP to being hired at an airline. Now of course the world is on pause, but we have recently started to see some hiring at the major cargo airlines and two regional airlines have begun hiring. Now this is simply my personal feeling and nothing more, but I think that once the vaccine comes out, we will be back to humming right along.



Debt is definitely a consideration. That said what I think many people miss is the sacrificed earning potential. Airline pilots have a finite amount of years they can fly and the quicker you start working your way up the food chain, the sooner you get to the upper pay scales and remain there. Major airline Capts earn $350k+. What that means is every year you delay that’s $350k (plus retirement, seniority, etc) you’ll never see. Then of course there are the intangibles. At my airline we furloughed 73 pilots on Oct 1. Pilots hired 1 week prior to #73 kept their jobs. Seniority matters.

Just some good for thought.