Career Change at 40 - Pilot

I have been working on my private pilots license, I am 40 years old and really love to pilot the plane. I am seriously considering a career change but I have no clue where to go for information and I am hoping this forum will help. Any information will be helpful, thank you!


This forum was created specifically for purpose. I suggest you take some time and browse through it (start with the FAQs After that we’d be happy to answer any specifics.


Great, thank you for the link.

Hello Cari,

If there anything in particular you need help understanding? I could go on
forever, but it helps if you give us something to work with. What is your
background? What are your goals? How do you plan to get there, if you know?



This forum is a great place to learn about the profession, spent some time on here reading and don’t forget to check out the frequently asked questions section. Of course, you are welcome to post any questions that you may have.


Yes of course! I am a 40 year old female that tbh has always had some anxiety towards flying. My grandpa was a military pilot and worked on planes, when I was very young he took me up in a plane and turned the engines off and scared me. Enough that I vowed never to get on a plane. Fast forward, I my adult life I am a Project Manager and need to fly with work occasionally. I would have such terrible anxiety that I decided it was ridiculous and thought maybe if I knew a little more about the plane, what the pilots are doing etc, it would help with my anxiety. Here in Charleston SC I am able to take private lessons from an experienced pilot on his planes and it has really helped. My anxiety is much better and is turning into excitement when I am piloting or flying as a passenger. Over the last several months I have found myself literally dreaming about flying. It actually sounds a little silly typing it but it is true.
At this moment I am planning on continuing to pursue my private pilot license but recently (within the last couple of weeks) I have been trying to understand what it takes to become a commercial pilot. There i so much info out there that i am a little confused. From fast tracking, i have seen some places that offer sign on bonuses, online courses etc. A little overloaded atm, thank you for any info

Thank you for sharing that with us.

There is one thing I want to address first. The term “Commercial Pilot” is
broad. That could be any pilot that flies for compensation or hire.

So, what exactly is it that you are after? Do you want to be an airline
pilot? Fly corporate jets? Fly cargo? Something else?


Thank you for driving deeper with your questions, I apologize for my lack of industry terms. An airline pilot or flying corporate jets is what I am referring to. I am not 100% sure on what the difference is in education requirements between the two. There is so much out there (google) that I am not sure if what I am reading is accurate. Anyone can write a blog, that was a huge reason for signing up on this website.

If you want to fly corporately, no degree will be required. You will simply
need to obtain the proper pilot and medical licenses per the hiring
requirements listed for the job. Most likely, you will need to get your
Commercial Multi Engine certificate and Instrument Rating. You may also
need to get a High Performance Endorsement down the road, but it depends on
how you decide to build your time. Then you’ll need to meet the flight time
experience requirements. Experience requirements will vary. A lot of times,
the company will provide you with the training to receive your Type Rating
to fly their jet(s).

If you want to fly for an Airline, you’ll need a 1st class medical,
Commercial Multi Engine Rating and an Instrument Rating. Regional airlines
do not require a degree, but the majors do. If you don’t have one, you can
work on it while at a regional.

A lot of applicants go beyond the ratings listed above and become
instructors with Single Engine, Multi Engine and Instrument privileges. The
flight instructing path is a good choice because it offers a practical
means to obtain all of the minimum flight experience requirements that
Regional Airlines require.

Ultimately you will need a minimum of 1500 hours of flight time. Within
those 1500 (minimum) hours your other experience will also need to meet or
exceed the cross country, night, multi engine, etc. requirements. The full
list can be found here:

I don’t want you to get too distracted with all of the numbers, though.
What you need to do first is decide how you are going to obtain your
ratings. There are many different flight schools out there and most of them
all offer the instruction to get you to the same place. What you need to
figure out is how fast you want to do it. At 40, I wouldn’t try to get all
of your ratings at your own pace. While you will still have 20+ years
before the mandatory retirement age (65), each extra year that it takes you
to get qualified is one year less of potential earnings. By the way, the
retirement age only applies to airline pilots.

All of the mentors on here are fans of ATP. You don’t have to sign up if
you don’t want to or if you don’t have the ability to set aside the next 9
months to dedicate yourself to the full-time program. We recommend it
because it works and it acclimates you well to the training that you will
receive at the airlines.

Take this information and keep reading through other posts on this forum.
If you need help deciding what to do, still, write us again.


I’m also in my early 40’s and working on making a career change to professional aviation. I’m working on my 1st class medical certificate, I have completed my ground school and begin flight instruction for my private license this week.

My question specific to the ATP program would be, is that program a 9 - 5 course of study? Do other ATP clients (students) hold jobs outside of their ATP studies?

Having a mortgage and kids, I’m not opposed to quitting my job and going to school full time with ATP but if I can continue to work, if only to avoid too much debt, I think I should. However, getting through all the ratings and hours as soon as possible also seems smart.


It is not possible to hold a job while being in ATP’s program, the demands of the program are simply too great. Furthermore, the program does require unusual hours that can easily change with the whims of the weather. Even without the needed flexibility, the program is going to require every minute of your spare time to study and prepare for the various exams and FAA check rides. It is imperative that you be able to fully dedicate yourself to this.



You will not be able to hold a job while in the program.

Although you may not be at the training center for 8 hours a day, ATP
requires you to be available 8 hours a day. There are a lot of variables
that can influence the schedule to change. Your instructor needs their
students to be on call at a moments notice.