Career Change Questions / Financing

I am 25 years old and from Baton Rouge, LA. I have been in the Automotive Tech industry for the past 5 years and I am feeling the bodily stress coming on from lifting heavy things day to day. I am ready to make a change to something different as I have loved aviation from a young age and never really had anything to push me to pursue it till now. I finally got a Sim Rig built at my house and have been flying MS Flight for a while and heavily enjoy it. Booked my first discovery flight today @ ATP Baton Rouge and it made me want to pursue it even further.

Looking into all the financials, obviously, it is a very large chunk of change coming from a normal 2-year trade school program. Does everyone normally apply with the Sallie Mae funding and is it going to stress you out having to pay back that over the course of your program?

I currently make around 60k a year and from what it seems pilots make a very good entry salary coming onto being commercial but that’s after the long flight hours required to meet that point. What do you guys normally do to support bills on top of being a paid instructor after training?

Finally my last question. I have a semi-tattoo sleeve on my right arm and one is coming lower than my watch collar on my wrist kind of covering my hand. I see it’s frowned upon being a pilot with tattoos and will it seriously affect my ability to get a well-paid job from a reputable airline later down the line or can we generally wear tattoo sleeve cover-ups( like what baseball players wear ). I don’t want to take out this heft loan and go through this different career change if it turns out will be near impossible to land a job due to my physical appearance.

Thank you so much!,


Welcome to the forum. Let’s get to your questions:

Most people have to finance their flight training program. Unless you were born with generational wealth, the average person don’t have that kind of money laying around. It’s just like any other career though, med school, law school, etc. All have hefty price tags, loans involved to making the dream career a reality.

It can be stressful to see the big risk you’re taking but it’s best to focus on being successful at each stage. If you’re successful in the program, there’s a great chance you’ll be offered an instructor position with ATP. If you get one, then you’re eligible to apply to cadet programs with tuition reimbursement alleviating most of the stress of paying back the loan while you’re a “poor” CFI. Once you make it to the regionals, you’ll be back to making a livable income where budgeting out your loan payments is doable.

Lastly, the tattoos isn’t a deal breaker and won’t effect you getting hired. Just know that you’ll be expected to have them covered up at all times on the job at an airline. Whether it’s with a long sleeve shirt, or makeup for your hand, they just can’t be visible while in uniform.



Hannah answered your questions well, here’s my take:

1 & 2) As you’re aware, flight training is expensive. As Hannah said, unless mom and dad are wealthy or you hit PowerBall you will need a loan. While no one likes debt you need to look at it as an investment in your future that will give you the opportunity to literally earn 6 times what you are now. How you will live/survive will come from a few things. It’s generally a matter of getting sufficient funds during training to float you while you’re not working an getting into a hole. Next it will require some sacrifice. New pilots often joke about living on Ramen and eating at family alot but it’s not a joke. Tighening that belt will help with the stress. Finally on a positive, do well in training, get an instructor gig with ATP and many of the airlines will pay Tuition Reimbursement which helps tremendously. Over 1200 ATP grads were hired in the last 12mos. The vast majority faced the same challenge and while I’m sure it wasn’t always pleasant, all survived.

  1. All the airlines I know state no visible tattoos. You’ll need to make sure you comply until that changes which it very well might. Until then Iv wouldn’t get any face or neck ink :wink: