Career Path to take

Hey everyone!

I am 20 years old and looking for advice on which path I should take. So, there are two options I am considering:

  1. Start ATP now(I would like to join the AA Cadet Program, thoughts?), then while working for a regional airline, finish my bachelors degree, then move to a major.
  2. Go to college now to get my degree, then go to ATP.

However, I have so many questions.

  1. Realistically, how long would it take from start of training to actually making an income as a pilot?

  2. Do regional airlines really help pay for the cost of ATP? If so, how much are the scholarships?

  3. If I started my bachelors degree while working for a regional airline, would they provide tuition reimbursement for that as well?

  4. What is the realistic salary of a pilot for a regional airline?

  5. I am married and my husband is in the Navy so we are in JAX FL until the end of 2022, then we will be in Dallas TX for the remainder of his career, so I am not really flexible like most people to move around every couple of years for a permanent position as a CFI or even a pilot based out of a different location, is this a realistic standard? Is it likely I would find a job there?

  6. As a young woman pursuing aviation, I am concerned for discrimination. I know Hannah is on here, have you or anyone else experienced any discrimination at any airline (you dont have to name them) or while in training?

  7. What is the best pathway to take to become a pilot based on all my questions?

  8. What is the student loan debt like? Are you able to quickly pay it off, has it affected your lifestyle negatively, or are you still paying for it 8-10 years later even with the salary?

  9. How did you financially survive for those 7-9 months with no income?

  10. Finally, how did you make it through? Did you ever think of quitting?

My apologies for all of the questions, I just have so many thoughts unanswered and sometimes people are uncomfortable talking about sensitive things like student loan debt, the reality of salary, and supporting yourself through school etc.

Thank you so much for giving your time to this!
Happy New Years!

Lauren : )

Hi Lauren,

Lots of good questions, many of which are covered in our FAQ but here are some quick answers:

  1. ATPs Career Pilot Program takes 7mos to complete. After which (if successful) you will have your Commercial License and Instructor ratings and can begin to get paid to fly.

  2. No, Regional airlines will not pay for your training. However many Regionals do offer several types of bonuses including Tuition Reimbursement for new instructors who interview and are offered conditional employment. They are not scholarships, again they’re bonuses and they average around $15k.

  3. No. But again, there’s a pilot shortage and many of the Regionals are offering a variety of hiring bonuses, some of which total over $100k.

  4. First year pay at the Regionals is approx $40k and tops out at $80k for senior Capts.

  5. As for instructing, while ATP offers successful grads instructor positions, they do not guarantee a location. If moving isn’t an option you might need to find an instructor position elsewhere. After your hired by an airline you may eventually be able to get the base of your choice, but until you build seniority you may be a commuter for some time.

  6. While aviation has traditionally been a male dominated industry, the percentage of female pilots has been increasing steadily. I’ve been in this industry for almost 20yrs and have participated in both Regional and Major hiring and have never seen any discrimination.

  7. If you look up and to the left you’ll see the ATP logo. This is ATPs forum and all the mentors are successful grads. We were all in your position at some point and after doing our research decided ATP was the best route. You need to research for yourself and decide what’s best for you. Personally I believe it’s better to finish college as many people find it challenging to return to school later but that’s your decision.

  8. The typical loan term is 15 years. We obviously have no idea what your family income or expenses are. Some are able to pay off their loans quickly, others take the full term.

  9. I, like many perspective students, took a loan for a higher amount to cover expenses.

  10. Never. This was my dream and I was determined to be successful.


Hey Lauren,
Adam did a great job covering your questions. From a female perspective, I’d say I haven’t experienced any blatant discrimination. Does that mean I’m always treated as an equal? Absolutely not. I noticed it the most in training. Female pilots constantly have to prove they deserve to be there. It’s no mystery that with all things being equal, a woman, as a minority, has a greater chance at being hired than the male counterpart. That creates a stigma from the second we walk in to the training environment. Is she here because she hits a quota, or because she’s good and deserves to be here? If you have a bad sim session, it’s because you’re a girl… not because you’re in training and learning like your other male classmates. You’ll learn very quickly, the way to make it in this industry is being on top of your game all the time. You have to prove you belong by being at the top of your class. Only then will you be respected and treated like, “one of the guys”.


Thank you so much for sharing your perspecvite, @Hannah!! It was so important for me to hear an honest answer from a female mentor like you. I’ll try to keep in mind so I can cope with it better and it won’t affect me so much in negative way during trianing. This is the reality. Yet, by joining the aspiring female pilots, I’m proud that I’ll take a part in making that reality less real.

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I don’t want it to dampen your excitement getting in to this career, just make you more knowledgeable of what to expect! You’re right as well. If you do encounter any similar experiences, you’ll be able to let it roll off you knowing it comes with the territory.