Career Transition

Hello everyone,

I am looking for career advice here. I am considering switching career paths to become an airline pilot. I currently have an engineering degree (non-aviation or aerospace), and have been working in the engineering field for about 8 years now. With having a 4yr degree, what would be the best and fastest course of action to become an airline pilot?

I can financially afford to take some time off work, but would prefer to keep working while gaining necessary credentials if possible. I understand that I my income may be less for the first year or so while getting flight hours.

Also, how about relocating? My wife has her own career that requires her to be in the Pittsburgh, PA or Charlotte, NC area. I would not be able to relocate freely without her finding another job. I read mixed articles about pilots needing to relocate often.

Look forward to hearing what other people have done.


Hi Nick,

Good questions so let’s see if we can’t help guide you:

  1. Its great that you already have a 4yr degree. The Majors want one and those without have to try and squeeze it in somewhere to make themselves competitive. It won’t really expedite the process as you still need to train and build your time but it is a box you can already check.

  2. I understand your desire to work while training to maintain an income but there’s a reason why the airlines and the military train their pilots full-time. It’s simply better. Flying skills are built one upon the last and people who train part-time far too often cannot maintain the consistency needed to progress. They find themselves taking one step forward and two back, spend way too much money and time and sadly never reach their goal. Further training daily in an accelerated program will also prepare you for the rigors of newhire airline training. Finally it will get you an all controlling seniority number that much quicker. Long short while it’s possible to work and train if you can take the time off you should.

  3. Its often said the best thing about being an airline pilot is the fact you can commute from anywhere and the worst thing is you can commute from anywhere. As a pilot you can literally live anywhere you like and never have to move, EVER. I know pilots who commute from Europe, Asia and Australia. That said it is YOUR responsibility to get to work on time and well rested for duty. The airline doesn’t care as long as you’re at work where and when you’re supposed BUT they also don’t care how big a hassle that is for you. Living where you want (or need to) is a “choice” and it comes with sacrifice (how big will depend where you’re based) but it absolutely can be done.



It is great that you already have a degree, that will certainly help you when applying to the majors.

You are basically at a fork in the road, you either need to continue to work and slowly build your credentials, or you need to go full time into flight training and quit work. I can tell you from first hand experience that trying to balance anything else with flight training will result in your training taking much longer than it should and thus costing you additional money. To attend ATP, you will need to be able to stop working and dedicate all of your time to flight training.

Pittsburgh is only a base for Republic Airlines, there are several airlines based in Charlotte. Hopefully you will be able to get hired at one of those airlines and be able to be based in one of those two cities. But if for whatever reason, airline XYZ does not hire you, you will need to consider living elsewhere.

I would strongly recommend against commuting to work, it takes up so much of your time and is stressful. Whatever you do, move to wherever you are based.



I have a couple more questions.

  1. After completing the ATP 7-month zero to professional pilot program, it looks like you end up with about 250 flight hours. From my research, I think the best way to get the remaining 1300 hours or so would be to work as a CFI. ATP offers CFI positions. Would you get paid as a CFI for ATP, and how much could you earn? Please let me know the best and quickest method to get your FAA minimum flight hours after completing the 7-month training program.

  2. What is a realistic time period in which you can get your 1500 flight hours?

  3. From research, it seems that most airline pilots start out with a regional airline once they are able to reach the 1500 flight hour mark after flight school. Being that I have a 4-yr degree which most major airlines want you to have, would it be possible that I could start out as a first officer for a major airline? And if possible, what is the likelihood of that happening? If not a possibility, what is the average duration needed to work at a regional airline before being placed with a major airline?

Some of these questions are answered on the ATP website, but I would like to hear first hand.

Thanks for the guidance,


No problem, that’s what we’re here for. Let’s get to them:

  1. Yes, instructing is the best way to build your time. After completing the program you could have the opportunity to instruct with ATP to build the remaining hours. If offered a position, you get paid per flight hour as well as some ground time and sim. You would also be eligible to apply for tuition reimbursement programs. Check out the link below to get more details.
  1. On average, ATP instructors fly about 75 hours per month. At that rate, it would take approximately 16 months to build the remaining 1200 hours.

  2. At 1500 hours, you would be qualified for the regionals or if participating in one of the ATP pathway programs, select LCCs. However, you will need to build turbine (jet) time before being qualified to apply for legacy airlines. At a minimum, most want 1000 hours turbine time.