Considering a career change

I have a BA from Texas A&M. I have stayed home with my kids for the past 12 years (did sales before kids) and am going through a divorce. I am weighing my options for what I want to do for a career upon my return. I want to love what I do, have a balance between work and family, and make a good living. I love the thought of being a pilot and think it would be fun to meet so many people and travel. My concerns are the balance since I have 3 school age kids. I am looking for a summary of cost and time to become a commercial pilot, timeline and likely salary expectations after obtaining certificate to be hired in Houston, and how easy/hard to balance work and family. The more info, the better.


Welcome to the forums and thanks for posting! I will be very honest with you in that if you are going to be a single parent with three school age kids this might not be the best time for you to consider joining the airline industry. The job requires a large amount of time away from home, even if you live where you are based. On average I spent about 14 nights a month on the road.

That being said, perhaps you just need to wait a few years and then get into the field. Once you begin training you can expect 2-3 years of training/flight instructing before you can be hired by a regional airline. To learn more about pilot salaries read here: What Do Pilots Really Earn?

Don’t give up your dreams yet though, think about your situation with the children and if this might be an option for you at some point down the road. Feel free to post any more questions that you think of here.


Hi Lil’ Piggy(?) and Welcome!

Well you definitely have the right idea. I personally believe earning a living doing something you love (or at least like a lot) is the secret of life. I see Chris beat me to a response. He makes some valid points but let’s lay this out so you can decide what’s doable and what’s not.

First and foremost you need to get trained. There are several routes but we’re usually looking for efficiency. You don’t mention any experience so I’ll assume you have none. You can go from “0” time to all the licenses and ratings required to become a professional pilot (generally that means a flight instructor) in as little as 6mos for between $64 and $74k. You’ll then need to build time instructing until you’re hirable at an airline. That’s approx. 1.5-2.5 yrs so about 2-3yrs total to get to an airline. Not terrible.

What’s of greater concern to me (and Chris) is the balance you seek. Training is a fulltime job and so is instructing (again if our goal is getting there fast). Now when I say fulltime I don’t mean 9-5, I mean ALL the time. Flying is dynamic and there are all kinds of requirements (nights, LONG cross country etc). You may need to be at the airport from the early am to the wee hours. Now once you get to an airline seniority is EVERYTHING. As you gain seniority you gain more and more control over your life. I’ve been doing this a while (13yrs) and I’m at the point where I fly pretty much when and where I like. When you’re new that’s not the case. You’ll be based where the airline needs you to be and you’ll fly where, when and as much as they need you too. I really hate raining on anyone’s dreams but this career requires a great deal of sacrifice at the beginning.

I’m sure this is not the answer you were looking for but it’s best you know what you’re facing. That said, I’m all about alternatives and trying to make lemonade bla bla bla. While I had very different challenges then you face, I had my own, and the one thing we share is that desire to be happy (which I wasn’t). I was 39 when I decided to make the career leap and honestly didn’t think I’d ever be an airline pilot, I simply wanted to do something I enjoy and that meant flying. What I’m saying is rather than abandoning this dream altogether, or not doing anything till your children are older maybe you can start getting the ball rolling. Perhaps you can start your training and earn your licenses over time in your spare time (which I’m sure is a commodity). Earn your licenses and maybe work evenings or a couple of days during the week as an instructor slowly building your time. That way when the kids are a little more self sufficient, rather than just getting started training, you can dive right into an airline gig. Is this ideal or the most efficient or cost effective route? No, but it’s possibly a way to your dreams?

Maybe something to think about?


HI…Adam . Im 32 years old right now and I am thanking about attend the ATP flight school.But i don"t have College degree also I don"t have any experience with fly so do you think I can do it?

Hi George,

First off to attend ATP you need either a degree OR your Private Pilot license so you’ll need to get one or the other. That aside obviously there are other flight schools out there without that requirement. Back to your question, can you do it? Sure. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment but absolutely. Keep in mind while the Regionals don’t require a degree most (not all) Majors do so without one you may be limiting your potential in the field. That all aside, first and foremost if you have no experience you need to go fly! While flying is a very appealing career choice it’s not for everyone and frankly you may not even like it. Before you start thinking of all the potential pros and cons I’d try it out. Make sense?


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I totally understand what he said for changing career. Because I am considering, too.
But my situation is worst. I mean, I am 46 years old now, and two school age kids.
I have a secure job(work for post office) now, but it’s boring(kind of ^^).
Well, I have some aviation background. I have a BA in aviation engineering, and FAA Private pilot certification(paper, I did not change yet. My last flight was 2005). Also, I was a WSO(F-4) with around 250TT. I know it does not be countable as TT.
Actually, I was on training in 2005, but I had to stop, because I did not have US citizenship at that time. Now I have a green card, and I plan to take some flight lesson again. However, main problem is my age. I already mentioned that, and I am 46 years old now. Do you think I can get any airline job after I finish my training?
Well, if I start again, it will be my last chance. So…Please, tell me anything for me.
Thanks and be safe.

Hey Steve,

You definitely get an airline job after you’re done training. That said I think it’s important that you’re realistic about your goals. Say you start now, finish up your training and build your 1500hrs in 2 yrs, now you’re 48. You get hired by a Regional and upgrade in 3-5 yrs so now you’re 51-53. Not old but since mandatory retirement is 65 we’re talking a 12-14 yr career in the airlines. Definitely not terrible. You’ll make some pretty good money and have great travel benefits for you and your family. The question is after you upgrade at the Regionals, are gaining some seniority, have a good schedule and making Capt pay are really going to want to go to a Major and start again at the bottom and possible never upgrade? Probably not. I know a number of pilots who are fat, dumb and happy at the Regional level. One in particular was in my newhire class at ExpressJet in 2005 and he’s never even upgraded. He’s the number 1 First Officer at the company, has an amazing schedule and only flies when, where and with who he likes. His schedule is so flexible he has another career that supplements his income.

Bottomline is you’ll probably never Capt a 787 to Tokyo but you can have a very nice career as a senior Regional Capt and even a junior Major First Officer. If that’s cool with you, I’d do it.



Wow, thank you so much Adam. I really appreciate it. It really helped me. I can plan my future as a pilot again.
Honestly, I almost gave up to fly again. But whenever I saw planes, I felt my heart was still beating.^^
I will take some private pilot review as soon(my last flight was in 2005), and will set up my training.
Again, thank you for your advice and be safe.


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My pleasure Steve,

Keep me posted