Do Flight Instructors make enough to pay the bills? What are the realities after Flight School?

Hi all. I wonder about the time after ATP has trained you up so you’re ready to go. If I chose to instruct as many do, what are finances like? I am considering financing part of my flight training through Sallie Mae. I haven’t looked at the terms entirely yet, but I have to imagine that repayment begins when you finish your training and are eligible for work. Those payments likely aren’t low. Housing is expensive (as is everything else) and those bills have to be paid while working as a flight instructor. Unforeseen medical expenses can arise. I spent a week up in Oshkosh (Recommended to anybody considering a career in Aviation) and chatted with many ATP grads (Now flying for the Airlines, etc.) and current CFI’s at ATP. I understand that CFI’s at ATP do not receive medical benefits and are “on their own” (which is scary). Nobody should go uninsured. What do CFI’s do for medical insurance?

For budgeting purposes, What can a CFI (A reasonably sharp, employable and motivated one) expect to make realistically? I am a debt free single person over 40. My financial situation is good now but once I stop working to go to school and then start working as a CFI, I wonder how I’ll survive. I won’t lean on family for funds. Is it realistic that one can count on CFI wages to Pay rent, buy groceries and maintain a vehicle? Of course, I know it won’t be steak and lobster dinners and living the high life of airline pilots quite yet. I’ve heard of people who graduated from flight schools and never flew again because they couldn’t afford to work for entry level wages. I won’t become that guy.

I’d appreciate the thoughts and experiences of all who have “Been there”. Thanks!

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Trust me, most people who follow this path aren’t wealthy and it definitely will require sacrifice on your part. The average flight instructor earns in the mid to high $20ks. We have no idea what your expenses are but that’s a number you should be working with.

As for the loan the same applies. Your interest rate can vary and the amount as well depending on if you take additional funds for living expenses during training. Most of the lenders will offer you the opportunity to defer your payments or pay only the interest for a time. Many Regional also have Tuition Reimbursement available if you’re willing to commit to them for a time.

Long short again most people find a way to make it work but it’s definitely not easy.



I’m not there yet but I am signed up for ATP to start in July. I will just give you the info from my loan. I received a 5.25% interest rate from Sallie Mae, and I financed additional money into the loan to help pay my mortgage and living stipend, an extra $2k per month while in training. I also included an extra $1000 for reserve funds, elected to pay for the checkrides, $9-10k, and $1600 for startup supplies (headset, E6B calculator, Foggles, etc.). The total loan amount is $127k - I elected to pay $25 dollars while in training. I’ll make 11 monthly payments of $25 dollars and then will start paying the full loan payments of $1066 per month starting in August when I should be instructing at that time. There are additional options to make further deferred payments or a forbearance if I’m unable to make those payments. I am a little outside the norm as I am retiring from the Air Force and will receive my pension and disability so I’ll be set but if I didn’t have that, I don’t know that I could swing loan payments along with mortgage, insurance, food, utilities, etc.
From what research I’ve done on the forums and speaking with instructors, most instructors average about 70 hours a month and ATP pays $20.70 per hour, plus a half hour of ground school for each flight hour bringing that amount up to $29.30 per hour or about $2k per month. I know some locations also pay a minimum amount as well but those are location specific and you’d have to speak with those that are instructing there if they are willing to share that information. If you’re making $1000 dollar a month loan payments while building your hours, and only averaging 70 hours a month and paying a mortgage, car note, utilities, insurance, etc, it could be pretty tight.
Hope that helps!
Best of luck!



Thanks for that insight and transparency. That helps me as well as others, I’m sure. Being transparent for the best advice, I will have a clean slate coming in. Lucky to not have financial burdens. No mortgage or car note. Back home, I’ll put my stuff in a storage rental unit for $150/ month. I’ll live a nomadic life (Will cost money to move around) going wherever ATP and my path to a living wage flight job takes me. I know ATP offers apartments as an option, but sharing a bedroom isn’t my cup of tea. I have an Army buddy who will be overseas until at least 2026 who has a house sitting vacant by Lakeland, FL. Not being a multi engine site, I don’t know if Lakeland is a good location. Anyway, He’s offered me the place but I’d of course have to pay my Electric and Internet and a little rent and maintenance. I’d just have to commute. I have a paid off (gas guzzling) SUV. Fuel, insurance, and maintenance/ repairs can add up to $400-$500 a month realistically.

Add my cheap cell plan, average food expenses, toiletries and relocation costs and whatever else I’ll have to buy for school. My expenses will be those of a college kid essentially. I just won’t have parents back home to bail me out though lol. All I’ll have to fall back on is my cash reserve in the bank… which can go quick if I don’t budget carefully. I’ll be looking at loan terms soon after I get my class 1 medical.

For medical and dental insurance, I’d have to imagine that students (Maybe even CFI’s at those wages) not on parent’s or spouse’s insurance would have to rely on government Medicaid for a while. I’m over 40 and healthy, but life experience has taught me that unforeseen medical expenses can and will sneak up out of nowhere.

So much to think about. I’m a driven individual. Love aviation more than anything else. But have to be careful and realistic.

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Many people use the insurance offered through the “Affordable” Care Act (Obama care), this is an alternative for those who do not qualify for Medicaid.


Thanks Chris for the info. I’ll keep that in mind.