End goal is to work as a full time CFI

Is it common for students to go into a flight school program with a goal of working as a full time CFI instead of joining with an airline? It seems like most people use the CFI as a stepping stone to build hours, but I think my interest in teaching and the ability to be home every night with a family sounds attractive to me and also a lot of fun. I know the pay would be lower and I know that many people do have jobs as full time CFI’s. However, is this a goal that some students want to achieve while going into a flight school program? In other words, am I making a horrible career decision to spend money on a schooling in aviation if my end goal is as a full time CFI? General info about work hours, job growth/demand, and median pay for CFI would also be helpful. Thanks in advance!!

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Trevor,
For an Airline Career Pilot Program like ATP it is not common at all. But if that’s something you think you want to do, by all means. You don’t have to go to the regionals. You don’t necessarily have to do the accelerated pace (its traditionally that fast to get you to the regionals and get a seniority number as quick as possible) but it it would be the fastest way to get all your ratings. The program provides a CFI, CFII and MEI. All those would make you very qualified for CFI positions upon completion. You could take a position with ATP but you would be released upon completing 1500 hours (unless you secure a specialty position like a CFI school instructor or become a 2-year with the company). Or you could take your ratings and find a flight school you like and work full time without the ticking clock of being released.

-Hannah

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Trevor,

Common? No but so what. I actually was in the restaurant business and started the program with the intention of becoming a CFI, maybe some light charters but nothing else. My thoughts were it would be cool to just teach on weekends for fun. I never believed I could fly for a airline so it wasn’t even on my radar. While I was going through the program I learned it was possible and when I built enough time I sent in my application just because and really on a whim. For some reason the airline was foolish enough to hire me and here I am.

While it may not be common and you’ll never get rich (salaries range from $20-40k), that’s totally your decision whether it’s worth it or not.

Adam

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Many senior CFIs do it because they can’t get a 1st Class Medical anymore or work at a University or own a flight school.

It is not the common path, but with time can earn a decent living. Experienced higher end CFIs can earn 6 Figure salaries.

These would be private/contract Cirrus Instructors, Turbine instructors, warbirds, Aerobatics, Jet CFIs. Many of the CFIs who make over 100k also fly corporate, ferry aircraft or have some ownership in a successful flight school.

It’s a very small world and takes time to build the network to get the higher end clients. Also good interpersonal skills and a little luck.

Chris F

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Trevor,

This is not commonly done. The biggest reason is pay, but there are some that do it. Typically people expand beyond simple flight instruction and move into running a flight school, doing check rides, ferrying airplanes, etc. It will take a lot of networking and at some point, you might find yourself staring at that shiny 767 and reconsidering your path… or you might not.

Chris

Although being a “career CFI” will not be as lucrative as an airline pilot, keep in mind if you wish to stay in the training sector of aviation then you could also seek greater opportunities such as becoming a designated pilot examiner once you reach whatever type of experience the FAA requires. If you’re into paperwork and dealing with the FAA then this could tremendously increase your pay. Some of these DPE’s (many that I know) charge a pretty penny for a checkride (sometimes over $1,000 for a CFI ride), and if you are doing 2 or so a day that money really adds up. Now will you make the 350k that a widebody captain makes, probably not, but being able to choose when you want to work definitely has its perks.

Derek,

Great points and ones that I quite honestly do not readily think of.

Chris

Thanks Chris, I enjoy navigating my way back to this forum to check on everyone’s career progress. Sometimes I just come back to get a good laugh at some of the hard times people give you and Adam when they can’t handle the actual truth of the industry. Anyways I’ll be around giving helpful comments when I think I can.

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Derek,

LOL. Sounds good, thank you.

Chris