Female nurse looking to change career

I am a 42yo female and have been a nurse for approx 15 years and am burnt out!!!
As a go getter with several Administrator licensures and certifications, I am at the top of my pay scale. I have constitantly worked weeks and months even 6-8 months on several occasions with no days off to get to where I am as a home health and hospice nurse. I enjoy meeting people, learning new skills, & taking care of people. Yet, I am discouraged with my present circumstances in that I have no job satisfaction any longer. Not only am I constantly seeing gross patient neglect from other nurses, I am frequently cleaning up their messes so that I am no longer happy with what I do. I already work long hours away from my family & home, have no pension/retirement, or insurance, & drive 50-60k miles a year. So part of me says what do I have to loose… except I already make 6 figures & is job satisfaction worh starting over?
I have been looking into ATP school in Houston, where I live. Part of me says, “sell whatever you have to & just do it!!!”
Realistically, how long does it take to pay off the $75k school debt? My nursing school loans will be paid off in 3 months & I dont know if Im having a mid life crisis… or if Im wanting a change. I have been reading and researching the industry for about 8 weeks now.
My mother who is a retired nurse who was in the USAF has been very negative (I was actually shocked) when I try and discuss Flight School to her. My father (also retire USAF) & brothers have been encouraging & my husband, I think he’s being patronizing. I have 5 years of college and never failed a course, but I am fearful of just how “Tough” the accelerated program is. Does any one have any insite into the comparisons between the 2 programs on which is harder or were you previously in the medical field and greatful you made the change?


Welcome to the forum and thank you for the detailed introduction.

I believe the loans that ATP is able to help students obtain through Wells Fargo and Sallie May are fifteen year repayment plans.

If I understand your question correctly, you are asking about the differences between college and accelerated flight training. While they are similar, they are also very different. College goes at a much slower pace and takes years to complete, accelerated flight training is very quick and involves an incredible amount of self study. While success in college certainly does not predict success in flight training, it certainly is a good sign. I found flight school to be much more challenging than college, but that was just my experience.

Before you really get your heart set on being a pilot, I strongly recommend (and ATP requires) that you take an introductory flight. It is one thing to think that you want to fly, it is quite another to actually do so. You can take an introductory flight at any ATP location, or just about any other flight school out there.

Let us know how else we can help you.


Chris, I guess I was to winded… :flushed:
Wanted to know the comparison of flight school to nursing school. The nursing school I went to was “Tough” … 13 tests in 1 week was not abnormal, our Med-surg text book weighed 8 lbs, read 150-200 pages over night and go back and take a major test next day over material with no lecture before hand. Is ATP school similar ?


Welcome to the forum. Thank you for sharing your story.

First off, before we dive into specifics, you don’t mention having ever flown a plane before. I know you come from an aviation family, but until you’ve actually experienced what it’s like to fly a plane, I wouldn’t make any major life changing decisions. Scheduling an introductory flight is fairly simple. Any flight school will be able to take you up with an instructor. Intro flights provide prospects with an opportunity to experience flight before deciding to commit. Don’t overthink them though. The idea is to enjoy the experience.

If you haven’t already, I also encourage you to read through the FAQ section on this forum. There is a lot of helpful information in there, including questions to ask different flight schools when deciding which school is the best fit for you.

That brings me to your next question about the 2 programs. ATP actually really only has 1 program. The only difference is the starting point. Students can begin from zero time or begin with a Private Pilot License (plus 80 hours total time). We recommend starting from zero for several reasons, but some people need to take things a little slower before beginning an accelerated program. It all depends on the individual. I only know as much about you from what you’ve shared. I also trained a former nurse. If you are anything like him, the accelerated pace should not be a problem as long as you are 100% committed with little distractions at home. However, I am not a salesman. You need to figure out what’s right for you (after your intro flight, of course).

Okay. Now the loan. It depends on a lot of factors, but I’d say it’s realistic to have the loan paid off in less than 7-8 years. I’m in my second year at a regional and I should have my loan paid off in about 5 more years.

Lastly, realize that the mandatory retirement age at the airlines is 65. That doesn’t leave much time left for you to advance. There are of course other non-airline flying jobs that do not have a mandatory retirement age, but if you do end up going the airline route, you could make Captain at regional, but you won’t make captain at a major. You’d be lucky to become a First Officer at a major, but it’s possible. The oldest FO I heard that just got hired on at Alaska was 60. I bring this up because if you are serious about this career change, you need to act quickly. I’m not trying to pressure you into making any irrational decisions, but definitely don’t waste time with your research.

That’s all I have to say for now. I’m sure the other mentors will have more to add. Let us know if you have any other questions.


Flight school is not like nursing school, but it does come with its own challenges. Although you will not be tested as vigorously as in nursing school, you will be tested in other ways. The concepts are not immediately intuitive to grasp and it requires a high capacity to think crtitically about your airplane, your environment, yourself and anyone riding along with you.

I think an intro flight (or two) would serve you well. You’ll be able to experience what we’re describing first hand and ask all of your questions in person to the instructor and/or other students at the training center.


I suppose it is similar, although you are asking to compare two very disparate things.
ATP is an accelerated program with a lot of self study and several checkrides over the course of six months. It is challenging, but many thousands of pilots have completed the course.

Tory, thank you for your words of insite and advise.
Ive flown in military transport aircraft and been in several cock pits growing up when my family would take “hops” state side. Now that is an experience, just the climb in alone…
@ the end of the month I’m planning on paying for an intro flight & if all goes well hopefully start in Nov or Dec.
I constantly analyze everything & that’s what makes me a “good nurse” along w/Good critical thinking skills & not second guessing myself. I shouldn’t be second guessing myself on this!
From my understanding pilots have to be good at this also, so hopefully it will come naturally to learn the material and apply it.
Again, thank you all for your replies.

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Hi Jeanna,

I was a military brat too, except my dad was care Navy (28years). I always loved airplanes and was a childhood dream to be a pilot. I went from the USAF, to working as a civvy on military Jets for the dept of defense , to 20 years as a senior programmer/analyst in the private sector. I’m 50 now and for 6 months prior I made spreadsheets and defined multiple budget scenarios to see what was even possible with a career change to become a commercial pilot. It’s normal to feel unsure…it’s a major life decision. I’m sure you had some doubts during nursing school about whether or not you could do it considering how many tests you took in such a short time. I was overly worried about taking the oral and practical exam for private pilot… I never felt ready, but I aced those. I think thats just a personality type thing. It’s good you’ll be taking the intro flight, since rising as a passenger is different than actually being pilot in command. But, you do have a lot of work and life skills you can apply to other careers, such as critical analysis and decision making skills. Best of luck with everything!


Hi Jeanna!
I am also a nurse looking to become a pilot in the near future. I still want to be a nurse on the side per diem at the hospital I work for. They always have call offs and it’s never hard for me to get shifts there last minute on my off days. I’m curious if you followed your dreams of becoming a pilot and how it compares to the stress of nursing school. I was still able to work part time through my accelerated nursing program and make the grades and passed boards on the first try. I have still been unable to find a nurse that has went through flight school to share their experience. I’ve only been a nurse for a few years but want to follow my dreams of doing both. Also, do any nurses out there know if being a nurse increases your chances of getting to the majors?

I’m a nurse, older than you, and thinking about spending the years till I turn 65 flying. I won’t weigh in on your individual situation and I have not begun training with ATP so I have no good info there…what I have done is lurk airline pilot training forums and videos…a lot! :slight_smile: Here’s one with a guy who began his working life as a nurse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSjaH6TlDo0

I can’t see how being a nurse would in any way help with getting to a major airline. At that level, everybody has degrees of some sort.

I also think it would be very hard to balance the two jobs out, but you never know.


Thanks Phillip,
I’ve seen this video before but also would like input about other nurses who have trained at ATP. If my situation worked out at well as this gentleman then I would be thrilled but everyone is different. Just trying to see multiple views of nurses pursuing being a pilot at this current time. Tell me about your experience please! I would love to hear how you did it and decide how I go about being a pilot. Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

Ben, I’m not a moderator, just a fellow lurker and researcher. I’ve been a Navy Nurse for 20 years now and have been on the dark side (admin/exec medicine) for 4 years. It’s kind of eating my soul. I’ll make a change soon, just can’t be sure if I can make the timing work for commercial airline pilot. If I do this I will have not more than 14 years in the sky…12 making a salary…and if I hit any bumps and lose my First Class FAA Physical - it will have been an 85,000 dollar mistake.

You definitely have to want this for it to happen, and wanting isn’t enough since the FAA Physical part, lifestyle of time away from home, and up-front financial sacrifice preclude some from getting there even if they want it.

Let me just say that if you are smart, want this, and dedicate yourself - the bit about wanting to hear from a nurse who has done it might satisfy some curiosity, but shouldn’t be what you base your decision upon. How many doctors have you met, who made it through 7 years of med school and 2 or 3 in residency but who you wouldn’t let touch your dog because they were jack@sses or, might be booksmart but couldn’t apply that safely with patients? I’ve met more than one. I won’t denigrate the good name of commercial airline pilots, but there is every chance that the story would be the same in this field - don’t sell yourself short. If you are a nurse juggling 8 patients in med-surg or three post-CABG patients in the ICU or a few on CRRT, or working polytrauma in a gun-and-knife club ER - you have the smarts and the guts (no pun intended). You just need to identify how badly you want to be a pilot, do you have the financial situation, and is your health good? Wishing you a great journey, I hope your situation will let you pursue whatever you want, and lots of luck!