Finish School First?

Hello all, I’m currently a sophomore in college and working towards a business degree. I’m also working towards my PPL and will be done soon. I was thinking about doing the fast track program after my school year is done in May, and do it over the summer before I start my junior year. That way I can become a CFI for local flight school and still do school at same time. However, I was thinking that it would also be a good idea to just focus on my school and keep current with my PPL. Then when I graduate, join ATP, become an ATP CFI and just focus on flying. What are your thoughts on the two options? Positives and negatives to each one?

Thanks, Jesse

Hello Jesse and welcome,

Both are pretty solid plans. I actually like the going to ATP over the summer and instructing parttime (and maybe fulltime over the summers) PROVIDED you can build the flight time by the time you graduate. My advice would be to talk to the local flight school and get some idea of how busy they are and how much flying you’ll do. The idea is to get to the magic 1500hrs ASAP. If in 2 yrs working parttime you’re still going to be way shy of the 1500hrs then I’d probably wait. If however you find you can make a solid dent in it I’d say it’s worth. It’s really just a matter of doing the math. If you wait you can figure 2yrs (or less) from when you graduate from college with ATP the whole way. In order to make it work you’d want to be able to shave a fair amount off of that.


Thanks for your input Adam! Yes, I will certainly talk to the local flight schools and put some estimates into it and weigh them out.

Thanks again, Jesse


I was once in your exact same position. I earned my private license while I was in college. I then decided to finish college and then go to ATP to get all of my licenses. I felt that it was better to focus on my studies, then worry about flight training. This also allowed me to go straight from being a student at ATP to being an instructor there. You might find if you go to ATP now that you will have a hard time finding a part time flight instructing job. Most flight schools want full time instructors who can dedicate their entire day to the flight school’s students.

I vote college, then ATP, this worked perfectly for me.


Thanks Chris for your opinion! Was also wondering, do you have to become a ATP CFI to benefit from the tuition reimbursement or does that come along with just completing ATP and signing with a regional that is connected through ATP?

You will need to be an ATP CFI to be part of the tuition reimbursement program. That being said, if you build your hours outside of ATP there are numerous airlines that offer sign on bonuses for new hire pilots.

Okay, so that’s a positive to doing ATP after college so I could be a CFI. And do those same airlines not offer sign on bonuses if you take the tuition reimbursement? Also just curious, do you know of any reliable online colleges? Another thought could be doing ATP now and doing school online… Just thinking of all my options here.

That is correct, one either takes the sign on bonus or the tuition reimbursement. The advantage to the tuition reimbursement is that it is generally tax free and is partially paid while you are a CFI, as opposed to waiting until you get to the airlines and then paying taxes on the money.

Embry Riddle Worldwide is supposed to be a good online school, Utah Valley University comes to mind as well. To be perfectly clear, I am not that familiar with either of them.