FS vs ATP - Career change at 30

Hello all!
I will first state that if this post is redundant and there is a relevant thread with the answers I seek, feel free to school me!

Im on my way to 30 this year and have been wanting to be a pilot all of my life. Now is the time!! Currently, I am researching how I want to make this happen and to do it successfully.

On this site, I found many posts about starting ATP and/or FS at an older age. My question is: In your experience, how did you all accomplish your goals while staying ahead of your overhead since it is encouraged not to hold a job while in the program?

Im very interested in ATP, but not sure how I would be in school full-time and not be able to work and pay bills. The amount of hard work that goes into ATP doesn’t scare me at all. What does, is not being able to work in the process for 2 years.

I understand Flight school is a resonable approach to be able to split the time between work and obtaining my ratings, but the protracted nature of FS doesnt entice me, but I will do it if I must!

Thanks for your time!


Well since you asked to be “schooled” I’ll accommodate you. There isn’t one relevant thread, there’s about 1,000 as this is one of the most FAQ we receive.

You say you’re not scared by the amount of hard work required but frankly if you can’t be bothered to do a little browsing before posting I’m concerned for you. ATP is not like your local FS and that’s not simply because of the accelerated timeline. ATP was created by airline pilots with the sole purpose to train airline pilots. They recognized almost 4 decades ago that the military was no longer able to keep up with the demand for commercial pilots and the majority would now have to come from the civilian sector. Problem is your local FS doesn’t train pilots like the military or the airlines do. Your local FS will hold your hand and as long as you’re willing and able to pay, you can take as long as you need to feel warm and fuzzy. When is time to solo your instructor will usually ask if you think you’re ready? If you’re not, no problem. Take another lesson (or 3) until you feel you are. Thing is when you show up day one for newhire training at an airline you’re checkrides will already be scheduled and you will be ready or you’ll be out. You need to keep up and it’s sink or swim. With that in mind ATP does the same thing. The pace is fast, there is pressure and you need to be incredibly motivated as self study is a huge part of it. This is the reason ATP was able to pioneer airline agreements and preferential hiring for their grads. The airlines recognized ATP grads had demonstrated their ability to be successful.

To answer your question most of us were in the same situation as you. It’s definitely challenging (if not impossible) to take 2yrs off from life. Most of us took out additional funds to cover living expenses. Some also deferred their loan payments until they were hired. The really good news is now the Regionals are literally paying 4 times what they were just a few short years ago but it will still require sacrifice and a supportive family to be successful.

With that in mind there’s a ton of great info on this forum. You should really do some reading if you’re considering ATP.


I appreciate the honesty, Adam. Just found it more practical to spend the time I have available today studying than browsing. I am still very early on in my journey so I appreciate the explanation and guidance.
I did find some great threads on the matter and will be delving into the comments.



To clear up a point, it is seven months without income, not two years. You are not able to work while in training, but once you are a CFI and building your hours, you do get paid.

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Your dilemma is the same for every student pilot that ever decided they wanted to become an airline pilot. Training is expensive and unless you have a big chunk of change lying around, you’ll need to get a loan cover the cost. Now you’re probably thinking, take out a loan and not work for 7 months, they must be crazy. Well ATP has already made a plan for that:

You devote your full attention to the program for 7 months. Then once you graduate you can either start paying on the loan or defer for 6 months. That gives you plenty of time to apply for tuition reimbursement programs with dozens of airlines. Once you get accepted and sign the dotted line, your future airline starts footing the bill of your loan while you collect income as a CFI.

Check out the link below for more info:


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