In need of some guidance

Hello all!

My name is Clayton. First of all I would like to thank everyone in advance for answering my questions, and for being such an amazing resource for help, guidance, realistic expectations, and information! Let me give you a run down of where I’m at and the questions and concerns I have.

I’m currently 21 years old, and am living on my own. After graduating high school I went to college where I studied to be a music education major, but was forced to leave because of things that had happened between me and my family. I no longer had a way to finance my education, and I wasn’t able to return the following semester.

That was three years ago, and like I said I’ve since been on my own paying off my loans and such. I’ve been absolutely miserable living paycheck to paycheck, and just hating my job. I’m ready to go back to school, and I’ve payed off the loans I had taken out to finish my last semester there. The question I’ve recently faced was do I really want to go back to where I left off. The answer is no. I love music and it’s a great passion of mine, but I don’t think it’s what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. That’s when it hit me: Look into becoming a pilot! I’ve always loved aviation, and one of my earliest and fondest memories was being taken into the cockpit of a commercial jet before takeoff by the captain and first office because they had learned it was my first time flying. Lately all I can do is think about flying and becoming a pilot. Looking back on it I’ve always had the urge to fly, but never really thought about it as a career until now.

During my research I found ATP, and really think I would excel in the program. My main concerns are of course the financial difficultly, but also my educational history. In the end I don’t feel so daunted by taking out loans, I’ve done it before for school, and I know I have the discipline to repay them in a timely manner. However, it would be the largest loan I’ve ever taken out, and I worry with the income of being a CFI that I would struggle to make ends meet and be able to meet the monthly payments for such a large loan amount.

I also worry about not having completed my bachelors degree. I’ve read major airlines require a bachelors degree of some sort as long as it’s from an accredited four year university. What about regional airlines? Also do you know of people who completed ATP without a degree and then continued their education either part time or online while being a CFI or working for a regional airline? Do you think that is realistic? Again, I worry about meeting ends meet and paying off my loan I take out for ATP, much less paying for school in addition to that. Do you have any advice or suggestions? This is what concerns me the most, but I know that being a pilot is what I want to do with my life, hands down. I just need to figure out how to best go about it.

Again, thank you so much for your input.

  • Clayton

Hi Clayton,

Ok a few things. First and foremost have you ever actually flown in a small plane? If not you need to! While many of us have had similar life changing moments meeting a flight crew as a child, the fact is if you’ve never been up behind the controls you really don’t know for certain. So if the answer’s no you need to. Next.

If you’ve read this forum you know now is probably the best time in history to get started in this industry. Salaries are 2-3 times what they were just a few years ago AND many Regionals are offering tuition reimbursement while you’re still instructing. What that means is while you won’t exactly be rolling in it you should have no problem paying down your loans quickly (there are many posts from current students confirming this fact).

As for the degree you’ll have no problem getting hired at a Regional without one as there is no such requirement. As you said most Majors do require a 4yr degree (and even if it’s not a requirement it’s definitely preferred to be competitive). Now back in the day that meant you had to go to a 4yr college and do your time but times changed and that’s no longer the norm. There are MANY pilots who have their 2yr degrees (or less) and while flying at a Regional earn their degrees online. In fact one popular route is with Embry Riddle since they’ll give you a substantial amount of credits for your pilot licenses and rating making the process that much less painful (one thing to keep in mind, ATP requires either a Private Pilot License, a 2yr degree or equivalent work experience. If you don’t have the degree or the PPL you will have to get your work experience “approved” by ATP’s admin).

Hope this helps?


Hey Adam,

Thank you for such a timely response! You’ve put my mind at ease regarding my previous concerns, but now I have another! You had mentioned that if I don’t have a 2 year degree or a PPL that I would need to have equivalent work experience that would be reviewed by ATP administration. I’ve held three jobs over the past three plus years, two of them I worked at the same time, with a combined experience of over three years. It’s just been difficult finding work to get myself by in the area I’m living in. Do you think that would be considered equivalent work experience? Is getting approved that way typically more difficult than just coming in with your degree or PPL?

Thanks again,

  • Clayton


I suggest that you call the ATP admissions department and talk to them about your situation. They are the experts on this and will be able to answer your questions in an official manner.



So here’s the deal, ATP is not out to just take people’s money (which is one of the many reasons I’m such a fan). If they were they wouldn’t care. There are MANY people who believe they want to be pilots but flight training (particularly ACCELERATED flight training as ATP does) requires a great deal of focus and dedication. ATP doesn’t want to waste your time and money (or theirs). As a “pre-qualifier” they want some proof that you’re either serious about flying (ie, have your PPL) OR that you can commit and accomplish a goal (ie, get a degree or hold a steady job). When it comes to “equivalent work experience” that’s let’s clearly defined and therefore it’s handled on a case by case basis. If/when you decide this is REALLY what you want to do (and ATP is where you want to train) you’ll need to call ATP and talk to their admin folks and they will make a decision. Btw, again they WILL ask if you’ve ever flown a plane before which is another good reason to take an Intro flight.