Real Answers from Real Pilots

Is there a difference between just getting a commercial license or "the whole package" (private, CFI, etc)?)

I’ve been reading a lot online about getting a pilot’s license but I’m not sure I completely understand what I should be going for. I’m thinking about joining the airforce after college, but I am also interested in flying before I graduate. I understand that you must have a commercial pilot’s license in order to earn money from flying, but when I look at different websites and schools to look at their programs, I see differences in what they offer. For example, when I was looking at ATP’s program for a commercial pilot’s license and the price was just under $100,000 for everything, but when I looked at a local flight school in my city, it said that the estimated price to earn a commercial license was about $27,000 - $30,000.

I know that the ATP program would be offering more total certifications, but I don’t have that kind of money to spend right now. What is the best way for me to earn a license where I can earn money flying full-time while also in college? Feel free to expand on your answers… I’m not even completely sure on what all to ask about. Thanks.

** I should clarify my post; I don’t necessarily want to be a pilot for a commercial airliner. I know there’s other options like flying cargo or private customers. Hope that helps **


Great question! Let me see if I can answer you without writing a novel.

Yes you’re correct, in order to get paid to fly legally you simply need a Commercial pilot license (CPL). If you check the FAA regs earning a CPL really isn’t that difficult or complicated, it requires a minimum of 250hrs of flight time and training, and time in other specific areas. So yes in short you can probably get your CPL for the prices you quote.

Now if you look at ATPs Career Pilot Program it lists a number of licenses and ratings including the CPL so what’s the difference? The difference is ATPs program will actually provide you with EVERYTHING you’d need not just to be legal to get paid but to actually get a job where you can get paid. Here’s what I mean. First to earn your CPL you must first have your Private License. ATPs program includes that AND all the required flight time to check all the boxes to earn the CPL. Not sure if your other program does but let’s move on. Want to fly in weather or anytime the visibility is less than perfect? I can tell you any place that’s going to hire you sure does (plus you want those skills to be safe). You need an Instrument rating. Included with ATP. Want to fly an airplane with more than one engine? Again your employer probably does. You need your Multi Engine rating. Included with ATP. Now let’s say you get that CPL who’s going to hire you with just 250hrs. Many flying jobs have a minimum of 500hrs required for insurance purposes. The one job that doesn’t is flight instructor but to instruct you need your instructor rating (CFI). Included with ATP. But the place that hires you wants you teach instrument students since after the Private license that’s the most popular and sought after rating. To teach Instrument students however you need your CFII. Included with ATP. If they want you to teach multiengine students guess what? You’ll need an MEI. Again included with ATP.

Bottomline is if you don’t just want to be legal to get paid as a pilot but want to actually FLY and actually GET paid as a pilot you need alot more than just a CPL and that’s what ATPs program provides.


Thanks so much. Couldn’t have answered my question any better