More debt?


I just graduated from a 4 year university with 30,000 in student loan debt. I hate my job in sales and becoming a pilot has always been a dream of mine so I want to make it happen. I’ve been looking into ATP and trying to figure out how much it would cost. I have to factor in living expenses and what not and after everything I would be coming out with a little over 100k in student debt if you add my previous loans. Is the money something I should worry about it I were to commit? Should I wait and save more or just commit now since the sooner you start the better?



Getting a jump on the training is never really a bad thing. Spending money is always a thought process. If you’re young and able to fly fly fly, then the money wont be a problem for you as you progress though your career. There are many threads on that very subject here on this forum.

Airline Pilot Central Home | can show you pilot incomes and give you a pretty good understanding on what to expect in the near and further down there road.

If you go here it will give you a full breakdown of what you will need as far as loans.

Sallie Mae Application FAQ / ATP Flight School


To add, my plan is to start the program in February and move back in with my parents in august so I don’t have to worry about rent. I’ll probably live with them until i get to the regionals. Do I wait until august or start now and spend 10k more?



I think it’s safe to say unless your last name is Bezos or Oprah is your aunt, looking at a $100k loan is a little scary. That said this is an investment in your future and it’s a future with tremendous earning potential not to mention (IMHO) the best job on the planet.

While I understand the desire to wait and save you have to consider the fact that pilots have a finite amount of years they can fly. Mandatory retirement is age 65 and pilots at the top earn $350k+. Every year you delay is one less year you’d be earning that money. Add in loss of 401k contributions and the quality of life that comes with greater seniority and you actually are sacrificing quite a when you delay. That said not everyone feels comfortable with the debt or simply can’t start early for any number of reasons, but to answer your question yes sooner is always better.

Btw, you don’t mention any flying experience (and no sitting in the back going to Spring Break doesn’t count)?
If in fact you’ve never flown in a small plane before you do anything else in consideration of this career you really need to take an Intro flight or lesson (ATP has a great program if there’s a location that’s convenient :Introductory Training Flight / ATP Flight School). While many people love the idea of being a pilot, until you actually go up you won’t know for certain.



If it were me I’d Start, seniority at the airlines is everything. Go thru the flow that is on the ATP pages. Enrollment Steps for Airline Career Pilot Students/ ATP Flight School

1st Class Med complete, apply to Sallie Mae for your loans and ATP, then prior to Start date take as many of the written tests that you can.


Thank you both Darrell and Adam for your quick replies! I forgot to mention I went on a discovery flight a few weeks back and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m hooked and have been doing research, watching videos and listening to podcasts everyday since. It’s safe to say I caught the flying bug. I just want to be smart financially but I know it will definitely pay off in the long run.



I too am a recent college graduate with $30,000 in rough debt from education loan lenders. I worked in the financial world for around 3 years, some of which I spent while in school for my degree. I was constantly working sales, number crunching interest calculations, etc. I realized very quickly that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk the rest of my life trying to sell things that I wouldn’t have even taken and wanted my office to be a view of the flight deck.

Was the price tag very scary, yes. Was the amount of dedication and commitment I was about to put in, yes. I am currently in my Multi-Engine phase of training and I can promise you, every bit of ATP’s training that I have received I’ve enjoyed EVERY second of my time. Do I look at the price tag and think “that’s a large debt,” absolutely…but do I have the pleasure to hold my head high and proudly, be able to say that I will one day be able to work behind a flight deck and be paid for it, absolutely.

Take it with a grain of salt, money is replaceable, time is not. Like Adam said, every year you lose seniority and potential revenue and 401(k) benefits. If you find yourself with a big passion like most of us that love aviation, you’ll find that flight training is worth it regardless what you pay. I also must mention the amazing friendships and experiences that you get, I recently got to sit in a FO seat of a B737-400 that was just sitting on the ramp of my training location’s FBO…I’ve never had that experience ever.




Money is always something that should be worried about and is a huge consideration in any major decision like this. What I can tell you is that the airlines will start hiring again, maybe sooner than we all think, and when they do they will hire those that are the most qualified first. Even a few months delay in a career can have a huge impact on career earnings, quality of life, etc.




The house has spoken. Obviously there are benefits to beginning sooner rather than later. But your question was about taking on more debt. You need spend time dwelling on that question until you figure that out. Idk. Should you? Will you be able to make the payments? If not, then what? Also, factor in how much money you’ll need to live off of. What happens if you need more? Who will you turn to? Mom and dad? Credit cards?

Taking on debt can be scary. And everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to it. Not everyone is responsible about paying it back either.

The pilot in me wants to tell you not to waste time. The financially cautious side of me wants to tell you to wait until you’re back home with your folks. Really the decision is yours.

Whatever your final decision is, know that your payments on your flight training loan come with a 6 month deferral. Interest accrues, of course, but no payments are required until after those 6 months.

When I decided to take out my loan for training, I didn’t have any debt from college, but I was still nervous about it. I lived at home during training. As a CFI I lived off of $2k/mo, I sold most of my possessions when I was desperate, I borrowed money from my mom when I was even more desperate, I charged my credit cards when I was even more desperate. I always managed to make my minimum monthly payments every month. When I was hired by Horizon, my bonus check paid off my credit card debt. I refinanced my loan from 9.125% to 5%. I still have 70% of my loan to pay off, but because I worked my butt off, and got very lucky with my timing I must admit, I know that I will be fine.

I share this to show you how scary some months were, but I was able to figure out how to get through it. Should I have saved more before starting? Absolutely. But I didn’t. Had I waited my life would look very different. But I still would have found a way to make ends meet.




Just a small point here from our friend Addison in Admissions:

Since the financing option that we offer is a credit-based student loan through Sallie Mae, it does function as a normal student loan where you can defer payments up to 6 months after you’ve completed training.

Once the 6 month grace period has ended, Sallie Mae offers Graduated Repayment which allows for 12 months of interest-only payments before the loan enters full repayment. This gives ATP’s graduates the ability to earn a salary as an airline pilot before making full payments. I would encourage that you consider this as an alternate option if you’re concerned about making full payments on the loan as a CFI.