Pathway options

I’m a Junior in high school and was just wondering what are the different pathways one could take to becoming a successful airline pilot. What are the different options I have, and can take.


I recommend you take a look at the FAQ section for some answers.




I’m going to attempt to answer your question without giving you guidance as I don’t know the correct answer as I don’t have the life experience as these guys do. I’m actually going through this exact ‘pathway’ question right now and only a year or so ahead of you.

I have sat back on this website soaking in as much information as possible. I have talked with many friends of the family one in corporate, airlines, my grandfather who was in the Air Force. This is what I have gathered and then I will tell you the option I’m taking and why.

The first option is the “cheap” option as I like to call it and I’m uninformed about this but joining the Air Force (or even military then GI Bill) but if your end goal is lets say airlines you do your time for the airforce (8 year?10years?) and then have thousands of hours need little additional training and you will get hired however you still have to work up the ranks of seniority…and you are definitely a few years late but highly qualified.

You then have the “Rush” option as I like to call it. A program well, like ATP very top notch has trained thousands of pilots… and got them jobs. Its tried and true and the proof is in the pudding it simply works however its 70 thousand dollars and its cookie cutter. Mind you if you are wanting to go to airlines you need a 4 year college degree… more money BEFORE ATP.

The third option is the mom and pop schools. Very basic do your research some may try and hide costs by giving you FAA minimums say 40 hours to get your Private when I Believe the average is 47 or 48? The schools may be more, may be less depends where you are. Depending on relationship you may have some leniency about payment upfront etc.

The fourth option which I am most informed about because thats the route I’m going is a 4 year aviation degree. Its a 4 year college degree with a flight track. The only 4 year flight school in the state of Georgia. (Sort of like an Embry-riddle but not paying for the name IMO) ’
This option you get your 4 year degree knocked out that you need to jump to majors while spending less and qualifying for student aid instead of a high interest personal private loan that you may not even qualify for. As well as most private (mom and pop, ATP) schools are Part 61 I believe where a 4 year school is Part 41 which is an added bonus where your minimums are reduced from 1500 flight hours to 1000. 500 hours is a lot of time and cash.

Please anybody feel free to teach me something if I have relayed something incorrect I’ve put lots of time into it but that doesn’t defeat real life experiences of people that have completely been through it!
Hope this has helped on the routes you can take.

p.s as you know I’m doing the 4 year college option but I’m saving over 20k dollars by doing my freshman year of college at a local technical school. I’m taking 30 hours of core classes instead of doing core classes when I get to my flight school. Saving time and money and when I get down there I can have more time to fly :slight_smile:

For the four year aviation degree route, Is the money for all your licenses and flight hours qualified under the student aid or do they only pay tuition? And which licenses would have at graduation from the four year degree?

Hey Cody,
This is from my experience I met with the college about a month ago.
At Middle Georgia State University you graduate with everything you need to become a pilot. Everything thing you would get in your 2 year ATP course but spread out over 4 years. MGSU even includes CFI II training.

About the student aid they will only let you borrow a certain amount each year this amount is nowhere near the amount to cover full schooling(with flight). The cost of flight at this 4 year school is about 59K and that is not minimums that is for many hours over what you need.

The student aid is nice because that goes to rooming, food, and schooling (flight included if it reaches). I will be taking out loans on top of that but since its still for college Its relatively low interest rate with a 6 month grace period after I graduate not having to pay it off.


Let’s just clarify a few things. First I believe most military pilots would take exception to their program being called the “cheap route”. Obviously we here are partial to ATP but many people chose the college aviation program route and that’s fine as we all have to seek our own paths. That said you state above “The cost of flight at this 4 year school is about 59K and that is not minimums that is for many hours over what you need.” but the MGSU website CLEARLY states:
NOTE: Training times listed above are absolute minimums only, but provide the most definitive cost information available at this time. Experience of our flight instructors suggests that the actual student average could be as much as 20% higher than the minimums listed above
If you add an additional 20% you’re up to $71K. While you are correct that a Bachelor program will save 500hrs. You continue on to say “500hrs is a lot of time and cash” The reality is that 500hrs at the average ATP location will only take about 6mos to complete and you’ll actually be getting paid for the time so there is no cash coming out of your pocket. Further is we’re going to talk about time and money, the ATP grad will be at an airline 3yrs before the degree pilot. That’s 3yrs more seniority, higher pay, retirement, better schedule, earlier upgrade and top tier pay that will never be recouped since pilots have a finite amount of years they can work.

I’m not shooting down your path but if you’re going to talk time and money there are better choices.



Hey Adam,

As that was my first time posting I was trying to include everything possible it will take me a few times to truly get somewhat helpful. I completely agree there isn’t really a cheap option. However, when I have talked to friends that are using the GI Bill and getting it paid for its a lot cheaper.

Secondly where you hopped on the MGSU website you found their minimums in meeting with them I have the sheet and is it on their website the breakdown of cost with the included “extra” hours when you add that up its 59 k or 64k something right in there I cannot remember at this time.


Heres the project cost I believe it gets up to around 65k but as you can see costs for private pilot being around 6 thousand (for the minimums) is far lower than the mom and pop companies in my area. I think ATP is great never trying to knock is but it is very cookie cutter the system is designed to get hundreds and hundreds (what is it 300 pilots a year) get them in, get them out, and get them in an airline. And WOW does it work but it’s not for everyone :slight_smile:

I would also like to see your point on how ATP students may get to the airlines 3 years quicker. If everything goes as planned I’ll be at a regional with a college degree at 21-22. E]


Great job going out and doing some independent research. Good for you.

Most military aviators are going to disagree that going the military route is “cheap.” While the government may be training for your flight training, there is a lot of sacrificing that comes with joining the military. The Air Force (as used in your example) will require a 4-year degree, so you will need to plan on knocking that out before joining. As an alternative, you may enlist, use Air Force tuition assistance, and then apply for OCS…hoping that you get selected. You could also write your Senator, work family connections, and apply for The Air Force Academy and again, hope you are accepted. I always recommend a 4 year university that has an Air Force ROTC program. If you are good cadet and student, you may even pick up a scholarship. Had you thought about this before high school, you could have joined Junior ROTC and picked up an Air Force Scholarship directly out of High School (my path). Either way, you will need to plan on picking up a degree and commissioning into the Air Force before you can be considered for a pilot slot. Also keep in mind there are MANY AFSC’s and the needs of the Air Force trump your personal desires. There are a lot of jobs that need to be done to keep planes flying and pilots make up a very small minority of the Air Force. When I picked up my pilot slot in 2006, there were less than 500 of us selected across the entire country. Becoming a military aviator is far from cheap or easy.


Thanks for sharing some experience! That’s awesome to know and learn more about that pathway. One more question how long were you in Airforce before you came out? What kind of requirements did you have to complete once you got out?

I in no way was trying to knock the Air Force at all its just not for me. I highly respect all branches. My grandfather was the ACC commander of the Air Force. Retired about 12 years back he know sits on Board of Trustees at Embry Riddle.

ps you guys give up a lot more it may be more inexpensive but definitely not cheap :slight_smile:

Unfortunately (everything happens for a reason), I was diagnosed with a benign eye condition 3 months before UPT (pilot training) and received a hard DQ. So while I can give you plenty of advice on how to earn a pilot slot with the Air Force, I cannot help you much past that.

The point I was trying to make is that flying for the military is not as simple as “going to fly for the Air Force.” Those selected to handle multimillion (in some cases billion) dollar pieces of equipment didn’t get there without tons of prior planning, dedication, research, and serious effort…not unlike those flying for the Airlines today who chose the civilian route. They also put in some serious planning, dedication, research, and effort.

If your grandfather is a retired MAJCOM/CC, then you should give some consideration to applying to the Air Force Academy. The Academy isn’t for everyone, but you will leave there with a great education and the place will mature your tremendously. I could write all day long about the military route, but that isn’t what this forum is necessarily for. There are plenty of tools available for your research on the interwebs.


Everything does happen for a reason!

I thought about Air Force but when I looked at myself in 5-6 years I didn’t see myself in the Air Force. Me personally I didn’t want to use the Air Force as a hopping stone into the airlines because if I was serving I would be going in there with intent to serve not to become a commercial pilot and that was what held me back.

What are you doing now? You aren’t able to fly at all?

Because I was already a private pilot at the time, the Air Force sent my medical documents to the FAA, as required by law. The FAA restricted me to a 3rd Class Medical in 2007 while they reviewed my information. 11 years later and a lot of petitions to the FAA, I was blessed enough to be handed a 1st Class Medical this past March. During those 11 years, I spent 8 as a Security Forces Officer with the Air Force and 3 as a project manager for a company here in SLC. Two weeks after receiving my 1st Class, I was enrolled with ATP and start this August. There is always a way if you have the will.


The NOTE I cut and pasted regarding the min times and the 20% was right off the link you posted. You seemed to highlight everything except the part I quoted.

As for the time frame I’m assuming you’re talking about graduating from MGSU at 21-22 with all your licenses, ratings and a degree which is great. What you don’t seem to cover is where, how and when you’re going to build the 1,000hrs you’ll require you get hired by a Regional? The ATP student will complete their training AND the required 1500hrs in approx 2yrs. You’ll be in school 4 yrs and then will need at least another year to find an instructor gig and build the time getting you hired in 5 hence the 2.5 -3yr gap.


Yes they include minimums right underneath they have the average additional hours those were the numbers I was referring to.

I cannot speak for other colleges however for MGSU out of all their graduates they have a 100 percent hire rate at the regionals. You will have anywhere between 1-6 contracts signed BEFORE you graduate. Obviously a conditional contract, conditions being you graduate, and you reach the minimums.

For ATP students with goal set on entering major you need a college degree and correct me if I’m wrong but you would do that after college? Just from reading I think ATP is full time as I know you can’t really work while training.
So ATP students graduate from college at the same 21 and then go through 2 years of training (there may be ways of expediting like online college courses for 2 years?)
A college grad would graduate with all their certifications etc at 21 with a little under 400 hours under their belt for this program and then you need to build 600 more hours. Maybe you can get hired as an instructor somewhere that really needs people doing 100 hours a month and thats 6 months after graduation. (Right as that loan kicks in lol)

Please don’t think I’m knocking ATP although thats not my choice I know its a great program and it works. I just want to play devils advocate a little since you guys are product of ATP :smile:


I’m having a hard time believing that these rates are cheaper than a mom and pop, or even ATP. Ignore the total for just a second. We all know no one is getting their ratings with the minimum FAA requirements. Calculate the hourly rates that they’re charging. They range from $151/hr to $178/hr…in practically the same plane. They’re using Warriors and Arrows for their single engine training and yet they are slowly raising the hourly rate the further you progress into their program. Compare those hourly rates against mom and pop flight schools and I would bet they are very competitive. So, in the end, the total cost is irrelevant. The dedication of each individual and the availability of resources will dictate the total cost. That’s when you need to start considering quality vs quantity. I typically lean towards quality.

I don’t know if you noticed, but this program doesn’t include an MEI. Something to consider. The minimum multiengine time requirements have been reduced significantly, but if their only going to give you 15 hours, that’s 10 hours shy of the minimum.

Focus less on the pricing and more on which type of program is best for you. You’re right. ATP isn’t for everyone. If you don’t think it’s for you, then that’s a better reason to go the university or mom and pop route. Just know that the prices you will be quoted are not realistic.


Love your take on it and thats exactly right there are multiple ways to get there and everyone thinks their way is the best way… because it is for them or they would be doing it a different way!

I agree with the pricing in the grand scheme of things and its going to cost a lot of money that a lot of people won’t have under their mattress. For me with the mom and pop schools I have around me it was too much plus the college being able to qualify through a student loan with a lower interest rate and the payment forgiveness that was the ticket :slight_smile:

Thanks for the input Tory

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Since money seems to be a concern for you, let’s talk about the degree aspect now. Have you done a cost comparison between MGA vs 2 years at a JC followed by completing your 4 year degree online? I imagine the JC/online route would be less expensive. Unless you’re set on MGA for other reasons.


I have done many comparisons and I kind of settled in between what you just said. I’m doing a year of core classes at a technical school getting those knocked out then going down to MGSU for 3 years and completing the rest of classes (and the flight) in 3 years or less.

When looking at the JC route followed by an ATP or whichever I definitely save money on the school side of it as I wouldn’t have to pay for housing, food like at MGSU but in the loan process. The tuition at MGSU with hope scholarship is very little the true cost aside from the flight is living down there. Meeting with financial aid advisors with the schools and bankers you simply can’t beat the loan side of it going to a college. All of their flight classes are considered labs (just like schooling for a doctor you would take labs) thats how you are able to take out student loans for the flying part. Its crazy how much a lot smaller interest rate will do for you on 100 thousand over 10 years :slight_smile:

Why won’t you have to pay for housing at your four year school? Never heard of a single college that offers that unless you got some kind of scholarship?

I see you got a Hope scholarship, but I’m unfamiliar with it!