Post College Flight School

Hello All,

First off, I am just in the researching stage, trying to learn more and see if something like this is even financially possible. Some background: I am a 26 year old college graduate w/ a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. I have been working in construction since graduating in 2018, but am feeling less than fulfilled. It is a great job, don’t get me wrong, but not what I am passionate about. I have been passionate about planes and flying my whole life, and even considered becoming a pilot earlier in life, but things change. Lately I have been mulling a career change and my passion for all things aviation has been re-ignited.

My main reticence is cost and time. I realize that flight school is a HUGE time and money commitment and I still have Federal Student loan debt from attending school. To get through flight school as efficiently as possible I realize that I won’t be able to work full time, and I’ll be able to start earning money as a CFI if I complete that.

I know it is ~9 months to get your CFI, and I’ve seen ~2 years to get the required 1500 hours flight time as a CFI. Has anyone followed a path similar to this? If so, how long did it actually take you to get your 1500 hours, and how was it financially in that time? Federal loans are flexible, so I’m not too worried about that. I just want to make sure that I could still survive financially while earning my 1500 as a CFI.

I appreciate any and all comments and questions. I am truly excited about this possibility and thank you all for your help.



Over the last several years ATP has been averaging approx 500 airline placements a year. It’s safe to say most of them weren’t trust fund babies or independently wealthy. They were simply average individuals with a dream and the drive to succeed (myself included). To answer your question yes it’s more than just possible, it’s done daily. The caveat is its not easy and it will definitely require some sacrifice (more for some than others depending on your lifestyle). You call it a HUGE time and money commitment. I respectfully disagree. $90k, 9mos of training and 1.5-2yrs of “internship” to spend your life doing something you love with the earning potential of $400k is far from HUGE but it is a great investment.

As long as we’re on the subject you talk about your passion for aviation but you don’t mention any flight time or experience? If that’s the case I strongly recommend you take an intro flight or lesson. Chances are you’ll love it but until you do you honestly won’t know.


Hi Aaron,

First and foremost, Welcome to the Forum!

The other mentors will be able to provide more valuable insight on the path + timeframe to their current positions, but I did want to address the financial aspect.

ATP works with Sallie Mae exclusively for financing. That being said, this financing option is structured as a credit-based student loan. It does function as a normal student loan where you can defer payments while in training, and will have a 6 month post graduation grace period. After the 6 month grace period has ended, you can apply for Graduated Repayment which allows for 12 months of interest-only payments before the loan enters full repayment. This option will give you the ability to earn a salary as an airline pilot before making full payments on the loan.

All of this to say that you have an alternate option to make those interest only payments (rather than full payments on the loan) while instructing with ATP if needed.

Hope this helps,



People follow paths similar to yours all the time. I am not going to lie to you, it will be tough financially for a few years. That being said, I was not starving during my time as a CFI, but I certainly was not having lobster dinners either.

Right now most people are averaging 1.5-2 years to get their 1,500 hours. Airline hiring had ground to a halt last spring, but it is resuming again.

I would also point out that while the cost of flight training is large, it is not when compared to things like law school or med school. It is actually rather reasonable when compared to those types of training. Furthermore, major airline captains can easily earn $300k+ per year, which certainly makes the $90k look small. I took out a loan myself, paid it off in half the time and look at it as the best investment I have ever made.



Thanks for the info. I may have been exaggerating, but as someone who is still paying off loans and not that far removed from school, that $90k and downtime w/ no income looks daunting. I will definitely look into taking an intro flight lesson first. I’m trying to gather as much info as I can right now.


That’s good to know. I have no problem scaling back my lifestyle, I don’t live extravagantly anyway.

That is a great point, I did not think about it like that. Thanks for the info.


Anytime. Let us know how else we can help you.



Don’t misunderstand, $90k is a considerable amount of money and definitely not something to be taken lightly. I’m simply pointing out compared to some VERY expensive degree programs in relation to the potential earnings and satisfaction it’s actually a bargain :wink:


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The guys answered all your questions but I just wanted to chime in and say that you would be one of thousands of ATP students and instructors going through that same path. It’s not an easy one but it is the most efficient path to get you to an airline career. That two years of focused effort both financially and educationally will get you to where you need to be. ATP wouldn’t advertise it if it wasn’t possible to achieve.