Taking the leap and deciding to pursue aviation?


I am facing a 32-year-old crisis and am trying to finally decide what to do when I “grow up.” I just finished a second Master’s degree and ultimately I do not like (even a little) most of the subjects I have pursued with education (the reasons why I am in this spot are not worth your time, but I’ll just say that when dad is paying, you do what he wants). I have a BA in Mathematics (which I do like now), an MBA, and now a Masters of Accounting and Financial Management (so I am now eligible to sit for the CPA exam). Though it took much longer than it should have, I did obtain my private pilot license in 2006 (same year I graduated with the BA). I have around 250 hours and have had several instrument lessons. I’ve been in the workplace since 2006 in various roles but have not been able to obtain anything in my fields (overeducated and under experienced). Upon completion of the last degree this year, my job was terminated because they would not have work for me…that was 2 weeks ago and I am really trying to figure things out. Ultimately, I have never had a job that allows me to stay current in my expensive “hobby” so it always goes to the back burner. I have learned over the last 10 years that the money is not what it is about, I want to do something I love and I DO love to fly. I would be happy at the regional level (I think) because those aircraft are my favorites. I am single with no kids (unless you count doggie kids) and at present I am happy if it stays that way…SO, my questions are 1.) was there anything besides a love for aviation that finally drove you to pursue your career / were you certain about your career path when you started? and 2.) would there be opportunities in the industry with my private pilot license and educational background apart from actually flying in case I discovered (once again in life) that the chosen path isn’t for me?

Basically right now I have an opportune moment and I have to decide whether I want to dump yet more money to sit for the CPA exam, or go for it with aviation. I don’t think I have to say which sounds more exciting. I appreciate your time very much and apologize for the lengthy questions…but this stuff is literally keeping me up at night!


Hi Monica and Welcome!

First I feel compelled to point out you seem to have 2 very conflicting goals, what to do when you “grow up” AND possibly a career as a pilot. Virtually every pilot I know has NEVER grown up and probably never will (which is why they’re pilots) :slight_smile: Ok seriously let’s see if we can’t help you get some sleep.

To you first question. For me personally it was definitely a love of flying but to a greater extent it was NEED to be happy. I had made a lot of money and wasn’t happy at all so that obviously wasn’t the answer. After taking stock of my life, observing friends, reading books, everything but climbing Tibetan mountains to speak to llamas I concluded I needed to find a job that I enjoyed AND found both challenging and satisfying. For me that meant flying and no my career path was not certain at all. I basically decided I wanted to fly and get paid to do it. Honestly I didn’t think a career at an airline was possible at my age (I was 39) and that was ok. I figured I’d instruct, maybe get a charter or corporate gig and that would be enough. The people at ATP told me I could and should fly for an airline, I thought they were blowing smoke but 13 yrs later I fly an Airbus A330 all over the globe. While I LOVE my job and feel incredibly fortunate, I’d be lying if I said I had a plan. Now that’s me, if Coach Chris chimes in (which he usually does), I’m pretty certain he’ll tell you he had a very specific path. It’s obviously different for different people.

Now for your second question I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking? When it comes to actually flying in the industry that’s very clear cut. While your Private license is great achievement it ONLY allows you to fly yourself and your friends. If you want to get paid to fly, at the bare minimum you need a Commercial license and to fly for an airline (even a Regional) you must have your Commercial, multi and instrument ratings and at least 1500 hrs. As far as opportunities go in the industry they’re obviusly countless. Airlines are major corporations like any other and have financial depts., HR, corp. comm, etc. You could be anything from a flight attendant to the CEO but other than being a neat “Extra-Curricular” on your resume, your Private won’t do a thing. If you want to be a pilot you’ll need much more training and experience. Make sense?

Hopefully this helps some, if not keep asking till it does. Go get some sleep and have a great holiday weekend.



Thank you! Yes, this helps and you answered my questions. Everything I’ve been reading in various places seems to always indicate pilots know that’s what they want to do so your experience gives me hope! I’ve thought other paths were ‘it’ and I really don’t want to make that mistake again so that’s the basis for my inquiry. And yes, to my last question I guess it was whether the license means anything as far as a job in the corporate end which you answered. Obviously if I go this route flying would be the goal, I was just curious and also looking at alternatives. I’ve always loved aviation and not having many strings or commitments at this point in my life makes me think more seriously about it as a career.

Glad to hear growing up optional since I don’t think I’ve achieved that yet, hahaha! Many thanks again for the insight and fast response. Have a great holiday weekend!



Welcome to the forums and thanks for posting! Adam knows me pretty well, but he isn’t quite right on this one :slight_smile: I grew up in an aviation family, everybody in my family flies, every single one of us, so as a young college student I decided that I would be different and pursue a path in business administration. About 3/4 of the way through my degree I realized that I couldn’t stand the thought of working in an office everyday and that maybe the rest of my family wasn’t crazy after all. I finished up my business degree and completed my Private Pilot’s License at a local flight school during my senior year. After I graduated I went to ATP and the rest is history. Many pilots talk about the love of aviation, and I certainly have that too, but I was also driven by the lifestyle that I saw it had afforded my family members and the large amount of time off that came with that. Once I set out on the path to be a pilot I was very certain about it.

I will have to agree with Adam that a Private Pilot’s license by itself will not be of much value to you, but it could be a good conversation piece.

How close are you to taking your CPA exam? Will it cost a lot of money to take it? I get the feeling that you are rather close to it, it might be good to go ahead and grab your CPA while you can. I have found over the years that many pilots have enough time off that they work second jobs, CPA being one of the ones that I have heard.

Before you invest a large amount of money into flight training you should give some thought as to if this is really what you want to do. A good resource for that is this forum, take a look at our various “Flying the Line” type articles, they can give you a great idea of what the job is really like. Also, look at our schedules to get a feel for just how much we are on the road and think about if you would like that. Most importantly, keep asking us your questions as you think of them!


Thank you! In the grand scheme of things I’m pretty close to the CPA, I have to take the test and then be licensed so a couple thousand dollars for the fees with all that and 1-3 years after the test to be licensed (after working under a practicing CPA). I’m happy to hear that some do the second job etc., I do feel like I’ve got a lot invested in it. I really do appreciate both of your stories, it does help just to hear about different journeys.

Many thanks again, and Happy Independence Day!


Anytime, I hope that we were able to offer you some clarity on this. Feel free to post any more questions as you think of them.


Hi Monica,

I AM a CPA (practicing 6 years) with an MBA and MS Accounting and I am here at the Pilots Life Message board because, like you, I find flying much more interesting than accounting and have been fascinated by aviation since I was a wee one. I don’t have a PPL yet - I have started working on it - but I thought you might like to know that you are not the only finance professional out there looking for a career change.


I barely made it through my accounting and finances classes. You two could certainly show me a few things :slight_smile:

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Thanks for this! It is definitely good to know I’m not the only one, I appreciate it!

Same here, I’m sort of obsessed with aviation and always have been and it’s one of the few things I’ve invested time and resources in that I always get excited about.

I will say my consolation for staying with business and finance this long (for all the wrong reasons maybe) besides parental pressure is the hope of being able to afford the expensive hobby which is flying… But at the end of the day I’m not sure a finance career is worth it if something else truly makes you happy. I’d be curious to hear your take on work-life balance in the world of finance, with the life part including flying. I know from past work experience that I either couldn’t afford to fly and when I could there just wasn’t time after work.