Should I become a CFI certified flight instructor? Do they make enough to live on?

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Do most CFIs make enough to live on? I decided I would like to become a commercial pilot but I am little unsure about how to make that happen. I talked to a few schools and it looks like I will have to spend about $45,000 in flight training before I can make any money as a pilot. I think they also told me I would have to start paying the loan back 1 year from the day I got it. I have seen a few CFI job listings in this area and they seem to pay decent but there is no guaranteed number of hours per week so that bothers me a little. I am about 2 college semesters away from becoming a certified welder and machinist but I really don't think I would be happy working as a welder or machinist. Should I finish college and get a job as a welder/machinist to help pay for flight training or just get a loan and get into flying now? I think flying is what I really want to do. Even if I do quit college right now I will probably start working on a 4 year aviation degree with USVC. So what should I do?




  1. A great CFI can dwarf the pay of most regional airline pilots. High pay and tons of flight hours is not unreasonable if one is in demand. However, few CFI's are really great, and of those, even fewer are good at marketing and sales. The end result when all is said and done, $1-$5/hour is fairly typical for new CFI's considering all the non-billable time one puts in.

    I'd say finish your current education, get a job, then start on a 4 yr degree on a part time basis, but not at an aviation school, at least not for yrs 1 or 2. During that time, also work on your private and instrument. After 2 years, you will not be in debt, you will have a good feel as to whether you like aviation or not, and you can transfer to an aviation school, or continue locally.

    Considering the economy, doing a pay as you go part time, even if it takes 6 years to reach your CFI, and 4 yr degree, without any debt will put you far ahead of others. Being $50K in the hole having to work 3 jobs to survive is no way to go, esp since the larger airline salaries are likely a thing of the past. It used to be a huge and stable captains salary was quite the carrot prior to deregulation, (I am an old guy) but now the salaries lower, and there are hundreds of ways to get derailed. Ie, your carrier upends itself financially, and you are now back at the bottom of the seniority list. With no debt, and a love for aviation, its a minor setback. With tons of debt, thats another story entirely.

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