How is life as a pro CFI?

stl

New Member
Hello,

I am contemplating switching fields from Math/Philosophy to Aviation (non-airline, preferably flight instructor) and was wondering if anyone could tell me the pros and cons of pursuing a career as a professional flight instructor.

I am thinking about going to a flight academy to get CFI ratings and am pretty sure I don't want to be an airline pilot. I will have to take a loan so any advice on this matter would also be helpful.

Also, what career growth (monetary and otherwise) can one expect after 5 to 10 years as CFI

Thanks.
 

Low&Slow

Ancora imparo
Figure out how to get the training without a loan. Sell your car(s), get a part-time job, have a yard sale, save, save, save. Find scholarships, use the GI Bill (if you are a veteran).

Find a way to do it without a loan (or multiple loans).
 

jrh

Well-Known Member
I am contemplating switching fields from Math/Philosophy to Aviation (non-airline, preferably flight instructor) and was wondering if anyone could tell me the pros and cons of pursuing a career as a professional flight instructor.

I am thinking about going to a flight academy to get CFI ratings and am pretty sure I don't want to be an airline pilot. I will have to take a loan so any advice on this matter would also be helpful.

Also, what career growth (monetary and otherwise) can one expect after 5 to 10 years as CFI.
Pros:

Flexible schedule
Wide variety of planes to fly, usually
Develop a personal relationship with a lot of interesting people
Home almost every night
See interesting places like small town airports, big cities, and everywhere in between. A lot more variety than airline flying.
Good pay if you do it right

Cons:

Can be hard to get established unless you live in one area for a long time and have a lot of flight experience.
Long hours--a lot of times you're working when other people aren't, i.e. nights/weekends
Ultimately the job is about teaching as much if not more than flying. You need to enjoy teaching as much as you do flying. That takes a certain personality.
No free travel benefits like airline pilots.
If you like to move around, it's hard as a pro CFI, because you have to stay in one area long enough to develop a good reputation. You can't pick up and start all over again in a new city every few years.



Pay is all over the board. Starting out it could be as low as $20k/year. After 5-10 years of doing it, if you've built up a reputation as a top notch instructor who is qualified to teach in nice aircraft, you could make anywhere from $40k-$100k/year. There are a ton of variables that play in to it after that long.
 

matt152

Well-Known Member
Life as a CFI?

Nasty, brutish, and short.

Actually, it's not bad if, like everything, you enjoy what you're doing.

I wouldn't do it for the money. And I would not switch from a decent career if I had a wife and family. But it is rewarding to see a student you trained become a private pilot or add an instrument rating.
 

jrh

Well-Known Member
Life as a CFI?

Nasty, brutish, and short.

Actually, it's not bad if, like everything, you enjoy what you're doing.

I wouldn't do it for the money. And I would not switch from a decent career if I had a wife and family. But it is rewarding to see a student you trained become a private pilot or add an instrument rating.
That's only if you're an average, run of the mill, dime-a-dozen type of CFI, like everybody is when they're first starting out. If you have nothing to offer outside of "I can teach private pilots real good," then you won't be able to command much in terms of pay or schedule.

If you have a niche, that's the way to have a good life. You have to become *the* guy to go to for Cirrus training, or glass panels, or tailwheel, or aerobatics, or instrument training, or long cross countries, or whatever. Authoring books, doing seminars, etc. are also good ways to become respected and have a true career in teaching.

When you look at all the big names in flight training, they all specialize. John and Martha King, Rod Machado, Rich Stowell, Greg Brown, Max Trescott, Greg Koontz, etc...they all offer very specialized instruction in at least one niche market of some kind.

That being said, Matt's right about not leaving a good career with a wife and family to provide for in order to become a CFI. There are CFIs who have figured out a way to be very successful as CFIs, so it's definitely possible, but I wouldn't count on it as a surefire way to be rich. Like anything in aviation, instructing can be an unstable, fickle area at times.

I would recommend working through your ratings with as little debt as possible, then working part time as a CFI to build some experience at being a good teacher, and *then* if you're fairly confident you could cut out a niche for yourself, jump in full time and try to make it happen.
 
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