Newly minted Commercial Pilot/College Graduate Looking for career advice.


New Member
Hello all,

I actually recently fulfilled my degree requirements at Daniel Webster College with a BS in Aviation Flight Operations and I'm trying to plan my next moves.At this juncture I don't have the funds to pursue a CFI rating so I've been considering other low-time options such as Banner Tow, Jump-pilot, Aerial-survey and the like. The biggest issue I've run into is actually finding these listings so I can apply for them. I've gone through my school's career services, but if anyone that's abreast of the recent teach-out of the flight program at my school may guess, they are relatively out of touch when it comes to arranging aviation-related opportunities lately. I can't help but wonder how different my experience with career services would have been a couple years ago. The only job-offer we found that I'll likely apply for seems to pertain mostly to customer-service at a local FBO that deals primarily in corporate jet services, but I'm worried that without flying for a period of time, I'll find myself quite a bit detached from my intended industry. I also recognize a need to gain more hours so that I can open up more opportunities for myself in the future.It appears that I'm going to have to do the majority of the networking from here on out on my own and I'm just really looking for advice regarding where to start or any experiences that anyone can share with me that I may reflect on a bit. Any advice is greatly appreciated. (I'm well aware of the military option, but for the sake of argument I'd like to keep the conversation allocated primarily to civil aviation).Thanks!


Pretty much everyone here has either been in your shoes or is currently in the same position, so I'm sure there will be many good responses for you to consider. First of all, congrats on getting your commercial and B.S. Unfortunately, with the total time you have along with not having your CFI it can be tough to find something. 500 hours seems to be a magic number for sky diving ops as well as banner towing and other low time jobs. While working the line at an FBO might seem like it might sideline your career I think it would be a great way to start networking. One thing you cannot afford to do is go into debt while waiting for your first flying job, so get a job at an FBO or anywhere else for that matter and start saving that money for the lean years to come.
I was in your shoes after getting my commercial. I couldn't afford to get my CFI and I couldn't get a flying job with my 300 hrs, so I started framing houses. That turned into me starting my own finish carpentry business. I stayed in construction for about 3 years while I saved money and worked on my CFI, CFII, and MEI. I could have gotten my instructor ratings done much sooner, but I was thoroughly enjoying construction. Pretty much as soon as I got my CFI finished I got a job at a local flight school.
Long story short, don't worry about taking a non-flying job at this point in your career. It won't derail your goals, but it may finance them. Be flexible, be willing to move, have fun, and network.


New Member
Thanks for the reply Pay2-actually, after all my time lurking all sorts of aviation forums in regard to the advice given to us guys and gals younger in our experience your reply may have been one of the most positive I've read so far. It's really too bad that the situation at my former school is what it currently is. They used to offer a CFI program and being a college course it was much easier to allocate the funds(well, initially) via student loans and the like. My plan going into flight training at the school was to eventually earn a CFI an teach at the school. The nice aspect about that route was that upgrades to CFII and MEI were paid for by the school so it was a great way to build time and earn the additional ratings without investing even more into what was already an expensive career. Because my program is essentially phased out now, that sort of deal doesn't seem to exist anywhere, at least locally. I don't want to swear off the CFI route entirely. I know it's how many civilian pilots get their start, but between the cost and what I've heard about the difficulty of the check-rides I'm a little apprehensive to get into it. It may be my frustration with my unconventional training experience (the teach-out of my program a HUGE factor here) muddying my view a bit but I'm cringing a bit at the idea of spending even more money and time to break into this career. I'm also frustrated at the apparent lack of understanding about my career from my college career service. I'm just really unsure of where to even begin to look for these low time opportunities. Every career listing sight seems to only post jobs that are well out of my realm of experience at the moment. Does anyone know of any good places to start in this regard?


A couple of points I need to point out from your last post:
1.) You sound like you have a checkride phobia. Don't be afraid of additional check rides. You will be taking check rides continually in this career. The more you do now the quicker you'll get used to it.
2.) You mentioned not wanting to invest more time or money. You will need to invest a lot more time into this career. Hopefully you only end up spending a little more money on ratings. My advice would be to save a little and get your CFI. There are still schools that will get you your CFII and MEI after you've worked there a bit. I'd steer clear of university flight schools as they tend to hire their own (and pay poorly). You will have a hard time finding a job without your CFI. Once you have your CFI all you'll need to find a job is a stack of resumes and some comfortable dress shoes. Walk into every flight school you can find and talk with the owner/manager and you'll find something.
Most websites advertise jobs that are primarily aimed towards more experienced pilots and employment agencies will be of no assistance.
So, you will need to invest a little more money and you will continually invest time. So buckle down and have fun!


New Member
Yeah. I figure that I might have to take that job at the FBO I mentioned. It deals primarily with corporate jets so I feel that at worst it's a good networking opportunity. It's close by and there are two flight schools nearby for me to get some additional training at while I wait out the cold weather. I figure that my completion of school is a little ill-timed given how quickly winter tends to roll into New England. I didn't mean to give the impression that I hate check-rides....well, I'm sure not a lot of people out there love them. I am a pretty bad tester. I've had three so far, and the anticipation always seems to be much worse than the actual ride. Though, I may have also had my opinion of them soured even more by the DE my school uses. I know they are a major aspect of this career so they have to be dealt with. I did hear from a number of people that the failure rate of CFI rides is somewhere around 80%. That sounds pretty high. Can someone comment on how accurate this is? I've passed every check-ride I've taken the first time through so I wouldn't want the black mark on my record so to speak.


Honorary Member
The CFI seems tough and probably is, but the longer you're around the more you realize people like to talk things up. Preparation is everything.

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Well-Known Member
I recommend you find a regular job for now, preferably an aviation related one, and save up for your CFI's. I went to ATP CFI school in Vegas and got all my CFI ratings for $7,000. Getting our CFI will be a worthwhile investment. Instructor jobs pay well these days and will only get better as the pilot shortage gets worse. Best of all, your piloting skills will increase beyond your imagination while instructing. Good Luck!

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El Capitan
As an instructor at a large flight school in the southwest, CFI jobs appear to be a bit harder to come by these days. There's lots of guys sticking around an extra year because of the regionals raising their minimums. While a shortage of qualified pilots may be on the horizon, I don't think the entry level prospects will get much better in the near future. Quite the contrary, actually.


Well-Known Member
Ace, fellow Webster graduate here. First, you are correct about career services, most people at DWC that knew anything about the industry have moved on or were let go after ITT took over. You are far better off trying to re-connect with other graduates and pilots who are active in the field. You will be amazed at just how many of us are out there and want to help.

Pay2 is spot on when saying that 500 TT is the magic number because of 135 VFR mins. I think you will be surprised at how many doors will open for you when you reach it. With that being said, if you plan on staying in the Northeast, you are going to have to get your CFI plain and simple. I understand the cost thing; I was in the same boat. DWC was not cheap and I was completely on my own.

I too was concerned about the checkride with the FSDO as well as changes to the FOI/FIA. I ended up waiting a year after graduation, partly due to fear of the checkride, but also because I was completely broke. One word of advice, don’t wait. I can promise you that your proficiency in the plane and commercial maneuvers will suffer and it will take you twice as long at twice the cost. Mine did. If it takes flipping burgers, than that is what it takes.

Don’t get scared off by the stories of the local FSDO. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t any harder than what we had to go through doing all those stage checks. I passed the first time along with 4 other Webster graduates and another Part 61 student. That makes 6 people with a 100% pass rate! See what I’m getting at? If you put the time in and study hard you will pass I promise. Also, take what Jim says with a grain of salt. I’m sure he probably told you the same things he told me on my commercial ride and it was far from the truth. There are a couple guys up at the FSDO that are, well interesting, but the majority of them are tough but VERY fair and don’t take pride in failing applicants. Heck, I was more nervous about flying up to the FSDO than for the checkride since it had been a couple years since I had flown a solo XC.

Get any job you can right now to save up for the flight portion while you study for the knowledge part. Take advantage of your student loan grace periods. You can save a lot of money by doing the book work on your own. I have a pretty good idea about how the schools in the local area do things. PM me and I’ll give you the low down. Some aren’t all they are cracked up to be. It’s also important to do your training at a place that will offer you a job after you complete your training (make sure you have something in writing.) Unfortunately, my school had already filled the position so I had to go out and pound the pavement, which is not easy with 0 dual given.

Like others have posted, it’s all about networking. I was always told how small the industry is. However, in the last couple months I have found out just how small it is. It’s borderline scary how many people you will run into. Here is your first example. I'll bet I know you and you know me and we are on some random forum on the interwebs. I’ve run into CFI’s I met back in 2000! ALWAYS keep in the back of your mind, how small this industry is and watch what you say and how you present yourself. It’s amazing how one conversation could make the difference between getting a job or not. The chief pilot who just hired me is good friends with another DWC graduate, go figure.

This leads into another good point. Take pride in what we learned and our flight experience at Webster. It does carry weight in the industry believe it or not. However, make sure you are not that guy that says "while at DWC we did this." Take the positives and understand the negatives. Aviation isn't black and white and there are things at DWC that others may not agree with. You will run into people that think some things were overkill and that other things are plain wrong. It's a slippery slope and you will have to be tactful about how you present your experiences. Trust me, you will run into people like this. Take what you have learned and use it, but mold it around what is expected of you. I hope that makes sense?

Lastly, don’t lose heart. There are still plenty of jobs available in the area. There are 4 flight schools I know of that are hiring right now in MA and several in NH. I had sent out resumes to 2 different schools and got interview dates shortly after for both. I ended up taking a job in NH and a day later was offered an interview at the other school.

It’s anybody guess as to what is going to happen when the 1,500 rule goes into effect. However, I would try and get in and get your CFI done and get a job beforehand. The schools I have talked to have been losing a lot of their CFI’s due to hiring picking up. I can’t help but think that once 1,500 TT is the minimum, CFI’s are going to be staying a lot longer at FBO’s and jobs are going to get scarce. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to PM me.


Well-Known Member
I forgot to add, WAY TO GO! Take pride in what you have accomplished! DWC's program is a hell of a ride and extremely difficult. Be proud and use graduation as motivation towards completing your CFI. You had the gumption to push through it and this will serve you well in the future!


Well-Known Member
I graduated from DWC in 08. After graduation I scratched my head and asked myself, "what now?" DWC wasn't looking for instructors at that point so I had to get a job (ended up working at a golf course where I met my fiancé incidentally!) so I could fly at least once a week and get ready for the cfi ride. Honestly, the bulk of the cfi rating you can do on your own by studying everything from the far/aim to the airplane flying handbook. It might only take you 10 hours in the airplane to get comfortable in the right seat. After all, you just got your commercial so you should still be sharp on those maneuvers. Additionally, if you do your ride with the FSDO it is free. Just find a job doing something that is fun (it doesn't have to be in aviation.. I worked at a golf course because I liked to golf) and just get your cfi by establishing small goals for yourself until you are ready for the ride. Be helpful at the flight school you choose and establish a good report with the managers and/or owners because that's the first place you will give your resume to! Good luck.


Well-Known Member
Fly part time for a while and see if you can get a job that pays the bills for when you aren't flying. Post a bulletin at nearby airports and befriend the desk clerks so they can tell you if anyone is looking for someone to fly right seat. Talk to EVERYONE and be friendly, courteous, and most importantly PROFESSIONAL. Just doing those things can sometimes land you with opportunities that you didn't even know existed.


New Member
Thanks everyone. I'm actually interviewing for an office-type position at a fractional ownership company. The schedule is 4 days on, 3 off with ten-hour shifts. The schedule is a little rough, but that's aviation for you. The salary and benefits are decent. I'm hoping it will afford me opportunities to fly on my days off. I'm think of pursuing the CFI. My only concern is that since I want to avoid incurring any more debt at all costs, I would go about this in one of two ways. I could pay for each lesson on a flight-to-flight basis, which might be hard to maintain consistency with-more so because of the affordability of it rather than a busy schedule. Alternately I could save through the upcoming winter and hopefully have a decent chunk of cash to fly more consistently with.

Ultimately it would be nice to get hours in any way possible during the 3 free days in my schedule so that I can build time. My long-term goal is to meet the requirements to apply for an FO position from within the company (they operate single-engine turbos). So, it would be nice to be on the books somewhere part-time as I really don't want to leave the company if I'm hired. I'd hate to leave a bad impression in such a small industry. I was also thinking of getting 25 hours in a 182 and hopefully trying to pick up part time jump work (probably less feasible than a part-time CFI position I'd imagine) Either way I need to find a consistent way to build time without breaking the bank.

Any thoughts?


Well-Known Member
In New England there are many scholarship opportunities to get higher rankings. Aero Club of New England is one example. Get a scholarship, use that to train and go from there.


Master Blaster
Get your CFI, it isn't that hard and it is worth every penny. It has so far been the most rewarding rating I have pursued to date. I feel like I have learned twice as much training for my CFI then I did for all of my other ratings combined. Save money and get it done on your time. There really is no rush. As others have stated, you are a little late for the survey/ sky diving, and banner tow season. You might try and find a job flying traffic watch in your city or one near you. CFI jobs can be hard to come by, but lately the biggest problem my school has had is finding viable candidates to fill open CFI positions. Literally none of the applicants we've had in the past month have worked out. One had an insane criminal record, one was terrified of instructing, one came in to the interview wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt, and another guy came in and literally tried to recruit students to go to the flight school he worked at down the street. So jobs are out there. Just gotta look hard!


Well-Known Member
Chris and others make a great point about dressing for the part. Our dress code is minimal, however I still come to work clean shaven wearing slacks and a polo shirt every day. Yes, I could wear shorts or come in with jeans on, but I choose not to. Not only do you look professional you will feel professional. It's amazing how much this will help your confidence and command respect from students, co-workers and most importantly your boss! You are the face of the company you work for both on and off the job. You will be surprised at how many students will gravitate towards you because you look like a CFI who takes his/her job seriously. Also, never swear in front of your students, ever! Doing so will most likely destroy any credibility that you have established with your students, even if they feel completely comfortable with you. It's unprofessional and your students know it.


Gang Member
Thanks everyone. I'm actually interviewing for an office-type position at a fractional ownership company. The schedule is 4 days on, 3 off with ten-hour shifts. The schedule is a little rough, but that's aviation for you. The salary and benefits are decent. I'm hoping it will afford me opportunities to fly on my days off. I'm think of pursuing the CFI. My only concern is that since I want to avoid incurring any more debt at all costs, I would go about this in one of two ways. I could pay for each lesson on a flight-to-flight basis, which might be hard to maintain consistency with-more so because of the affordability of it rather than a busy schedule.
40 hours in 4 days? 3 days off? That's about as good as schedules get - enjoy! It is all downhill from there :)

Don't let anyone scare you, the CFI is not terribly difficult. You don't need to work on it full time. Very little of it has anything to do with flying. It has a lot to do with studying. Unlike every other checkride you have done up until now, there is no minimum amount of dual instruction for the CFI ride. If you study and are well prepared, it is very possible to get it done in a handful of flights. Assuming you are working at/near an airport, buying a CFI lunch may get you all the ground instruction you need. The CFI that signed me off for my initial did not charge me anything.

Pay cash for each lesson is a fantastic plan. Very little of the CFI prep actually involves an airplane.