Which road to take?


Well-Known Member
Hi. I'm kinda new to the forum and I'm looking for advice.

Here's the deal. I'm 26, single, no kids, and have a year to go on an education degree. I'm working on my PPL and I'd love to be able to fly for a regional someday (hopefully I'm not starting too late). Here are the options I'm considering:

1) *Try* to work on ratings while in school and in my first year of teaching, then start CFI-ing part-time to build hours and pray for multi time

2) Teach school for a year or two, pay off undergrad loans/save my money and go to ATP (for the multi time)


3) Teach school, and do the 10 month deal at ATP (again, for the multi time)

My parents don't mind me living at home after I graduate (though I'll feel like a loser), so rent won't be an issue. Given my age and situation, which one sounds like the best option? Which would be most doable without taking out too many loans? Is it realistic to hope to be earning some sort of income from flying by the time I'm 30? Am I an idiot for thinking this is possible?
Any other suggestions (EXCEPT PFT) would be great. Thanks for the help...
Well, I'm no expert, but the advice I keep getting is this...

First, finish the 4 year degree. You'll need it for the airlines.

If you can be employeed and make money doing something non-flying then do it, and do your training at a local flight school (i.e. FBO).

As a teacher that might be pretty sweet since you'd have your summers somewhat free to fly, and once you get your commericial done you could do banner towing or something for a couple months each year.

As one of the CFI's put it, "if you don't need money then you have to be a pilot" I actually translate that a bit a say: "If you don't need to make your money flying then be a pilot".

The last thing I hear a lot is don't simply focus on being an airline pilot. If you just want to fly "professionally" then that could be flying charter, fractional, banner towing, flight instructing, doing sight seeing flights, corporate etc. Being a professional pilot simply means you get paid to fly.

Good luck to you.

I was 26 when I quit my job as an Ops Manager and went back to flight school. Sure you could argue that your career won't be as long as the 21-year-olds, but the way I see things, I retire before them. And that's nice.

ATP is a good way to get the multi; I did the 3-month program in 98/99. If I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change a thing.

Finish the degree and get flying.

You've been pitched a fastball down the middle. Lots of future pilots would love to be in your position. You are all set up to get started in this field. Get your ratings and fly. Simple as that. ATP is a great choice. Just remember that if you want to instruct for them, it could be in another city. If you could teach and pay for flying at the same time, that would be great. I checked out ATP, and they give priority to instructing to those that started from zero hours with them. Pay for your PPL, Instrument, and Commercial then go to an FBO that has a twin and see if they will hire you if doing your CFI and Multi through the school.
I'm currently a freshman and I have my private, and my question is, since I have 3 more years or more to get a degree out of the way, would I be better off transferring to a known university such as North Dakota etc... ? or staying where I'm at getting a degree and getting training at a non 141 FBO.

My feelings on this is that I'd be better off going to a well known school because it will give me a jump ahead of others to be a professional pilot and better opportunity of networking. But I have talked to other pilots who have already made it with a nice paying job saying it doesn't matter where you get your ratings because they are all the same.

Or should I finish the degree, and then go to a ATP, FSA etc... school and get the ratings and instruct which will take me another year to start making money. Could someone help me out.
STAY IN SCHOOL AND GET YOUR DEGREE. Put school first and everything else will fall into place. Unless you have the opp. to go to a top ten Ivy school it really does not matter. A B.S. in econ from the Univ. of MD is the same as a B.S. in econ from a small state school in Iowa. Put school first then airplanes second. STAY IN SCHOOL. STAY IN SCHOOL. STAY IN SCHOOL. I hope that helps.


Towson State University '92 Econ.
Army Officer
Investment Banker 7yrs. SunTrust Bank
Career Changer 2004 into aviation.
What's the problem of going to a university such as North Dakota and getting a Aviation degree? That's schooling and flying all in one.
Beacuse you're putting all your eggs in one basket. What happens when you loose your medical (don't think it can't happen to you? That's what I thought too)? What happens when you loose your job at an airline and can't get it back because you're airline has gone out of business?

Get your degree in something other than aviation.


John Herreshoff
forgot to mention I was looking into the Aviation Management degree which is a business degree with ratings. It's already set in my mind that I'm going to get a non-aviation degree but my main question is if it is going to make a difference for my career to get jobs and not be instructing longer than most since I don't want to make instructing a career if I go to "Joe's Flying School" something like that or go to a nationally known school to be able to get the jump ahead?
Flight school name means jack and sh*t in this industry. I did my flight training at Munley Smith Aviation. If that's not a jacked up name, I don't know what is.
So what are you doing as a flying career right now and do you have any regrets and when did you get your training?
I'm working on my commercial right now, I'm going to be a senior in college in the fall. I've gotten everything I've told you from the rest of this website.
Anyone else other than John have anything else to say about what I posted above if it is going to make a difference where you get your training from "Joe's" or a nationally known school. Don't have to say anything about the degree because I'm doing that now, but I'm also considering transferring to a university that offers aviation, but get a business degree with the ratings. I'll like to hear from others about this.
The thing you might want to consider is, "how much money will I owe when I get out of school and how will I be able to make loan payments on a flight instructor's salary?" I really don't see how people who go places like Riddle can come out $100K in debt and still live on flight instructor or F/O pay.
I may be wrong, but I think a lot of aviation jobs (ie. dispatch, ATC, pilot, and I think NTSB investigator) only require FAA certification, so you could get a degree in anything and then get the certification. It might be a good idea to get a degree in something that will qualify you for a lucrative job when you graduate and then use the $ you make to pay for flight school or a dispatch certificate or whatever. That way, you can have a happy airline career and if your airline folds you can still eat. It might take you a year longer, but you should compare that extra year to 20 years of making insane loan payments and see which one looks better.
I say all this, but sometimes I wish I was getting an aviation degree.

By the way, where you get your ratings really doesn't matter. I actually e-mailed the HR people for most regional and major airlines, and all of them said that where you train really doesn't matter. A rating from the FAA is a rating from the FAA, no matter where you got it.
I may be wrong, but I think a lot of aviation jobs (ie. dispatch, ATC, pilot, and I think NTSB investigator) only require FAA certification, so you could get a degree in anything and then get the certification

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Dispatcher and pilot are the easiest on that list to get. There are several options for dispatcher. Most aviation colleges offer a dispatcher track, and there are a lot of schools around that offer the rating. Pilot, well we all know about those ratings. ATC is a pain, though. You either have to be military, work for the FAA (or maybe it's just gov't) already, or go through an approved course (which there really aren't too many of outside of aviation colleges). NTSB investigator (which is my fall back with the Aviation Safety minor) is tough to get into. Most positions want you to have some sort of experience in the industry outside of book knowledge.

By the way, where you get your ratings really doesn't matter

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I second, third, and fourth this statement. The paper you get from the FAA is the same whether you get it from Joe Bob's Flight Instruxion in the middle of a field or from UND or ERAU.
What's the problem of going to a university such as North Dakota and getting a Aviation degree?

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I don't see any problem going to an aviation college if you are pursuing a career in aviation. I went to Riddle for my BA (Airport Management) and have made a career outside of aviation with it. Proof that a degree from an "aviation" program will employ you outside of a flying job.

I will be joining the CFI ranks later this year and can tell you that having experience in something else (outside of aviation) definitely makes me feel more comfortable. But don't worry about the aviation degree making you "unemployable", it won't.

Do what you want and feel is in your best interest and take advice you get off message boards (like mine) for what it's worth.

Good Luck!