Real Answers from Real Pilots

A Very Big Dilemma, and Very Big Question

So I’ve been doing some reading and researching about piloting, schooling, salary, loans, and career options, and I think I’ve fully decided that I want (or need?) to become a pilot! However, I’m just concerned about how I am going to complete everything I need to do without drowning myself in financial chaos afterwards.

So if I take out a loan of $75,000, I can complete all of my training within ~9 months. Afterwards, I can spend around 2 years as a Flight Instructor while building my hours (~$40,000 for the 2 years). Then, I would have all my hours which means I can start flying for regional airlines.

But this is where my confusion comes in.

If I start flying at a Regional Airline, what would my starting salary be, how many raises will I experience, and how much would each raise be? The reason why I ask this is because I am terrified of the possibility that I would not be able to make back my student loan payments, let alone my own personal living standards.

I am also wondering if I could also start flying for Major Airlines after I build my 1500 hours.

Also, do Regional AND Major Airlines require you to have any college experience or degrees? If so, then I would need to make a major change of plans.

Andrew,

As far as what pilots earn here’s a link to a page Chris created that outlines pilot pay pretty well What Do Pilots Really Earn?
Also keep in mind that as an ATP Instructor if you sign a letter of agreement with a Regional you’d be eligible for Tuition Reimbursement which can help considerably. That said the first few years will be lean. Starting pay is around $38k (plus signing bonuses) and remains in the high $30s to low $40s until you upgrade to Capt (usually 3-5yrs).

As for whether you can start at a Major with 1500hrs the answer is no. To be more accurate aside from the fact many Majors require more than 1500hrs the real answer is why should they hire you? The Majors pay considerably more than the Regionals, fly bigger equipment and are not suffering from the same shortage the Regionals are. They could either hire a flight instructor with 1500hrs and somewhat limited experience OR they can hire someone who’s been a Regional Capt, flying jets across the country with say 5,000hrs+. Who would you pick? The second issue you mention is having a college degree. While the Regionals don’t require a degree the Majors most certainly do.

As long as we’re on the subject ATP Flight School also requires at least a 2yr degree or equivalent work experience.

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Andrew,

To further clarify, the majors will require a four year degree. It doesn’t have to be a major in aviation, just about anything will do, but they are definitely going to want to see a four year degree. The regionals will not require a degree.

Chris

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