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Professional Pilot: How much does it really cost... and is it worth it?

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

You’re likely here because you were looking for a career change to add excitement in your life and money in your pocket, or perhaps are in the process of choosing a career for the first time.

You probably want a lucrative career that challenges you, provides you with feelings of adventure and opportunity for growth.


You are likely in a place where you’re ready to invest in the future of your dreams, so let’s compare some of your options.


Before diving into the finances of becoming a professional pilot, let’s put all of this into perspective: Did you know that the average tuition in 2018-2019 was over $10,000 per year? And that’s nothing compared to the average 26,000 out of state tuition and that 36,000 you may need to attend a private college. Now imagine spending that amount EACH YEAR… and the general average salary for college graduates is $50,000 annually.


Meanwhile, aviation provides opportunities unlike any other industry and the average annual wage for commercial pilots was $86,080 in May 2019, while the median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers was $147,200, according to The Occupational Outlook Handbook.


Okay, now that we know that becoming a professional pilot is well worth your while, how much does it cost?


If you want to fly the skies, operating a giant machine through the air, you’re going to need some training.


You’ll need 250 flight hours total to earn your Commercial License (within those hours you’ll obtain your Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating, and potentially other add-ons). This is the license you need to get paid for flying. To get these licenses, you’ll likely spend $55,000 - 75,000.


Click to learn how to minimize costs. Keep reading to break down the cost and understand why so many people take on this investment.


Even after investing in this education, you can’t just jump into the left seat of a Boeing. You’ll need about 1,250 more hours to qualify for an airline position (or only 250 more hours for any low-hour pilot job).


Stay calm, because you can start earning your money back ASAP as a Flight Instructor.



After your commercial license, you can quickly earn your CFI at potentially no extra cost (besides the written and practical exam). Learn how to earn your CFI while saving money.


You’ll be making $20-40 per hour, and earning an average of $30,000 to $60,000 per year. It will only take you 1.5 years to get the hours you need for the airlines where you can accumulate time and experience to earn more and gain more privileges.




Many pilots begin this exciting career for the competitive pay and other perks, and many pilots enjoy teaching students so much that they stick around as a Flight Instructor instead of trekking to the airlines.


Click here to break down the total cost into bite-size chunks so you can better understand your options.


Let's be 100% certain that this is the career path for you. Take a Discovery Flight so that you can experience flying for the first time. If you’re on the fence, this is the perfect next step. If you sign up for our Professional Program, we’ll even reimburse your Discovery Flight.


Remember, you’ll need to build hours so earn licenses, so you can even start preparing by purchasing your first logbook. You’ll soon need your own headset, FAR AIM, ground school, and a few more items.


If you have more questions, give us a call.