Investing in your education as a pilot is a big step, one that requires careful consideration, particularly in terms of your finances. And although flight school can be expensive, especially with higher levels of training, the rewards can be greatand serve you well throughout your career. So what type of return can you expect from investing in flight school?
Since this is such a frequently asked question among many potential students, let’s explore the type of return on investment (ROI) you can expect from the three main forms of pilot certifications: airline transport (ATP), commercial and private.
Return on Investment for Airline Transport Pilots
Those that hold an ATP license are eligible to fly highly advanced aircraft systems for the commercial airlines. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for airline transport pilot in 2018 was $115,670. Of course, before you’re eligible to start your career and make the median salary, you have to go through (and pay for) your undergrad and specialized training, which averages out to be:
· Average undergraduate cost = $87,000
· Average specialty education cost = $52,000
o Total of $139,000
While that number may scare you a bit, you’ll be glad to hear that ATPs get a higher ROI, even more so than some of the most highly regarded professions we typically think of as spending a lot on their education. For example, while doctors may make a higher median salary ($208,000 in 2018), they spend over twice as much on average on their education ($300,000 on average). In addition, their career is not as long as a pilot’s career (34 years vs. 42 years), meaning pilots enjoy a greater return on every dollar spent on their education.
Below are some other occupations’ average ROI to give you some perspective. To find out how much is earned for every dollar spent on education, we used the formula ((annual salary × years in career) – education costs) / education costs:
· Pilots earn approximately $35 for every $1 invested in education
· Doctors earn approximately $19 for every $1 invested in education
· Lawyers earn approximately $30 for every $1 invested in education
· Teachers earn approximately $23 for every $1 invested in education
Return on Investment for Commercial Pilots
A commercial pilot license (CPL) is for pilots who can display a minimum level of skills and understanding to a licensing authority and has earned their commercial pilot license, which allows them to be legally be paid for their flying services. Unlike an ATP license, which allows you to fly for the big airlines, commercial pilots perform services such as ambulatory, agriculture support and non-scheduled air transportation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for commercial pilots in the U.S. last year was $89,350. The average cost of becoming a certified commercial pilot is approximately $70,000 (commercial pilots do not need an undergrad degree), for those students that are going from no experience at all to earning a CPL in 12-24 months. The average length of a commercial pilot’s career is similar to an airline transport, at 42, meaning we can calculate the ROI of this license as: $53 return on every $1 spent.
Of course, beyond the costs and returns, there are many other perks to the job of a commercial pilot that are not included in this calculation. It’s an amazing career path with plenty of travel with many days bringing something new.
Return on Investment for Private Pilots
Obtaining your private pilot license allows you to fly an airplane and carry passengers and baggage. Although operating expenses may be equally shared with your passengers, you may not fly for compensation or hire as a private pilot. However, you have the freedom to fly wherever you wish, day or night, and continue obtaining different educational experiences and ratings to further your skills.
For many aspiring pilots, obtaining a private pilot certificate is the first step before going on to pursue a rewarding career as an airline transport or commercial pilot. On average, a private pilot license will cost you around $7,000 to $15,000.
In terms of becoming a certified private pilot, the ROI lies more in the experiences you’ll have and freedoms you’ll gain behind the control wheel, rather than any form of financial compensation. And for most people, that freedom is the greatest reward. Not only will you get to travel where you wish, you can enjoy those trips with family and friends, and stick to your own itinerary.
It doesn’t matter which license you choose, you have to get experience in each of these learning paths, whether you choose ATP, commercial or private. While it takes time and the proper financing to work your way up to the captain’s seat, the journey there will ultimately be one you decide on your own. But now, you can at least narrow down your options.
Are you ready to get started with flight school?
Get in touch with the team of certified flight instructors at Inflight Pilot Training today to learn more about our training programs!
Inflight is a leading pilot training company serving the Twin Cities area. With a reputable training program and deep roster of highly skilled flight instructors, we can help you pursue your passion for taking flight – whether you want to pursue a private, commercial or airline transport pilot license. Get in touch with our team of flight instructors to find out more.
For additional information on Inflight Pilot Training, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.