Airplane Answers: Is Becoming a Pilot Worth the Cost?

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jan 4, 2021

Jan 4, 2021 • by Rebecca Smith

There are just over 600,000 pilots in the United States. Believe it or not, that number has dropped over the years even though air travel has been steadily growing.

Mind you, not every one of those 600,000 pilots is a commercial pilot flying professionally for a major airline.

Does the idea of flying professionally intrigue you? Have you always wanted to become a pilot?

If you're considering getting your pilot's license, there are definitely pros and cons you'll want to weigh before pulling the trigger on enrolling in school. In this post, our team breaks down everything you need to know regarding becoming a pilot, the cost, and whether or not the process is likely to enrich your life.

Keep reading to learn more.

Appreciating the Cost

There are a lot of expenses tied to getting a pilot's license. Commercial licenses can cost $30,000+ while even personal licenses that let you pilot small aircraft on your own will set you back just under $10,000.

If you want to pilot floatplanes, that's an additional certification you'll need that'll cost a few thousand dollars. If you want to get instrument trained so you can fly in adverse weather conditions (a professional requirement), that's another few thousands dollars.

Bottom line, schooling to become any sort of pilot costs thousands. While there is financial aid available, almost all of it is available in the way of loans, which means you'll be on the hook to pay everything back.

The Pros of Piloting

Despite the cost that's tied to becoming a pilot, many people still do it. Why? Because people find value in flying planes.

Here's what we think you'll love most about flying:

The Industry Is Here to Stay

If you were just getting into truck driving today, we'd say that rampant competition and innovation might make your job obsolete in the next 20 years or so. Flying, on the other hand, is an industry that's needed, in-demand, and isn't likely to automate for decades, if ever.

That means there's job security, during normal economies, that accompany flying professionally.

Room for Growth

We all hear horror stories of low paid pilots. And it's true, starting pilots can be paid less than you might suspect a pilot should be.

Still, several experienced pilots that are moving large planes can clear hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, all while doing something they absolutely love.

To make life-changing money when you're piloting, all you have to do is accomplish great work and keep seeking better opportunities to get hooked up with bigger responsibilities and more prestigious airlines.

See the World

We'd be amiss not to mention that perhaps the biggest benefit of being a professional pilot is that you get to see the world. Anytime you fly, you can request to be scheduled to make a return flight a couple of days after you land in a new area, giving you time to explore before hopping back in the cockpit.

Solo/Recreational Flying Is a Blast

As a professional pilot, you also have the option of piloting small aircraft in your leisure time. That means that you could literally make a weekend of renting a tiny plane and flying it to other parts of the country on your own or with a friend.

How many people get to do that?!

The Cons of Piloting

No profession is without its cons. Piloting is no exception.

Here is what we'd consider to be the major drawbacks of becoming a pilot.

Pay Can Be Low to Start

We've said it once, and we'll say it again, the pay can be low to start as a pilot. This depends on where you live, how many years of experience you have, and which airlines you work for.

As a general rule, budget airlines are going to offer budget salaries to pilots as they're running thinner margins. That's not the truth in all cases, though, so do your diligence to figure out what you may be worth at any company you're interested in flying for.

Times Are Tough for Professional Aviation

2020 has decimated the travel industry, and pilots have felt the sting. Airlines are filing for bankruptcy protection, cutting flights, and laying off thousands of people.

While we anticipate things recovering, there's no denying that anybody getting into piloting in the next 24 months might struggle to find consistent work.

Schooling is Arduous

Not only can pilot schooling be expensive, but it also takes months or even years to complete. Getting hooked up with a great flight school like the one you can find at can help alleviate some of that strain.

No matter how you slice it, though, choosing to become a pilot takes a major time commitment.

Medical Requirements are Steep

There is very little room for poor physical and mental health when you're up in the air. That creates conditions where you'll be rigorously and often tested to make sure you're fit to pilot an aircraft.

If you're struggling with issues airlines deem to be a danger to the people whose lives are in your hands, you'll be pulled from the sky.

Whether or Not Becoming a Pilot Is Worth the Cost Is Up to You

We've hit you with a lot of the ins and outs that surround becoming a pilot. All that's left to do now is for you to assess if the good outweighs the bad.

We hope our post has created clarity for you. If you find yourself in need of additional guidance, feel free to explore more of the career-centric content we have on our blog.