You are thinking about a career as a pilot, but is it practical? In a word, yes – the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates commercial pilots average over $98,000 a year, so it can be a profitable career choice. To get there, you will need to get the proper education and a commercial pilot's license – that means aviation college. Consider some cost effective ways you can pay for the education necessary to succeed in the world of aviation.
Join the Military
You don't have to commit to a career in the military to get pay for your flight training. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states 90 days of aggregate active duty will qualify you for Post-9/11 GI Bill financing, as long as you were not dishonorably discharged. You might also qualify for Post-911 GI benefits if one of your parents was in the military after September 10, 2001. This puts you in control of your education and military tuition benefits after you leave the service.
You can use this financing to pay for tuition, housing while you are in school and even supplies. Do your research before applying to a flight academy, however. You want a school that participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
Employer Tuition Assistance
If you can find an aviation company willing to pay for your flight training that would be ideal, but many employers outside of that industry offer tuition assistance, as well. Some will require you to follow an academic plan that allows you to continue working for them, but others offer a similar deal as the military. As long as you work for them long enough to get vested in the tuition assistance program, they don't care what you study.
The amount of assistance they offer varies, but many of these programs pay over a thousand dollars towards tuition. Business Insider offers a list of corporations with comprehensive assistance programs, but you should ask any potential employer if they help pay for tuition when you apply for a job.
Aviation Scholarship Programs
Prospective pilots may qualify for an aviation-related scholarship or private grant. For example, the National Air Transportation Association offers a number of scholarship programs for new aviation students. The University Aviation Association provides links to scholarships available to aviation students.
Traditional Financing Options
If all else fails, you can use traditional financing to pay for school.
- Federal Pell Grant – A Pell Grant pays the maximum award, over 5,000 dollars, for students that qualify.
- Federal Direct Subsidized Loan – This is a low interest loan from a financial agency like a bank or investment company. With the subsidized program, the federal government pays the interest on the loan while you are in school if you qualify.
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan – Unsubsidized loans are available to anyone, regardless of financial needs. You are responsible for all the accrued interest on the loan, however.
- Federal Direct PLUS Loan – This is a loan parents can get to help pay for a child's aviation education. The loan is limited to the exact amount of the tuition and the parent must prove they are credit worthy.
All government programs require you to attend a school that is fully accredited.
Aviation training opens up a world of opportunity, whether you are considering flying as a career choice or just looking for a hobby. School costs vary based on the amount of training you want. If you are looking to become a commercial pilot, ask the school finance office to help find programs that fit your needs and to walk you through the application process.