How to Become a Flight Instructor

Flight Instructor Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $112,410
Education 0-6 Months
Job Outlook 6%

Have you ever thought of flying a commercial airplane to distant locations?

How about teaching others how to fly a plane?

Both of these goals can be met by increasing the amount of flight time a person has by becoming a flight instructor.

A certification is needed to be able to teach other pilots how to fly.

Some of the basic requirements are a valid medical certificate, the ability to read and speak in English, and passing the knowledge-based and practical flight test.

The requirements needed to become a flight instructor are a challenging route to a career, but also very rewarding.

Education Requirements to Become a Flight Instructor

The road to becoming a flight instructor starts with gaining a series of pilot certificates.

In order to obtain the flight instructor certification, there will be others that need to be completed in sequence to get to that level.

While there is not a formal degree requirement for any of the certifications, the appropriate courses will need to be completed.

The first certificate is that of a Private Pilot.

A candidate must pass the FAA written and practical test.

They must also be at least 17 years old, be able to communicate in English, and hold a current third-class medical certificate.

Typical requirements for the flight school portion will be 40 hours of flight time with the time divided between solo and dual flights.

Most programs can be finished in about 60 hours maximum.

A commercial pilot certificate is the next step to becoming a flight instructor.

One condition for this certificate is that you must hold a Private Pilot Certificate, and attaining a passing score of the FAA knowledge and practical test pertaining to commercial flight is also required.

The amount of flight time needed is about 190 to 250 hours of total pilot in command time, but the amount of time needed to go through the program, excluding flight time, is around 90 hours.

The final certification is the Certified Flight Instructor or CFI certificate.

A candidate needs to have a Commercial Pilot Certificate prior to taking the exam, and you can expect to take knowledge and practical tests, pass the Fundamentals of Instructing.

The type of certification you get will depend on the type of airplanes you expect to teach.

A general CFI, CFI Instrument Rating Course, and CFI Multi-Engine Course are all available.

Most students can complete their training in as little as 20 hours.

Flight Instructor Job Description

A flight instructor is there to help future pilots gain their “wings”.

Only certified flight instructors may teach other pilots how to fly.

Some of the duties they have include conducting dual flight instruction, ground instruction, and performing flight briefings for students.

They are typically responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft to ensure a safe flight, and flight instructors need to be able to make corrections in a way that is constructive and safe while in the air.

The specific duties may vary depending on what type of place they are teaching, but the main focus of the job is to ensure that everyone that learns to fly does it safely.

Flight Instructor Salary and Career Path

Some pilots may choose to become flight instructors to gain more flight time to be able to move on to a career in flying commercially.

Large airlines will usually require their pilots to have more flight time than just the minimum required for the credentials.

Other instructors will continue to find a rewarding career in teaching.

Exceptional instructors can gain the FAA gold seal, indicating their high standards for pilot education.

The average salary of a flight instructor will depend on location and how much you fly.

Basically, the more you fly, the more money you can potentially make.

Lots of instructors are on a commission system that pays for when they pick up another contract.

You can expect to make anywhere from $20 to $50 an hour depending on your certifications and location.

Some instructors can make upwards of $35,000 or more per year from just teaching.

Some instructors may decide to pick up some charter flights for extra money and add to their yearly earnings.

In this field, if there is someone willing to learn how to fly a plane, there is work to go around.

Many flight instructors do not make as much as a commercial pilot would, but still enough to do something as enjoyable as flying every day.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Hawaii- NA -
Nevada- NA -
New Mexico$149,240
New York$219,980
North Carolina$160,660
South Carolina$110,010
West Virginia$102,250
Puerto Rico$53,330

The top earning state in the field is Florida, where the average salary is $232,600.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Florida - $232,600
California - $227,870
Washington - $222,340
New York - $219,980
Michigan - $214,640
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Airline Pilots and Copilots, OCC Code 53-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a flight instructor do?

The main responsibility of a flight instructor is to train others to operate an aircraft (like airplanes, helicopters, blimps…) safely.

Flight instructors make sure that the aspiring pilots get the training they need to obtain a pilot license or certification.

Instructors teach the students the basic principles of flight and aircraft operation, as well as safety rules.

A flight instructor would teach the future pilot how to check all systems on the aircraft and how to take off; will cover landings, flight conditions, and the instruments in the cockpit.

Flight instructors do not only provide and enhance the knowledge of their students, but they also evaluate it to make sure that the person meets all the requirements in order to get a pilot’s license.

How much do flight instructors make?

The average flight instructor salary in the United States is around $65.500.

The wage would heavily depend on what kind of company you decide to work for and on the years of experience.

An entry-level flight instructor, for example, can expect to earn about $38.000.

In case a flight instructor has 1-4 years of experience, he or she can make a little more than $45.000.

The professionals with 5-9 years of experience earn $64.500, while the most experienced instructors can make over $80.000.

How much does it cost to become a flight instructor?

Aspiring flight instructors need to have either an airline transport pilot certificate or a commercial pilot certificate.

The license will cost you around $10.000-$16.000.

Before qualifying, you would need to have a certain number of flying hours (around $40 per hour)

After that, future flight instructors take the FAA Certified Flight Instructor Knowledge Exam and the Fundamentals of Instruction Exam.

The cost of an exam ranges from $100 to $400 and be ready to pay around $100 for the necessary supplies.

What is the demand for flight instructors?

At the moment, flight instructors are being hired faster than they need to be replaced.

That means that there is a high demand for professionals and that there aren’t enough qualified flight instructors on the market today.

The industry is facing an acute pilot shortage and, of course, more instructors are needed to train future pilots.

A lot of flight instructors dream of becoming an airline pilot and leave the teaching spot as soon as they can which causes additional problems on the job market.

How long does it take to become a flight instructor?

In case you want to become a flight instructor, you have to be at least 18 years old.

Obtaining your commercial pilot certificate can take as little as 35 hours – the pace is up to you.

Bear in mind that you would need to have a certain number of flight hours to be qualified to take the FAA written exam and the Fundamentals of Instruction exam.

To finally become a flight instructor, you need to perform a check ride with a more experienced instructor.

It sometimes takes students over 16 hours of flying time to finally pass.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.