Become a Certified Flight Instructor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Feb 27, 2019

Learn how to become a certified flight instructor. Find out about the requirements, qualifications and examinations you will need to start a career in this field.

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Should I Become a Certified Flight Instructor?

The role of a certified flight instructor combines the art of teaching with the skills and experience of being a commercial airline pilot. Flight instructors must be excellent pilots but also have effective communication skills, patience and a desire to pass on their knowledge to future pilots.

Career Requirements

Education and Qualifications No formal degree is required; must meet physical requirements; minimum of 18 years of age; proficiency in the English language
Training Extensive training within the field, including passing both written and practical exams, is required.
Experience Flight instructors are required to log a minimum number of hours in the type of aircraft they will use to instruct.
Licensure and Certification Commercial Pilot Certification and licensure through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Salary $118,140 (Annual median salary for all airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers, which includes flight instructors, in May 2014)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Meet Basic Requirements

To become a certified flight instructor, candidates must be at least 18 years old and able to read, write and speak English. They must also meet designated hearing and vision requirements. Having a love of flying and a desire to educate others can also be beneficial.

Step 2: Earn a Commercial Pilot Certificate

Flight instructors must be certified as commercial pilots before progressing into an educational role. To become a certified commercial pilot, candidates must attend flight school, demonstrate experience by logging flight hours in a variety of conditions and pass written and practical exams. Commercial pilots must gain licensure through the FAA.

Step 3: Collect Logbook Endorsements and Log Hours

To become a certified flight instructor, pilots must have their logbook endorsed by an existing certified flight instructor and maintain a log of their flights. A logbook endorsement on the fundamentals of instructing must be received unless an applicant holds a teaching certificate or works as an instructor at a college or university. Additional operation endorsements must also be gained. Prospective instructors must log at least 15 hours as the pilot-in-command. These hours must be earned in the type of aircraft that a candidate expects to use when teaching.

Step 4: Pass Exams

Both written and practical exams must be passed in order for a candidate to become a licensed flight instructor. Written exams test applicants on the fundamentals of instruction, aeronautical knowledge, flight proficiency, stall awareness and spin training. Instructors must also pass a practical exam in an aircraft or simulator to demonstrate their abilities.

Step 5: Keep Your Certification Current to Continue Working

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for flight instructors during the 2012-2022 period were projected to decline by 7% as airlines reduce the number of flights they schedule, creating less demand for pilots and, thus, less demand for flight instructors. In light of this, it is vital for instructors to maintain currency of their license by renewing it within three months of expiration in order to remain employable and advance in their careers. Renewal can be gained by passing a practical test or attending an approved instructor refresher clinic. Flight instructors may also provide an Aviation Safety Inspector with written documentation that they have recently covered the refresher material.

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