Flight Instructor Training: Program Information

Sep 17, 2019

Once you are a certified pilot with experience, it is not challenging to become a flight instructor. Some flight instructors can become certified as instructors while they are training to become pilots. Certification is specific to what a pilot wants to teach, such as basic flight or multiengine aircraft.

Essential Information

Flight instructors are commercial pilots who teach students to fly using simulators or dual-controlled aircraft. Aspiring flight instructors first need to have a commercial pilot's license and receive their Certified Flight Instructor certificate to qualify to teach students to fly. Additional training is required to teach students about other aircraft instrumentation or multiengine planes.

Required Education Certificate program, associate's degree or bachelor's degree to earn commercial pilot's license
Other Requirements Must complete 15 hours as flight pilot in command; must be 18 years old
Certification Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% (airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers)
Median Salary (2018)* $140,340 (airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


There are certificate programs in commercial aviation that can prepare students to become flight instructors while earning their pilot's license. Applicants need to be competent in math and English.

Students learn about aircraft controls, the roles of the aircraft's crew, aviation history, air traffic control, technical operations, flight instruction and aircraft design. Students also must participate in actual flight time.

Associate's Degree Programs

An associate's degree program in aviation can also help students get Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ratings, which are required for professional pilots. In addition to earning a private pilot's certificate, students also receive a commercial pilot's certificate. This program can also help students receive multiple ratings, such as instrument and multiengine.

In addition to learning how to fly, students can receive the initial Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate. Depending on the students' interests, they can also earn a Multiengine Instructor (MEI) rating or a Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII) rating. However, those additional ratings and certificates are optional within an associate's degree program.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Those interested in becoming flight instructors can also look into a bachelor's degree program in aeronautical technology. In addition to aviation courses, students take a variety of general education courses. A bachelor's degree program can be beneficial to students who are interested in receiving several ratings, certificates and licenses required for both professional pilots and instructors. Training is split up into ground school and actual flight labs for commercial pilot, instrument, multiengine, certified instructor and certified instructor instrument ratings.

Flight Instructor Training Programs

There are also CFI certificate programs available. These programs help students learn how to communicate to aspiring pilots and comply with FAA requirements concerning flight. They may learn how to develop courses, plan lessons and create effective training in the classroom. Students also learn the distinctions of certificates, ratings, and licenses required for private and commercial pilots. However, those looking to apply to a flight instructor program usually must hold a commercial pilot's certificate.

Career Information

Flight instructors must receive their CFI certificate before teaching basic flight. In order to teach students about instruments, multiengine aircrafts or sports piloting, instructors are required to complete additional training.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment opportunities for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers, including flight instructors, will increase by 5 percent over the 2018-2028 decade. The median income for these professionals was $140,340 in 2018, according to the BLS.

CFI Certificate

During an undergraduate certificate or flight instructor training program, students typically earn their initial CFI certificate. The CFI practical test has specific prerequisites for applicants. They must be 18 years old and have a commercial or airline transport pilot certificate. Applicants must have also passed the flight instructor knowledge test. Finally, they must receive endorsements from another instructor demonstrating that they completed the necessary ground and flight training.

Those who are looking to be a flight instructor must have completed 15 hours of flight time as pilot in command. The practical test requires the aspiring flight instructor to fly with an examiner acting as a student. The flight instructor must demonstrate good communication skills and sound knowledge of flight procedures. They must also be able to identify potential errors the examiner may simulate. After completing the written and practical exams for the CFI certificate, flight instructors have the ability to help students earn their single engine, private and commercial certificates.

Additional Ratings or Certificates

Aspiring flight instructors should note that they need to have the necessary certificates and training required for the type of aircraft or rating they intend to teach. For example, a flight instructor wanting to teach about multiengine aircrafts needs to have a multiengine class rating in addition to their commercial pilot or airline transport pilot certificates. Some flight instructors may also want to teach students how to fly sports aircraft or gliders. Depending on the applicant's background, additional training or education may be necessary to receive those other certificates or ratings.

Most pilots start with an undergraduate degree in aviation or aeronautics, or they can attend a flight academy. Certification for flight instructors can be acquired during their initial training or separately, once they have had pilot experience in the air. Beyond flight instructor certification, trainers must also be certified in their teaching subject area.

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