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May 10, 2017 / Ryan Edward Roberts

If You Want To Be a Pilot

I truly love flying airplanes. I have had a great career so far, having flown for freight companies, business charters, and now as a captain for an airline. I have served as chief pilot for several operations, and as the director of operations for another. But I am living with a huge regret and burden; I borrowed way too much in student loans.

Do NOT borrow more than flight school costs. I decided after flight school to enroll at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. I wanted to get the best education. I ended up with about $58,000 in student loans, in 1998. I was not able to make the payments on these when I got my first flying job, as it only paid about $15,000 a year. This resulted in additional fees and interest, which caused the balance on these loans to grow faster than my income. I paid when I could, but the bottom line is these loans ended up totaling over $190,000 just from fees and interest!

My college degree NEVER made any difference in my career in getting any job that I ever interviewed for. I DIDN’T NEED THAT COSTLY DEGREE. In fact, I have never needed any degree at all to have had my career.

A civilian aviation career is unique in this matter. One needs a college degree in order to enter into many fields, such as a medical, engineering, or teaching career. But flying airplanes does not. After paying for your flight training to simply get your licence, it is mostly an on-the-job training field.

I know many, many pilots who owe between $100,000 and $200,000 in student loans. The blame lies mostly with the colleges. They paint rosey pictures of graduating and becoming this instant Captain flying large jets making bookoo dollars. That simply isn’t realistic. The majority will have the opportunity to make over $200,000 a year, but only after flying for at least 10 to 20 years at a fraction of that income. Most pilots do not see the “big” money until the last 5 to 10 years before retirement, if ever.

I also blame the Federal government for allowing such huge loans. I believe student loans should have caps based on the chosen career field.

Ultimately, I have to accept blame for my own decisions. But I did this because I thought it was what I was suppossed to do.

If you are set on being a pilot and still want a degree, then make sure you attend a State university where you will pay in-state tuition. Keep the costs at a minimum! Otherwise you will be spending the rest of your life paying it off.


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