Flight instructors who are in the military are employed by the U.S. government. In the civilian world, flight instructors are typically employed by flight schools or they may work independently, offering lessons on their own. Some instructors may begin by working at an established flight school but have the goal of eventually running their own school. Flight schools are located all across the country, and many airports have them. The warmer months of the year tend to be busiest for flight instructors because this is when it is easiest to take beginners out for training flights. Flight instructors who work in locations where the weather is fairly warm all year usually do not experience such fluctuations. Schools are classified as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved or nonapproved. This is based on factors such as the amount and type of equipment, personnel, and facilities provided by the school. Many nonapproved schools offer excellent training but do not seek FAA approval simply because of their smaller size or other factors.
Since pilots need to log flying time as one requirement for gaining different certifications, a number of people choose to begin their careers as flight instructors. As they gain flying time and experience they may move on to other positions, such as pilot at a major airline, which is their ultimate goal. Some flight instructors start out with careers as military pilots and then become instructors later in their professional lives. Another way to gain entry into the field is through connections made at flight school. In fact, some students who have impressed their instructors may be offered a job there.
Advancement often depends on the individual's goals. Some instructors may want to advance to the point of running their own schools. An instructor working at a small airport school may want to move on to work at a large school in a metropolitan area or at a school that is part of a university. And other instructors may simply want to increase the number of students they teach. No matter what the goal, however, the best way to make any type of advancement in this field is by gaining as much personal flying experience as possible and becoming certified to pilot a variety of aircraft. It is extremely important for those in this career to keep up with new technologies, regulations, and other developments. Those who are willing to continuously challenge themselves to increase their skills and knowledge will have the best advancement prospects.
Tips for Entry
Read Mentor (https://www.nafinet.org/benefits) to learn more about the field.
Join the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) to access publications, training opportunities, networking events, member-only job listings, and other resources.
Talk to flight instructors about their careers. Use NAFI's InstructAir Web site (https://instructair.com) to find instructors who might be willing to participate in an information interview or teach you how to fly.